There’s one thing that really gets me when it comes to what people say about If It Fits Your Macros.
It’s the typical response of clean eaters, bro dieters, and the old school hardcore bodybuilders who claim that flexible dieting can’t possibly work.
They have this false perception that IIFYM is all about eating as much junk food as you can.
That isn’t the case at all.
In fact, it’s pretty far off what most flexible dieters actually do, but the myth still perpetuates that us in the IIFYM camp fill our daily calories with chocolate, cake, pretzels, pizza and donuts.
I know that I don’t do this, and my clients certainly don’t either.
Sure, we do eat some food that the general public would consider “junk,” but for most of us, this actually constitutes a very small part of our overall diet.
The question still remains though –
How much junk can you eat with IIFYM?
Here’s Where It Started
When flexible dieting came to the mainstream, it was pretty revolutionary. After all, no diet before had advocated eating “normally” in order to lose weight and get lean.
It was all about cutting calories, going low-carb, eating virtually no fat, or sticking to some sort of clean, restrictive, rigid meal plan, based around supposedly magic fat loss foods.
Then people started eating real food, but allowing themselves treats on a regular basis, while monitoring calories, protein, carbs and fats, and getting lean (or in many cases, absolutely shredded!) and the world sat up and took notice.
Playing off the back of the freedom of IIFYM, proponents began posting pictures and bragging about all the junk foods they were eating, while having fun and getting better results than those on strict plans.
With the popularity of these posts on Facebook, Instagram and Internet forums, the general public started getting the idea that you HAD to eat junk food with flexible dieting, or that hitting macros was about trying to fill as many of your calories as possibly with low-nutrient foods, and getting the bare minimum about of healthy stuff.
In truth, very few flexible dieters actively go out of their way to eat junk.
Sure, everyone has that one food they just can’t go without, and is essentially their “thing.”
For some, it’s pancakes.
For others, it’s pizza.
Ice cream, chips, burgers – whatever it is, I know some of my flexible dieting modelling and bodybuilding buddies will do whatever they can to make these foods fit their macros.
But we don’t sacrifice our overall healthy approach to do so.
And we certainly don’t eat them to the extreme.
For me, it depends on my goals and current calorie and macro targets…
What Are Your Goals?
If I’m bulking, and eating over 500 grams of carbs and 100 grams of fat per day, I can easily fit in a cheeseburger with a large fries and some frozen yoghurt afterwards, and still have plenty of calories left over for healthier foods.
Heck, I often NEED to have a meal like this, that contains low-volume, high-calorie foods, as getting that many grams of carbohydrate and fat purely from clean foods would be virtually impossible.
When it comes to cutting though, it’s a different story.
I will still have junk foods, but the types and the amounts differ.
I might be down on 250 grams of carbs and 60 to 70 grams of fat.
I could just about fit that burger, fries and froyo in, but it wouldn’t be worth it. That would be all my day’s carbs and fats gone, meaning I’d have to make every other meal either canned tuna or grilled chicken with plain salad or veggies.
So I’ll make a switch.
I might go for a turkey burger with no cheese to save on fat.
I could go bun-less to lower the carb count.
Or I might even ditch the fries and have a side of veggies instead.
I’m still having food that some would consider junk; I’m just making a sensible choice, so that one meal doesn’t compromise the rest of my day’s nutrition.
Junk to Avoid
From a physical standpoint, the only junk foods you shouldn’t eat are those which you react badly too.
Some folk don’t do too well with gluten or dairy for instance. That’s certainly not to say that these are bad foods, but if you eat them in vast quantities, you might not feel too hot, so these should possibly be limited slightly.
The only other aspect to bear in mind is trigger foods.
If you find there’s something you can’t just have a small serving of without wanting to binge, you’re best off avoiding that altogether.
So How Much Junk Can You Actually Eat?
If you want a general rule, then stick to the 80:20 principle.
80% of your calories should come from clean, healthy, nutrient-dense foods, while 20% can come from foods that you might class as junk.
Again, this can vary depending on your goals and targets.
If you’re bulking and need to get those calories in, I don’t see an issue going to 30% junk. You’ll still be able to get enough fibre, vitamins and minerals in, and upping your junk food allowance makes it easier to hit your numbers.
When cutting and on reduced calories though, 10% might do it, as upping your healthy food to 90% will keep you feeling much fuller and more satiated.
The bottom line, as always, is to do what works for you, and what you enjoy, provided you’re happy with your results.