IIFYM – temporary fashion or a breakthrough in building shape?

There is more information about the IIFYM concept recently. It manifests quite laid-back attitude towards the quality aspect of food and it is more strict about the calorific balance and proper supply of macro nutrients. IIFYM is actually an opposite of so-called “pure diet”. It sometimes discredits its validity by jeering from some unquestionable until recently assumptions and gaining new followers, also among sports people, this way. It's worth thinking if this is only temporary fashion or a dietetic breakthrough in building shape.

You should definitely read:

Orthorexia – an obsession about healthy eating

IIFYM – a short introduction

IIFYM appeared suddenly on the peripheries of hermetic fitness world as a quite eccentric formation aspiring to the name of “nutrition concept” which neglected all accepted rules being nutrition rules of bodybuilding. What caused it? The dogma of “pure diet” based on concrete low-processed food products with supposedly unique properties in the context of their influence on the process of building shape. Instead of that, the “fitness hippies” falling for the IIFYM system, offered “freedom” in the matter of quality choice of food, as long as the daily balance of energy and macro nutrients works. What's important, practise followed theory – on multiple forums and blogs you can find spectacular changes of people experimenting with IIFYM, and the assumptions of this concept have gained enthusiastic opinions among famous and appreciated “gurus” (trainers and dietitians) coping with the problem of building shape, as well as some competitors.

IIFYM – what is it?

IIFYM stands for “if it fits your macros”. The main assumption of this concept is concentrating on the matter of providing the needed supply of carbohydrates, proteins and fat from food without paying big attention to the quality of this food. It means that, theoretically, according to the rules of IIFYM, you can supply carbs from chocolate and biscuits, proteins can be even taken from hot dogs, and fat from the deep frying oil. Such presentation of the basic assumptions of the mentioned concept has to be controversial. After all, there is so much information on the importance of the origin of macro nutrients. What's more, you can say that it has been proven that diet based on such assumptions is impossible to work and, eventually, has to lead to the downfall of shape and health. Whereas, practice shows something different. There are multiple examples of people who were able to build shape on IIFYM diet without ruining their health. So, it's worth thinking how it is even possible!

“Good” and “bad” products

It has to be admitted that recent years are the time when more and more people have talked and written about the matter of quality of eaten food concerning shape and health. This topic has been opened on forums and blogs, in newspapers and in researches. After all, there are numerous articles concerning fattening, slimming, poisonous or healing products with a large number of criteria far beyond the aspect of absolute calorific or macro nutrients content. I mean, the ranking systems based on the concept of glycemic index or glycemic load relating to the level of processing, or those including the supposed adaptations of the human body to tolerating the substances found in it, such as milk proteins, gluten proteins, lectin, saponins, and others (e.g. the paleo diet). The IIFYM system doesn't care about any of those things.

Is it right?

Well, a lot depends on the point of view we take when looking at a diet: whether concerning only the aspect of temporary work on the shape, or maybe in the context of health (this division seems to be quite pompous because, in reality, in the long-term frame you cannot separate the health aspect from the work on the shape, as poor meatabolic health may make it harder to build muscle mass or reduce spare fat, but for the needs of this issue, it's worth to divide these two things to make it more visible). To make it simple, you can say that the concept of IIFYM concentrates on, most of all, the silhouette aspects, whereas nutrition concepts concentrating on the matter of good quality food products (like paleo, vegan, or many other diets), are more holistic and include health aspects more. But doesn't it often happen that the influence of some food factors on the functioning of the human body seems to be overestimated? What's more – you should ask yourself a question, if, by accident, believing in strict nutrition systems based on the quality aspects doesn't lead to unhealthy attitude towards food?

Orthorexic paranoia

At my work, I meet many different people with various attitudes towards the matter of diet. Apart from the individuals who don't care, or at least for many years (until they got ill which made them come to a dietitian) they didn't pay attention to what they had on their plate, there are people who treat the aspects of good quality of food as sanctity. To make myself clear, I think that what we eat is important but I don't share the opinion that occasional consumption of a baguette with jam or a beer with friends is a crime against my own health. I also don't think that eating a piece of cake on the cousin's wedding leads to gaining body fat. Even if it was like that, nothing bad would happen. The cousin's wedding is only once in a life (although there is no certainty with that, but let's be optimistic).

In practice, following the idea of “pure diet” may (but, of course, may not) lead to inappropriate attitude towards food, and, finally, cause food disorders, like orthorexia. I will not develop the subject of this ailment here, because I wrote a separate article about it:

Orthorexia - an obsession about healthy eating

However, it's good to remember that there is a huge difference between the attitude: “I pay attention to what I eat” and: “I subordinate everything to the diet and I think that I will die if I eat one hamburger”. This aspect is especially visible among people faithful to the typically bodybuilding diet based on dry rice, chicken, broccoli, oat flakes and lean quark cheese with olive oil. This way of eating, in reality, has no justification, but it is still recommended as an optimum way for people who want to improve their body composition. Copying the same stereotype all the time and raising the alarm at any time, like e.g. including white rice or fruits in a diet had to cause creating nutrition strategy which is a kind of a “reflection” or “denial” of the dogmas rooted in the fitness world (and not only there). And that's how IIFYM was created, by destroying certain order and offering something extremely attractive and efficient. But can this concept be named a temporary fashion or a real nutrition revolution? I will try to answer this question in the next part of this article by making few practical elements of this diet more familiar to you.