Just Because It Can Fit Your Macros Doesn’t Mean It Should

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mymacrsoIn my World of Warcraft days, I was a force to be reckoned with.

My lvl 70 troll shaman was built to dominate in PVP battlegrounds and big PVE raids. I was spec’d restoration and my heals were uber leet.

My team dominated on the battlegrounds, but it didn’t come easily.

Day after day, I spent hour after hour living in a world of HP and mana, intellect and stamina (the stamina of my magical avatar, as well as my own). Skipping sleep to play WoW was easy for me, and I used it to my advantage: I got really, really good.

But, alas, yes, there was a cost.

Sure, I could stay up late, take a three-hour nap, crush an energy drink, and be mostly OK at school, but it wore me down. Life became a fog. My grades grew mediocre, my friendships weakened, and I was constantly falling asleep in class. 

Before long, I went from revering to regretting every night I spent playing the game. As it continued to sap my energy, I started merely going through the motions of life without reaping any of its benefits. 

Just Because You Can Do Something, Doesn’t Mean You Should  

I shouldn’t have played so much World of Warcraft. I know that now.

And in the defense of online gamers everywhere, I actually learned valuable life skills: how to hustle and make connections with others, how to make smart investments in the auction house, how to reach my goals when there were surprise elements at play, and how to work hard and make a name for myself.

These principles are valuable, but the return on the investment of my time and effort spent in game were just that—in the game. I had nothing real to show for it. 

Just because I could stay up late playing video games doesn’t mean I should have; the long-term effects were disastrous.

You see where I’m going with this, right? 

With IIFYM, some people act like it’s a free-for-all in terms of the kinds of foods they can eat; just because you can get shredded with flexible dieting doesn’t mean you should. 

IIFYM is All the Rage

By now you know what IIFYM is and how to calculate your macros (No? Shhh. It’s OK: it’s the antithesis of clean eating).

I’m not here to bash it because it absolutely works. Who doesn’t want to eat junk food and get jacked?

It has something for everyone. Bros get to eat pop tarts, busy moms get to enjoy their wine, and I get to feed my inner fat kid with as much cheesecake as I want (as long as it fits my macros, of course).

As long as it fits within your prescribed macros, you are good to go.

This is a fact, and yet, just because it works, doesn’t mean you should do it. 

Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but before you hang me with your Fruit by the Foot, hear me out.

IIFYM’s Origin Story

According to Alan Aragon, IIFYM started online in bodybuilding forums. He talks all about it in this video, but the tl;dw is: 

Bodybuilding newbies started threads asking if they could eat foods that weren’t your stereotypical contest prep foods (stuff like peanut butter, cheese, whole eggs, chicken with the skin on). 

The answer was, “if it fits your macros, go ahead and eat it.” Over time, it got tiring to write it all out and IIFYM was born. Then it snowballed into a pro junk food diet plan. That wasn’t the intent.

Yeahhh, stuff can get out of control pretty quickly on the internet. 

IIFYM is a perfect example. What started as advice to a specific group of the bodybuilding culture got stretched and mutated into a dietary strategy largely based on eating junk. 

You can achieve your body composition goals by just making sure to hit your macros, but the bad news is that a junk food diet is not going to do you any favors if you care about your long-term health.

That doesn’t mean IIFYM is useless. 

For one, it gives us a ton of anecdotal evidence that you can be flexible in your dieting, which is great if you’re like me and like crushing pints of Salted Caramel Core. If foods like that fit your macros, they’re not going to ruin your progress or keep you from your goals. 

The phrase “clean eating” can be ambiguous; sometimes you just need to grab a bagel for breakfast as you’re hurrying out the door. 

And that’s okay.

It’s when you eat junk food all day, err’ day that your long-term health takes a hit.

IIFYM also shows us that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This holds especially true in the fitness space. There are no panaceas or pills, no magic bullet or revolutionary secret that will make it easy.

You can’t expect to be able to eat junk food without some sort of tradeoff.

If it fits your macros and is eaten in moderation, you can eat your favorite foods, lose fat, build muscle, and do it all without ruining your health. You just have to do it the right way.

Earning Your Pop Tarts

Before you worry about what you can sneak into your macros, make sure you’re hitting your micros.

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly.

It turns out Grandma was right, you should eat your fruits and vegetables.

A good goal to aim for would be to have at least five to nine servings of fruits and veggies each day. 

That’s more than most people get, and if you know you’re not getting enough greens or grapes, toss another serving of fruits and veggies or a green juice into your diet and slowly work up to the goal.

Every Fiber of My Being 

Most often, you’ll just be tracking protein, carbs, and fat when it comes to your macros, but don’t forget about fiber. 

Getting enough fiber is a big deal for your digestive tract and overall health, and luckily, it’s pretty easy to get if you’re eating enough servings of fruits and vegetables. 

A good jumping off point is to have 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume (Eating 2,000 calories? That means 28 grams.). Beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bran are a few of the most fibrous foods. 

You want a body that gets everything it needs to function optimally and help you to crush your workouts because when you’re hitting your micros, you can get more creative with how you hit your macros. You’ll be able to shed pounds of fat, pack on slabs of muscle, and maintain long-term health.

Closing Out With My World of Warcraft Metaphor

Back in high school, I could stay up to the wee hours of the morning playing online video games, which after awhile, proved itself to be a horrible idea. 

When it comes to your health and fitness, you need to make sure that everything you’re doing is going to benefit you in the long run. 

In order to get the best results possible with IIFYM, make sure you first fuel your body with what it needs, and then you can give it what it wants.

About the Author

Ben Johnson is an author, coach, the founder of BENTRAINED, and a slave to delicious flavor. If he's not helping people unlock their full potential, he's probably in the kitchen putting principles from his cookbook to use. To Ben, enjoying the food you love and having the body of your dreams isn't just possible, it's the goal.

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