Should You Choose IIFYM or Clean Eating?

We all know the die-hard IIFYM crowd right? Those are the people you see on social media posting doughnuts, cookies, pop-tarts, and seemingly still have abs. Then there are those accounts who have uber colourful plates filled with a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds who say they never count calories and simply focus on eating whole foods.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and you can lean further towards either side based on who you are as an eater.

Let’s say you plan to go on a 3 month diet. How do you know if flexible dieting is right for you? Here is a guideline on when IIFYM is recommended or sticking to whole foods.

Opt for IIFYM Opt for whole foods
If unfamiliar with macros, you have the time to learn and keep track of this on a daily basis Cannot be bothered to count calories/macronutrients at this point in your life
Have deprived yourself of fun foods for far too long Has serious sugar cravings when you eat sugar
Embarking on a slow cut Going on an aggressive diet
Maintenance or bulk phase (more flexibility) Aside from sugar spurring a sugar craving, you currently suffer from random cravings


I find that the best route for most people is to stick to whole foods as much as you can, and leave room for fun foods based on your social calendar. For example, if you don’t have any plans to eat out for the next two weeks, stick to eating as whole and minimally-refined as you can. You’re not missing out by not doing IIFYM. In fact, because you are eating higher quality food, your health and mind are better off.

Eating whole and minimally-refined foods will benefit you by:
- providing enough micronutrients and fibre in your diet
- decreasing cravings that come from eating high sugar/salt/fat foods
- making your diet easier to adhere to because it’s not likely you will binge on veggies, lean meat and brown rice

If you prefer utilizing IIFYM, here’s a handy dandy guideline on just how much flexibility in terms of food choice to incorporate:

Bulking 5-10% above maintenance cals = 15-20% flexibility
Bulking up to 5% above maintenance cals = 10-15% flexibility
Maintenance = up to 10% flexibility
Cutting up to 5% below maintenance cals = up to 5% flexibility
Cutting 5-10% below maintenance cals = minimal flexibility

What if life happens and you can’t stick to your calorie and macronutrient targets despite flexibility of food choice? Here is what I call my good, better, best approach.

Good: hit calorie requirements
Better: hit calorie and protein requirements
Best: hit calorie and all macronutrient requirements

If you’re not actively dieting for anything, you can be a little more lenient. I frequently fall in the “good” category, and sometimes “better”. However if you are on a contest prep or need to lose those last 5-10 pounds, aim for the best category. Once you are lean, it becomes harder to lose weight…so the accuracy becomes more important.

If you have any questions drop me a line!

In strength,

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