IIFYM – temporary fashion or a breakthrough in building shape? Part III

In the previous parts of this article, I shortly described the basic assumptions of a diet based on the concept of IIFYM (“if it fits your macros”). I paid attention to its key advantages, but I also mentioned its traps which are easy to fall into when following this catchy nutrition idea. An important matter, which has to be taken under consideration, is the nutrition value of this diet, in which we concentrate on setting energy balance and concrete supply of macro nutrients. Can a diet containing ice-creams, chocolate bars or jellies be fully valuable? In order to answer this question, I will compare a typical IIFYM menu with a typical bodybuilding pure diet.

Short reminder

IIFYM – temporary fashion or a breakthrough in building shape? Part I

This text is the third part of an article about the advantages and disadvantages of IIFYM, which is a nutrition formula where the key aspect is realizing the plan thanks to which the assumed amount of macro nutrients is provided. I suggest looking at the previous parts of this article, especially to those readers who weren't able to read all of them. Below, you can find links:



It's worth reading, because the interpretation of IIFYM presented in those articles is not necessarily similar to the opinions you can read on forums or in blogs. In other words, as a dietitian, I am rather sceptic about extreme forms of this diet and I just treat it as a rational counterpoint of the excessively strict 'pure diet'.

IIFYM vs. pure bodybuilding diet – theory

In order to present the idea of a diet based on IIFYM, it's good to refer it to the idea of 'pure diet'. As I mentioned before, the first nutritious solution concentrates on the matter of energy balance and proper supply of macro nutrients (and fiber – that's an important issue, it's usually advised to consume 25 – 45 g of this component a day). The second solution – may, but doesn't have to include the calorific aspects or the proportion of macro nutrients. But it definitely pays attention to the matter of quality of food. And so, for many followers of IIFYM, there's no big difference if they provide 300g of carbs in brown rice and oat flakes, or they limit that kind of food in favour of white rice, white bread, jellies and ice-creams, as long as they realize assumed demand for energy, macro nutrients and fiber (I'm writing about the shape aspects, not health). The followers of 'pure diet' convince that highly processed food is destructive for shape from the beginning. That's why, when basing on such kind of food, you can neither build good-quality muscle mass, nor definitely decrease the level of body fat. Why? Because food which is more processed can be called “empty calories”, i.e. such food, which does not contain any important components which are either indispensable in diet (vitamins, minerals, EFA), or they influence the way the body reacts to the supplied calories (there is evidence that after low-processed food, the glycemic and insulin response is lower, and after-meal thermogenesis – bigger).

At first glance, the IIFYM approach may seem very irrational, but there are people who convince that it doesn't have to be like that in reality. However, you shouldn't set the goal of checking how far you can move within this idea. The real relief will be the practical test – comparing two ways of eating concerning the nutritious value.

IIFYM vs. pure bodybuilding diet – practice

In order to visualise the information mentioned above (and in the previous parts of this article), I will compare two reduction diets based on quite simple assumptions. We can agree, to the sake of this test, that it will be diets for a twenty-five-year-old man with slight overweight (about 20-25% BF), weighing 90 kg, training three times a week at the gym and doing at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercises on each training session. The basic assumptions would be following:

  • daily energy demand: 3,100 kcal,

  • set energy consumption taking under consideration the deficit (20%): 2,500 kcal,

  • the layout of macro nutrients (as the participation in energy supply): 45% carbs, 30% proteins, 25% fat (it's roughly the proportion successfully used in research, in which the efficiency of various macro nutrients proportions is measured in supportin body fat reduction),

  • the consumption of fiber on the level of 30 – 40g.

The exemplary 'pure bodybuilding diet'

Diets used in bodybuilding are often quite monotonous, but they are usually based on low-processed food products. And so, it's now a rule, that for breakfast there are oat flakes, eggs or dried fruits, then, for dinner – usually chicken with rice and broccoli sprinkled with olive oil, for supper fatty products are advised (plant oils, peanut butter) and proteins (canned tuna, quark, casein nutritions). The diet you will see below was created using the mentioned standards, whereas, for supper there are less processed products, i.e. quark and olive oil instead of tuna and peanut butter (which cannot be considered as 'pure'). Of course, you can have objections, whether such diet is a better reference point to the diet based on IIFYM, but in my opinion, IIFYM was developed as a counterpoint to a typical bodybuilding approach to diet, therefore, such comparison that I will present below is justified. Let's start!

Breakfast: omelette made of eggs, oat flakes and raisins

  • 3 whole eggs,

  • 100g of mountain oat flakes,

  • 30g of raisins

  • PAM for frying.

Second breakfast: chicken with rice, broccoli and olive oil

  • 100g of brown rice,

  • 150g of chicken breast,

  • 120g of broccoli,

  • 10g of olive oil.

Dinner: chicken with rice, broccoli and olive oil

  • 100g of brown rice,

  • 150g of chicken breast,

  • 120g of broccoli,

  • 10g of olive oil.

Dessert: nutrition + fruit

  • 120g of banana,

  • 35g of protein nutrition.

