The difference between looking good and feeling good is more than just a number.
By Raphael Konforti MS, CPT
“You can eat what you want and still look great!” These words are tempting to any weightlifter’s ears, but they’re received with much-deserved skepticism. The thought of not continuously eating rice and baked chicken would make anyone salivate. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) has given birth to this idea and relief to thousands of gym rats who have relied on limited options for far too long. The question is, can you truly eat whatever you want as long as you track your macronutrient amounts?
It’s All About The Numbers
Calories reign supreme when it comes to body composition. Eat more than you need and you gain weight. Eat less than you need and you lose weight. That’s how IIFYM came about in the first place. It’s simple science. If you need 2,500 calories to maintain weight, then it shouldn’t matter how you get those 2,500 calories.
Over time people have taken this to extremes — as people tend to do. What started as justification for a cheat meal has become a justification for a way of life filled with sizzling cheeseburgers, crispy fries and ice cream sundaes topped with crumbled cookies. A life of junk food has taken social media by storm where everyone with abs posts a picture of themselves eating a whole pizza with a #IIFYM hashtag. The Rock once famously tweeted a photo of himself with 12 pizzas!
Find Your Balance
What this has done is proven that a cheat meal won’t ruin your body. A small cheat meal is totally okay. It’s more than okay — it’s called living. Taking it past a couple of guilty pleasures per week is too much though. Living a life of gluttony eating anything you please can still result in a good physique, but absolutely not your best physique.
Life and training are about balance. Balance in how hard to train and how strict to follow your diet. Diets that consist primarily of junk food are obviously not healthy. That’s where the important distinction lies. Looking good and being healthy are not the same.
The Proper Fuel
Your diet must consist primarily of healthy and nutritious foods. Healthy foods like salmon, avocado, eggs, vegetables and lean meats have higher nutritional density. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are involved in every function of the body from muscular contractions to firing a synapse in your brain. Unfortunately, almost every American is deficient in some type of micronutrient meaning the body won’t function optimally. That’s why you need proper fuel. For example, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are not found in junk foods, but are found in eggs and salmon. These fats help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. Other vitamins and minerals found in vegetables and unprocessed foods take equal importance.
Food quality is something you can’t ignore if you care about your body (and digestive system). If you put gas in your car, it’ll run. But, if you don’t put oil, it won’t run well and it’ll break down. Think of your body and the food you consume in the same way. The bottom line is: You can eat any junk you want if you stay within your macro counts, but you’ll never perform at or feel your best. You’ll literally be leaving gains and years at the table.