IIFYM, Macros, Calories... I'm sure you've heard the lingo
But What is Flexible Dieting
Flexible dieting, often referred to as IIFYM (if it fits your macros) is almost an anything goes style diet.
Eat whatever you want...
Under 1 condition.
The foods you eat must hit your daily macronutrient goal.
Instead of getting caught up over whether a food is fresh, processed, solid or liquid flexible dieting doesn't care.
Flexible dieting only cares about macronutrients and calories.
Flexible dieting works solely on the principle that a calorie is a calorie and a gram of protein/carbohydrates/fat is the same from all sources, truly making it a flexible, easy to adjust diet loved and preached by many.
Don't feel like eating steel cut oats in the morning? Why not get your carbohydrates from lollies instead?
As I'm sure you can see flexible dieting is the polar opposite of all other diets out there, which are based around restriction to a certain food group or macronutrient (i.e. high fat, fruit only diet, no carbohydrates after midday)
Is Flexible Dieting Too Good To Be True?
The ideology behind flexible dieting and focusing on your calorie and macronutrient goals instead of eating an un-calculated amount of 'clean' foods works, I speak from personal experience.
Provided you've calculated your caloric intake correctly for your goals, whether this be building muscle or burning fat eating the foods of your choice will get you there.
That said, flexible dieting does have its drawbacks, although as I said in terms of purely aesthetics, aka. body composition flexible dieting works.
1 gram of protein contains 4 calories.
1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
1 gram of fat contains 4 calories.
Regardless of what food it comes from.
A slice of cake that contains 10 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat contains 170 calories.
A piece of fruit that contains 10 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat contains 170 calories.
Although one of these may be conceived as healthy while the other is dismissed as a fattening food that isn't how our body deals with macronutrient.
It's a game of numbers, I personally think of dieting like a budget, spend your money (calories) on items (food) that fits your budget (daily macronutrient goal).
The Often Neglected Downside To Flexible Dieting And IIFYM
If the way you look is all you're concerned about then flexible dieting is for you, you don't have to endure months without eating chocolate, hell - you can eat ice cream daily if you want to make it fit into your daily macronutrient goal.
If your performance, how you feel and your overall health are of concern to you I don't recommend going all out on the pizza and donuts with flexible dieting.
Here's what I found out about flexible dieting from my personal experience that no one told me...
Your performance in the gym and energy levels will suffer
Fasted cardio works wonders, however the same cannot be said about lifting weights on an empty stomach.
If you're on the pursuit of mass and strength you're going to want to get in a solid pre-workout meal containing protein and carbohydrates for energy.
Proats (protein oats) are my go-to pre workout meal, the complex carbohydrates contained within my proats give me immense, sustained energy to smash through my heavy sets in the gym.
The times I've followed a text book flexible dieting approach and derived me pre workout carbohydrates from a sugary treat I've had some of the worst workouts of my life - with a quick spike of energy followed by a crash, leaving me struggling after the half way point of my workout, feeling drained of energy.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar) provides your body with a quick insuline spike, nothing like the feeling of solid, sustained energy that complex carbohydrates can provide when timed correctly before a workout.
Trying to sit down and write an essay? If you're constantly experiencing spiking and crashing insulin levels from simple carbohydrates you're not going to be particularly productive or enthused about anything you're doing.
You run the risk of bad health if you go all out with flexible dieting
This one goes without saying, eating processed foods, trans fats and large amounts of simple carbohydrates (sugar) day in day out will catch up with you eventually.
There's a big misconception that just because an individual is in good physical shape that they're healthy. The state a bodybuilder is in as they step on stage is extremely taxing on the body and is unhealthy, following flexible dieting to the extreme while maintaining shredded abs is unhealthy.
As cliché as it sounds I see fitness as a marathon not a sprint, and you aren't stacking the odds in your favour of going the distance if you're willing to give up your health just to indulge in processed foods on a daily basis.
Your skin will suffer
There's a ton of products out there for both men and women to improve your complexion, eliminate acne and acquire that healthy glow.
Eating high quality food is the easiest way to improve your complexion, the opposite is also true - eating processed, sugary foods is a sure-fire way to get acne and reduce the quality of your skin.
Looking after your skin is the easiest way to look younger, but many don't realize this until it's too late.
It can be difficult to make your favourite foods fit
Eat what you want, when you want they said, as long as it fits your macros!...
The foods most commonly associated with flexible dieting and IIFYM are ice cream, pizza and pop tarts.
Careful inspection of the macronutrients of pizza will reveal that it's generally low in protein while being loaded full of carbohydrates and fat, if you want to eat pizza you're going to have to sacrifice essentially the rest of your eating for the day in order to do so... as I described earlier your macronutrient goal is like a budget, and with only your protein intake left to spend with little to no carbohydrates or fats you're going to be sipping on protein shakes, liquid eggs whites or eating tuna for the rest of the day to hit your target... it didn't take me long to realize that eating pizza or ice cream wasn't worth the shuffling around and bland foods I'd have to eat for the rest of the day to fit it in.
Should You Follow Flexible Dieting?
You should understand the concept of flexible dieting - muscle is built and fat is burnt based upon your caloric intake.
Your caloric intake and goal macronutrient breakdown can be made up of whatever foods you want as long as they fit.
I recommend deriving 80% of your calories from fresh, unprocessed food that'll improve your health, provide you with long lasting energy and give your skin that radiant, healthy glow.
20% of the time, or when good food is out of the question then apply the 'a calorie is a calorie' mentality and eat the foods you love or can make fit in the situation.
The Most Effective Diet In The World
The most effective diet in the world is the diet you'll stick to.
If you find that you feel more energetic and disciplined when following a paleo diet then go for it, follow a paleo diet.
If your energy levels are unaffected by the spikes in your blood sugar levels from squeezing your favourite sugary treats into your IIFYM diet then go for it!
There is no be-all-end-all diet that works best for everyone.
Tracking calories and macronutrients is a proven, effective way to manipulate your weight (whether you're in a caloric surplus or deficit) but the types of foods or dieting principles you follow to get there are up to you.
Consistency trumps all.
What's Your Take On Flexible Dieting? Let Me Know In The Comments Below!