For fat loss?
Here’s some basics to understand.
The “IIFYM” approach to fat loss
If you’ve dieted in the last decade, you’re probably familiar with the “if it fits your macros (AKA IIFYM)” approach to dieting. It’s basically the antichrist for other diet styles that want you to get rid of certain food groups. Eat whatever you want, but track it, and fit it into the total numbers for the day. And it works.
This means junk food and supplements can probably be a workable diet for fat loss.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a good approach. In fact, it can be pretty terrible.
And the thing that really gets me is the reasons why people choose this:
“it’s easier to stick to my diet if I can eat what I want”.
That’s the kicker. Because ultimately, it’s probably bull****.
Now, to be clear, IIFYM is NOT just tracking food. Anyone successful with dieting is probably familiar with food tracking. For me, tracking a key part of the process for fat loss and changing body composition. And yes, IIFYM requires you to track, whereas some food elimination diets claim not to, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a diet that only focuses on numbers, because that’s all that matters, right?
As I said at the start, yes,
and no…. (I know I said it the other way around, but you get the picture).
Energy and fat balance
An energy balance will create fat loss. More specifically, it seems fat balance is actually the key player here, but let’s not get into that now.
What this means is that if we consume less than we burn, we will lose weight. And again, as we’re looking to lose stored fat in most cases, fat balance is the key.
Anyway, back to the point. If we account for Calories, we can create an energy deficit that will allow us to lose weight. And we can do this through ANY approach we want, and it’ll still lead to weight loss.
But we’re all even smarter than that….
We know different macro’s have different roles in the body. So actually, we want to hit the macro targets. Calories and macros on track, and that’s everything we need for diet. After all, high protein will maintain muscle mass. Carbs and fat are fuel, so can fit them however we want.
It seems this is where our intelligence starts to reach a limit. Here we ignore the next level, and although the math for fat loss works here, we’re people, not computers (again, that’s another debate for another time).
Just to avoid confusion, energy balance, specifically fat balance, is the reason we lose fat on all diets. So, don’t think this is a big thumbs up to your supergreen smoothie only diet. It’s working via this deficit, and has pro’s and cons, and it’s actually more similar to the IIFYM approach than you care to admit.
Funny really, both camps- elimination diets and IIFYM approaches both tend to think the other approach is a bad one., and misses out key aspects. Maybe these guys should hear each other out. They’re both right of course, but somehow only see one half of the argument.
So, what are we missing with IIFYM?
IIFYM has a miraculous way of meaning that even when we control for Calories (which is probably the biggest issue at the minute), we can still consume a diet that is far from ideal for health and fat loss.
This happens in three key ways.
First, it gives us the freedom to go for foods that have a huge amount of the fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other important components removed, to become little bundles of energy, with very little else. Over time, this can have a negative impact of our body’s nutrient stores, leading to deficiencies. This alone can cause a huge number of health/ metabolic problems, but we’re not done yet.
Second, it lures us into the belief that total daily protein is the same response as modest, regular feedings from a muscle building point of view. It isn’t. And tells us that timing of foods doesn’t matter, providing you hit the numbers. It does.
In reality, timing can have a key role on performance, adaptation and even fat loss.
Probably most important here though for fat loss, is appetite regulation. It’s a myth that eating whatever you want makes diets easier to stick to. If we want to manage appetite, we should be choosing foods with high nutrient density and low energy density. We should be making sure fibre intake is appropriate. We should be having regular protein servings. IIFYM allows you to avoid ALL of this, and can lead to diets having VERY LOW FOOD intake, but equal Calories- making them almost impossible to stick to long term. Beyond that, this can lead to wild swings between diets and non diets (AKA yoyo dieting!).
As a final point, most of the time when you work out your numbers, they’re probably wrong, so I wouldn’t put too much stock into that just yet.
So, what’s the better way for fat loss?
Well, as with most things, it lies somewhere between the two extremes.
Track food intake and manage energy balance. Eat the rainbow. Have regular servings of high protein foods. Cut down on highly processed, high energy dense foods and alcohol. Stay hydrated.
Wait a minute… is that not the 6 habits we start with anyway at FX?
It sure is….. funny that.
And if you need more support, work with a nutrition coach. You can contact us here.
Hope this helps!
Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS,
P.S. Check out our podcast, available here