Which is better: clean eating or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)? Also known as flexible dieting, IIFYM allows you to eat whatever you wish as long as it fits into daily macros. This eating pattern has quickly become a favorite choice among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. The whole idea behind clean eating vs. IIFYM can be summarized in one question: How important is food quality, really?
What Is Flexible Dieting or IIFYM?
Generally speaking, IIFYM fans count macronutrients, while clean eaters stick to healthy foods and bodybuilding diet staples like chicken breast, beef, and rice. When it comes to IIFYM, you’ve got three numbers to aim for each day: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. You can eat anything under the sun as long as you don’t exceed your macros. According to this eating pattern, it doesn’t matter where your calories come from. Basically, you can have a quick treat, a slice of pizza, or junk food as long as you fill those numbers.
Whether you want to lose fat, pack on muscle, or maintain your current weight, flexible dieting seems a viable option. In theory, it is possible to shed pounds and build muscle just by sticking to your macros. IIFYM is based on the idea that a calorie is a calorie – it doesn’t matter if it comes from junk food or from chicken breast.
Personally, I don’t necessarily agree with these statements. Put dirty oil into a car and clean, quality oil in another one. Both cars will run for a few months or years, but the one using crappy, dirty oil will become damaged and fail sooner. That’s exactly what happens to your body. You might do well on junk food and spend years eating junk without gaining fat or falling ill, but this will eventually affect your health.
Food is not only about macros. It also contains micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), phytonutrients, antioxidants, polyphenols, and other substances that are essential to your health. You can’t compare the micronutrients in a Big Mac with those from salmon and kale.
This approach could work on short term, but it’s not the best solution for long-term health. It all comes down to the choices you make when planning your meals. If you’re trying out different weight loss diets or want to gain muscle fast, you could give IIFYM a try. But if you care about your health or want a balanced diet that you can stick to on long-term, flexible dieting is not an option unless you opt for quality food.
Is Clean Eating Your Best Bet?
Clean eating has different meanings for different people. Some believe that clean eating involves the regular consumption of organic food. For others, it’s about eating whole, natural foods that are minimally processed. To someone else, only sugar-free or gluten-free products are “clean.” Some will say that potatoes and rice are just fine, while others would never touch these foods.
Eating 100% clean is very difficult, if not impossible. Most foods are contaminated in a way or another. Besides that, clean eating doesn’t equal fat loss. You can eat healthily and be overweight. We’ve covered this problem here: Healthy Foods Can Make You Fat.
A diet based on natural, unprocessed foods is healthier than one consisting of refined sugars and junk. However, it doesn’t mean that you’ll lose fat or build lean muscle just because you eat clean.
Which Is Better: Clean Eating or IIFYM?
Both clean eating and IIFYM have pros and cons. Clean eaters often become obsessed with food. They start feeling guilty for using sugar, dips, and minimally processed ingredients. On the other hand, those who stick with flexible dieting have a hard time counting their macros throughout the day. Going out for lunch or dinner while counting each gram of protein, carbs, and fat in your meals can be frustrating.
Clean eating may cause unnecessary stress and lead to eating disorders. IIFYM puts too much emphasis on macros and too little on quality. So what’s the best approach?
Focus on quality AND quantity.
Who says that you can’t combine clean eating with flexible dieting? Determine what clean eating means to you. Calculate your daily macros and stick to them. Eat healthy, nutritious foods that fit into your daily macros. Have a treat or a cheat meal once in a while without binging or feeling guilty.
Finding a balance between food quality and quantity is the key to optimal health.
Regardless of what you from yourself, you must be responsible enough to eat the foods that make you feel better overall. Nourish your body with quality food that fits your macros and supports your fitness goals. Health should always come first.
Don’t get so caught up in nutritional rules. Make up the majority of your diet with natural, whole foods, and the remaining 10 percent with whatever you wish.