Supper: quark with olive oil

  • 200g of skimmed quark

  • 20g of olive oil

Nutrition value of this diet

Energy: 2450 kcal

Proteins: 180g

Fat: 70g

Total carbohydrates: 300g

-including fiber: 35g

Vitamin E: 11mg (110% of RDA)

Vitamin D: 2mcg (10% of RDA)

Vitamin C: 95mg (100% of RDA)

Vitamin B1: 1.3mg (100% of RDA)

Vitamin B2: 2.5mg (200% of RDA)

Vitamin B6: 3mg (230% of RDA)

Vitamin B12: 5.4mcg (230% of RDA)

Sodium: 600mg (40% of RDA)

Potassium: 4,300mg (100% of RDA)

Calcium: 500mg (50% of RDA)

Iron: 15mg (140% of RDA)

Zinc: 14mg (120% of RDA)

Omega 6 : omega 3 ratio: 12 to 1

As you can see, the diet above, despite lower calorific content and quite poor choice of food is almost fully-fledged. However, it lacks calcium (the dose of this element is quite low here) and vitamin D (there isn't much of this vitamin in diet in general, the cure may be fat sea fish which, unfortunately, don't appear often in exemplary bodybuilding diets mainly because they are fat). The ratio between omega 6 and omega 3, which is typical for the 'Western diet', is alarming (it should range between 1 : 1 to 5 : 1).

Exemplary IIFYM diet

To compare, I present a menu based on IIFYM which allows introducing 'dirty' additions, such as jelly, whipped cream, purified starch, ice-creams or apple mousse. To make it fair, concerning the supply of vitamin D – I didn't include fish in the menu (the presence of this compound could lift the level of vitamin D drastically). Additionally, the menu was divided into only three meals.

Breakfast: waffles with banana-strawberry sauce, whipped cream and chocolate

  • 4 whole eggs,

  • 150g of frozen strawberries,

  • 150g of banana,

  • 15g of almond flour,

  • 10g of whipped cream (one dose from the dispenser),

  • 5g of milk chocolate (grated – for topping)

  • PAM.

Dinner: potatoes, pork chop roulades with mushrooms, pepper and kale

  • 400g of potatoes,

  • 200g of lean pork chop,

  • 100g of mushrooms,

  • 60g of kale,

  • 60g of red pepper,

  • 1-g of grated Parmesan cheese,

  • 5g of rapeseed oil.

Dessert after dinner: jelly

  • blackcurrant jelly

Afternoon snack: after-workout nutrition + ice-creams

  • 135g of creamy-fruit ice-creams,

  • 35g of protein nutrition.

Supper: reminder of dinner

  • 200g of potatoes,

  • 200g of lean pork chop,

  • 100g of mushrooms,

  • 60g of red pepper,

  • 60g of kale,

  • 10g of grated Parmesan cheese,

  • 5g of rapeseed oil.

Dessert: rice with apple mousse and cinnamon

  • 50g of white rice,

  • 50g of apple mousse.

Nutrition value of this diet

Energy: 2450kcal

Proteins: 180g

Fat: 70g

Total carbohydrates: 300g

-including fiber: 35g

Vitamin E: 14mg (130% of RDA)

Vitamin D: 10mcg (50% of RDA)

Vitamin C: 500mg (550% of RDA)

Vitamin B1: 2.5 mg (200% of RDA)

Vitamin B2: 4.5mg (340% of RDA)

Vitamin B6: 5mg (400% of RDA)

Vitamin B12: 6mcg (260% of RDA)

Sodium: 1,100mg (75% of RDA)

Potassium: 8,200mg (175% of RDA)

Calcium: 1,100mg (100% of RDA)

Magnesium: 550mg (130% of RDA)

Iron: 22mg (200% of RDA)

Zinc: 16mg (140% of RDA)

Omega 6 : omega 3 ratio: 4 to 1

As you can notice, the diet based on the IIFYM concept, despite the fact that it includes large amount of highly-processed food, is more nutritious than the bodybuilding diet based on 'pure' products. To remind you, both diets have exactly the same calorific and macro nutrients content, but the content of vitamins and minerals is higher in the IIFYM menu. What's particularly important, is that the IIFYM diet provides five times more vitamin D and it contains the wanted ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 acids, it also covers the demand for calcium. A sceptic could say that the presented menu is not a real IIFYM, because it contains valuable food products (eggs, meat, vegetables, fruits), instead of pizza, sweets and hamburgers. Well, such thoughts may be caused by lack of knowledge of what IIFYM really is. This nutrition solution is not about gormandizing with 'junk food', but about going beyond the 'only proper' and 'pure' products. It would be very hard to realize assumed goals concerning the supply of proteins, carbs, fat and fiber, if we wanted to eat only in fast food restaurants. It would be unrealistic – the limit of consuming fat would be crossed quite fast.


Diets based on IIFYM don't have to be deficient. It's opposite, with efficient choice of food products, you can compose menu of high value which provides all the necessary nutrients in the amount covering the demand of the body with some excess, without resigning from some additives, like ice-creams, chocolate, jellies and other. IIFYM is all about making the diet stress-free and not changing into a machine producing cortisol only because chicken fillets were unavailable in a shop, or you happened to eat a sweet roll. Instead of that, you should know that when you train hard, you can let yourself eat an undietetic food product...

...if it fits your macros.


IIFYM – temporary fashion or a breakthrough in building shape? Part I

IIFYM – temporary fashion or a breakthrough in building shape? Part II