Clean Eating vs. IIFYM. The struggle is real. AND it seems like it is the only thing you hear about nowadays. Most people have a very strong opinion on this and are either hard core IIFYM-ers or vice versa.
Me? Whether it’s politics, an argument between friends or diets, I always seem to find merit in all sides and this is no different.
But first, what the hell are they? Let’s take a look at the definitions.
IFFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros, is defined by muscleforlife.com as:
Fitnessmagazine.com defines Clean Eating as:
Adding a meal plan to clean eating creates consistency and enables you to plan ahead.
What am I currently doing? Well, I’m on a very “bro science-y” clean eating, strict meal plan from a trainer at the moment. Why? Because I have very lofty weight loss goals that I’m trying to reach as quickly as possible. That being said, I don’t think that such a strict diet is always the best or necessary and there are pros and cons of both clean eating and IIFYM.
Pros of IIFYM: It’s flexible, and allows for “mistakes” which prevents unhealthy binges. That means it’s ideal for anyone who has a history of eating disorders. On top of that, you get to enjoy more food and live a “normal” life. No secluding yourself and your tupperware bowls of chicken and rice while all your friends go out to lunch.
Cons of IIFYM: While it is completely possible to eat mostly clean on this diet, many people forget about those micronutrients and whole foods that are important for not just weight loss but overall health.
On this diet, you’re allowed to go out to a huge breakfast at IHOP which is cool, but after that you could easily have used up most of your carbs or fat for the day so you have to starve yourself the rest of the day. This isn’t healthy and also throws off your nutrient timing which impairs your results (I’m no expert on this, so go learn more about anabolic nutrient timing here).
On top of that, IIFYM is sometimes also hard to plan ahead for and more difficult to track. This is a big con for me.
Pros of Clean Eating: If you stick to your clean eating meal plan you know you will hit your macros AND micros every day. There are also clear health benefits of eating mostly whole foods that are more natural and less processed (What are these benefits? Read this).
It’s also super easy to track and plan ahead with less room for error. And, to go back to nutrient timing, you plan to make sure you eat the right macros at the right time of day for optimal results!
Cons of Clean Eating: Well, to be blunt… it’s boring, monotonous, and you miss out on those addicting, yet yummy hyperpalatable foods. Also, once you go off track once, some are more prone to have a big binge or go off track completely since it’s “not allowed” like it is with IIFYM. Cheat meal turns into cheat weekend (as my husband calls it).
Finally, you can’t “live life” as much. It takes practice to learn how to prep and take your meals on weekend trips or to special occasions. You have to learn to say no to friends a lot, which can be tough.
There are clearly benefits of both, so why not pull from both? The clear benefit of clean eating is that you can easily plan ahead and stay on track with your goals. You hit your macros but also get health benefits of whole foods packed with plenty of micronutrients.
THAT BEING SAID, the major benefit of IIFYM is allowing for little mistakes and a balanced lifestyle. So why can’t you “eat clean” the majority of the time, but also say yes when your family wants to go out to dinner or you want to spend a beautiful summer day at a barbecue?! Always make the best choices in those situations and don’t let it get you off track for the rest of your meal plan, of course, but why can’t you do both? Balance is key! Do what you need to do, pulling the aspects that work for you from whatever diets you prefer, in order to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle that works for you.
For me, I mostly stick with clean eating, but I’m also the kind of person who can have a cheat meal and get right back on track the next day. What kind of person are you? Are you a IIYFM-er or Clean Eater?
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