Thoughts on IIFYM Approaches

If It Fits Your Macros

Flexible Dieting

In those camps we have Renaissance Periodization, Eat to Perform, my nutrition coach Joy Victoria, and many others taking up the mantle. Insta-celebrities will talk about the wonders of getting lean and strong while eating donuts every day.

Watching differences in how they develop, what they recommend, and contrasting with what I know about myself and have seen in my clients, I’ve been pondering and opining on several facets.

Donuts Every Day??

So the most common anti-Flexible Dieting argument I hear, and I hear this a lot from the Paleo and “clean eating” crowd, is that there is no way you can be healthy when filling your plate with donuts, peanut butter, cookies and protein shakes to hit your Magical Macro Ratios. I totally agree.

There are definitely people out there who will use IIFYM as carte blanche to eat crap. Vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup? Hey, it fits my macros, brah. So the first rule of IIFYM when making food choice is to…

Eat Like A Goddamn Adult

Of course I have a donut here and there. MAYBE I’ll have a baked good like that once a week. I often fill out my carb requirements at the end of the day with cereal because white rice gets boring. Currently obsessed with Special K Red Berries. But I’m eating recognizable food for the most part. I use protein shakes to round out my protein intake. Otherwise, I’m trying to use meats and dairy to hit the bulk of it. I’m actually more likely to eat vegetables now because, for instance, stir fry is more palatable with rice.

A mantra I saw was “macros for strength, micros for health” with micros referring to the vitamins and minerals you get out of eating fruits, vegetables, and various unprocessed foods.

Eating Less on Recovery Days

I have a friend on the Renaissance Periodization program, and I have a friend following Eat to Perform. Both of them have told me how they are supposed to raise and lower calories and carbs based on what their activity level is for that day. So on rest and recovery days, they might be taking in as much as 500 fewer calories.

For when I’m on a deficit, Joy has me doing a cycle of low and high days as well, but they have nothing to do with my training schedule. I play it by having a basic food routine, and then have an additive 300 calories on top of it for my high days. I like this because the “low” is the norm, and the high feels like a treat. In the above scenario, the high would be the norm, and the lower would feel like deprivation.

Of course, this probably has more to do with my own food issues than how everyone would feel about it. That said, who among us doesn’t have some sort of food relationship issue?

The lower calories on rest days also seems a little weird to me. After all, recovery from strenuous training takes energy. Hence all the research out there showing that HIIT and heavy lifting can bump EPOC (metabolism bump) for 24 to 72 hours, depending on the protocol. Why are we dropping calories during that time, particularly if we are on a maintenance routine? Humans are creatures of habit, and I feel like for most of us this would be where willpower would falter.

Nutrient Timing

I don’t know how Eat to Perform approaches peri-workout nutrient timing, but I do know that RP and several flexible dieting coaches strongly promote the ingestion of protein and carbs immediately after a training session. Some bros called this the anabolic window, and I’ve known people to JET from the gym in order to get some chicken and rice in before that magical 30 min window closes.

You know, there isn’t anything inherently WRONG with this. In fact, there are a few situations that you definitely should concern yourself with it:

1) Your training session is 2 hours of heavy lifting, interval training, or otherwise intense shit, then you definitely want to get your body refueling itself ASAP.

2) You’ve hit the gym before a meal, and you haven’t eaten in more than 3-4 hours before. Then yes, you should pound the carb-protein shake (or greek yogurt and honey for me). You could also make sure to eat something small before hand so you’re not in such a rush at the end.

3) Intra-workout nutrition when your workout is more than 2 hours long (my strongman event days are 3+ hours) you SHOULD be sipping on something with carbs and protein in it. Maybe take that recovery shake, double it, and start sipping about halfway through your session.

But for those of us who have eaten fairly recently and we’re just putting in our 30-60 minutes of work, it’s not going to be all that big of a deal. Just eat what you need to, as health is about weeks and months, not hours and days.

For more information and details on this, check out this awesome review article from Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld.