IIFYM Vs. Clean Eating – What’s better for natty bodybuilders? Is flexible dieting the most optimal way to eat?

It was about 8 in the morning when I woke up. I was hungry as hell. There was nothing in the fridge except for a couple of Pop-tarts. I ate all of them, but then I felt guilty.

Was I sabotaging the growth of my muscles by eating junk food full of bad sugars?

I started the computer and launched YouTube right away. This is where I take most of my knowledge from. I am a proud YouTube graduate. I love the YouTube philosophers. They are great. Very professional and well educated. I particularly enjoy videos showing what my muscle idols eat. I don’t know why, but I love watching others people eat.


I follow many natural bodybuilders on YouTube and one of them is Bogus. That day he had a video which lifted my spirit. I needed the boost after taking care of those Pop-tarts.

Ironically, he is also a big Pop-tart fan. According to him as long as the foods you eat cover some sort of macronutrient ratio, you can eat whatever you want. The moment I heard those words, I started my research. I wanted to learn more and more about the miracle of If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM).

I was typing on the keyboard and I am pretty sure the happiness in my heart was reflected in the way I was hitting them keys. Click. Click. Click.

I was just about to discover the secret to eating garbage all the time while still looking lean and mean, but then I remembered the golden rule: If something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Note: The above text is fictional.

DOES IIFYM REALLY WORK FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

As long as you are in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight regardless of the type of foods you eat. That’s an undeniable fact. It’s impossible not to lose weight when your body is burning more energy than it’s receiving back. It’s like expecting to grow your savings when your expenses are more than your salary. It’s not going to happen.

I would go as far as saying that you could only count calories, not even your macros, and still lose a ton of weight.

Back when I was in high school the girls relied on some sort of crackers, which were supposedly containing a ton of fiber, to control their weight. A pack of those was probably about 100 kcal, although at that time I had no idea what a calorie is in the first place.

Many skinny girls were eating those suckers all the time while retaining a starveling appearance. Obviously, crackers are not among healthiest food choices. They are processed and made out of cheap ingredients with poor nutritional value. The main reason those girls were able to remain skinny and fragile, was that the crackers were very effective at reducing hunger while providing little calories.

In brief, as long as you are in a caloric deficit any diet will cause some weight loss. IIFYM does not make an exception. It does work regardless of food choices.

DOES IIFYM REALLY WORK FOR MUSCLE BUILDING?

The answer here has to be positive once more. As long as the diet provides protein and enough calories, the environment for muscle hypertrophy is present. That’s undeniable. A protein is a protein.

Whether your protein comes from chickens living in a nice farm somewhere in Switzerland, or cows pumped with growth hormone and forced to live in cells without moving, is irrelevant when the body is looking for building blocks to repair itself. It’s not like the organism blocks the “dirty” protein while only using the clean and happy version. Therefore, IIFYM will technically not prevent muscle growth from occurring.

SO, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

There are several major flaws with this style of eating. The first one is that many people use IIFYM as an excuse to eat carbohydrates from very poor sources. What do you think is healthier for your body? A banana or a Pop-tard? It may not make a huge difference as far as your weight is concerned, but processed food comes with extra baggage and strain on the body.

Let’s imagine that you have come with an ingenious plan to only eat foods from McDonald’s menu. You have calculated your total calories and macros in a way promoting weight loss or respectively gain. What do you think will happen? Of course, as long as the numbers are somewhat correct, you will lose or gain weight. However, you will feel terrible and your stomach and teeth will hate you.

If you keep the bad foods limited to 10-15% of your total intake, you will still look the same way as long the total calories and macros are identical, but you will feel much better overall. People forget that building muscle mass and pleasure are not the only reasons to consume food.

Another major downside of IIFYM is that people also use it as a justification not to develop discipline and proper nutritional habits and culture. Eating clean all the time is not needed, but consuming sugary drinks, burgers and hot dogs is not the answer either, even if it fits your macros.

NOT ALL FATS ARE CREATED EQUAL – A FAT IS A NOT A FAT

There are many different types of fat, but many IIFYM followers don’t acknowledge this fact. There’s a big difference between the fat contained in cheese and the hydrogenated fats which many cheap foods come with. The first is healthy for you, while the second one has negative impact on your internal health and outside appearance. Hydrogenated and other bad fats are known to cause cellulite. Therefore, you may be following your macros and still look unsatisfactorily.

IIFYM IS USED TO COVER USAGE OF ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES

Many bodybuilders and fitness models who are obviously enhanced rely on IIFYM dieting as a way to explain how they remain so lean despite eating garbage all the time.

What’s really happening at the end of the day is drug usage cover up. People obviously use anabolic steroids and other substances not only to gain muscle mass but to stay very lean too. Somebody using dangerous drugs such as Trenbolone, which is the favorite drug of the wannabe Zyzz fitness models, will have much easier time remaining lean while eating all sorts of high calorie processed junk foods. Of course, they will never tell you that in their videos.

To summarize:

IIFYM a.k.a. flexible dieting can be an effective way to add bad but tasty foods to your diet without measurable negative effects. Nevertheless, this style of eating should never be used as an excuse to eat garbage. That’s why it’s better to limit the processed meals to about 10-15% of your total daily intake. Sure, you can go up to 50%-70% and still look the same, but you are risking health problems and poor performance.

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