Can I eat chocolate on a cut? If it fits your macros targets, then go ahead.
Can I eat pizza while gaining muscle? If it fits your macros, yes.
Can I eat cheesecake without gaining fat? IIFYM.
Can I eat peanut butter while cutting? IIFYM!!!
This is how the IIFYM acronym and trend was born. Around 2009-2010 the idea that you can eat anything you want on a cut without compromising your results started to gain popularity on the bodybuilding.com forum.
Being a new idea, a lot of people started asking if they can eat pizza, chips, bananas, chocolate… you name it. At first people took the time to write long answers to each comment explaining that they could eat whatever they wanted as long as it could fit in their macros. But more and more people kept on asking the same thing, over and over. Patience wore thin and Erick Stevens, a member of the forum, thought of just posting the acronym: “IIFYM”.
Then everyone started using this acronym to answer those types of questions. Shortly after, IIFYM became a thing.
IIFYM done right and wrong
I personally really like the IIFYM philosophy and I believe it makes dieting a hell of a lot easier. By having the liberty to include whatever you’re craving into your diet without compromising your results, you remove a big part of the psychological stress associated with dieting.
However, as with anything else some people take IIFYM to the extreme and eat only protein shakes, fast food and sweets because they fit in their macros. Yes, strictly for body composition it makes no difference but the lack of vitamins, minerals and fibre can lead to health problems in the future. In addition, packaged food usually contains small amounts of trans fats, preservatives and other chemicals which can cause problems when consumed in excess.
The right way to use IIFYM is to get the majority of your calories (80-90%) from whole foods and the rest from whatever you want. Eric Helms said it best:
“The truth is there is nothing inherently unhealthy about dirty foods, it’s rather that if they dominate your diet, you generate deficiencies as a result. I tell my clients that their diets should be inclusive rather than exclusive, meaning that provided you hit your macros, get sufficient fruits, vegetables and fiber, and you have some macros left over, then sure, have your snickers bar. In fact I’d hedge a guess to say that results on the diet will be better this way, as you’re less likely to fall off the wagon.”
So what should we eat?
Food Choices for Cutting
When making food choices you should have in mind the following criteria:
When cutting you should eat as much quantity as you can for the low calorie budget you have. Hunger is very often the biggest obstacle when in a deficit so it’s important to eat foods that are low in calories for their volume.
Eating a lot of food helps stave off hunger and cravings which makes it much easier for you to remain in a caloric deficit.
Foods differ a lot in their caloric content. This a big reason why many people have the impression they’re eating very little but can’t lose weight. They’re scared of eating big meals but are ok with a having a few packed snacks every day. The problem is they think in terms of food quantity and not calorie content.
Instead of eating a chocolate croissant with their coffee (which can have about 260 kcal) they’d be much better off eating 300g of potatoes in one of their meals. After 300g of potatoes most people will be pretty satisfied and wouldn’t think about food for a few hours. They would find it very easy to maintain a caloric deficit in this way.
That’s my recommendation to you: choose highly satiating foods. Don’t be faked out by quantity – it’s the calorie content that matters.
Micronutrients and fiber
Vitamins and minerals are essential for health and sometimes play a big role in performance, well-being and energy levels. For these reasons it’s important to regularly eat fresh foods which are rich in micronutrients. You’ll see that the satiating foods are also the ones which contain the most micronutrients.
Focus on eating protein and fat from natural sources such as meats, eggs and dairy. Get a big portion of your carbs from a large variety of non-starchy vegetables and 1-2 fruits a day. These foods alone will ensure you’re getting a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
The vegetables and fruits also contain fiber. Men should get about 25g of fiber everyday and women about 20g. Make sure to eat enough of it otherwise you’ll have a bad time when you go to the bathroom.
I think it’s important to understand that you don’t have to stop eating your favorite foods when you’re cutting. Allowing yourself to eat the foods you crave it’s a big component of long term adherence.
I know a lot of people who have the all-or-nothing mentality and believe they must suffer during a diet in order for it to work. Of course, this causes stress and psychological pressure and in the end they either quit or binge out of frustration.
A better way to deal with cravings is to embrance them as normal. When you do that, you can allow yourself to eat what you crave in moderation and include it in your calorie budget and macros. This is what “If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)” means. You’re allowed to eat anything as long as you can fit it in your macros. That’s a very healthy mindset.
How do you do that?
Well let’s say that you crave ice cream. In this case you can very easily eat less potatoes or rice in one of your meals and get the rest of those carbs from ice cream. Or if you crave pizza, you can replace one of your meals with 2 or 3 slices of pizza. This is where the skill of counting calories comes in handy.
What foods you bring home matters
I think it’s important to buy and bring home only satiating foods which are low in calories for their volume.
I suggest you don’t buy canned or packaged meat products or any other type of high fat animal products.
I also believe you shouldn’t buy snacks such as popcorn, crackers, chocolate bars, nuts, etc. Any food that is easy to eat (especially out of boredom) should be avoided.
Sodas, juices, beer and other liquids that contain calories should also be avoided. When you’re cutting it’s better to avoid drinking your calories – you should chew them. If you want a beverage, go with water, tea, or coffee (during the morning fast).
Fruit intake should also be limited because surprisingly, fruits are actually pretty high in calories. I actually had a big problem with fruits when I was cutting – I used to binge on them because I could fit them in my macros.
Fructose is the least satiating type of carbs. In addition, it cannot be used to replenish muscle glycogen stores directly, it must be processed in the liver first. This makes fruits an inferior carbohydrate choice for performance related goals compared to starchy carbs. I’d suggest you eat 1-2 pieces of fruit a day – that’s a very good habit to have.
Foods I recommend you buy:
I encourage you to start eating more whole foods and fewer food products.
You should buy: chicken, pork tenderloin, lean cuts of beef, tuna, eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, 1-2 fruits a day and lots of veggies.
The importance of hydration
Although we all know we should be drinking plenty of water every day, most people are always slightly dehydrated. Thirst is actually a signal of dehydration, not a warning.
When you’re cutting, adequate water intake is particularly important because many thirst sensations are confused with hunger. Dehydration can thus give you a false feeling of hunger and drive you to overeat.
Moreover, hydration also plays a role in physical performance. Studies show that even a 2% dehydration negatively affects maximal strength output.
How much water should you drink?
Enough to have at least 5 clear urinations a day. This is a better way to track water intake compared with glasses or fl. oz. per day because it takes into account that each person lives in a different environment (humidity and temperature) and losses different amounts of water through sweat. A person working outside during a sunny day will need more water than someone who sits at a desk in an office with air conditioning. This is why we look at urinations instead of following a recommended water intake.
When you see you have at least 5 clear urinations a day, then you know you’re drinking enough water.
What did you think about these ideas? Have anything else to share? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
Do want to build a lean physique with incredible muscle definition definition like Cam Gigandet in Never Back Down?
Then you should definitely check out the ShredSmart Program. Feeling satiated on fewer calories than you’re used to takes a special approach. You have to trick your mind and body into thinking you’re eating more food than you actually are.
In this program we’re going to use two ways to do this:
*Eating lower calorie foods so you can eat the same volume of food as before
*Eating bigger meals less frequently so you get stuffed once a day even in a deficit