Clean Eating vs IIFYM/Flexible dieting. Which is best for me for fat loss?
Firstly let me explain the concept behind ‘If it fits your macros’, flexible dieting and clean eating. ‘If it fits your macros’ is a nutritional concept in which you have set daily calorie, fibre & macronutrient (fats, protein and carbohydrate) goals to hit relative to you losing body fat– with whatever food sources you choose as long as it fits, bro!
Flexible dieting is a fairly similar concept but involves less strict tracking of foods. You know roughly how many calories and your macronutrient portion sizes to intake for your goal but twice a week (more or less) you may eat a meal of your choice regardless of calories or macronutrient make up. The idea being that having spent the majority of the week in a calorie deficit these two meals won’t affect your overall intake or take you into a calorie surplus over a longer period of time.
Then on the other side of the spectrum we have the ‘clean’ eating concept. Clean eaters do not track calories or macro/micronutrients whatsoever so are a lot less rigid in their day-to-day habits. They simply eat a diet of fresh, whole food sources as close to their natural form as possible and avoid all ‘dirty’, processed, calorie dense foods. This way of eating has not only been seen to promote fat loss but has numerous health benefits in the long run too.
So which is best for fat loss and which is best for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons of both concepts.
Flexible dieting/ IFFYM:
- This approach allows you to eat whatever foods you want without having to feel guilty. It encourages you to stop focusing on food as clean or dirty and focus on the macronutrient make up of foods.
- The consistency of tracking daily macro/calorie intake almost always ensures the results you want whether it be losing OR gaining weight.
- Not having to feel guilty for what you eat means you are less likely to get into the mindset of giving up on your diet for giving into the treats you like but are deemed ‘dirty’.
- In other words there are fewer psychological side effects and flexible dieters a lot less likely to endeavour in disordered eating or binge eating.
- The key is in the word ‘flexible’ it allows you to have so much variety in your diet that stops boredom in its tracks.
- Allowing junk food or highly processed foods into the diet on a regular basis will have its drawbacks in regards to general health and will possibly leave people feeling physically less well than a clean eating diet.
- Having fewer foods from whole food sources will reduce the amount of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre naturally being ingested.
- Throwing in chemicals from processed foods and refined sugars will mean the body may not perform at optimum levels – something that is imperative for anyone serious about reaching their fitness goals.
- By using a flexible approach and ‘saving’ calories for a certain time of the day to fit into your daily budget you could potentially risk performance, recovery and metabolism.
- Clean eating makes it far easier to hit micronutrient needs without needing to track and without supplementation.
- Avoiding high-sugar, high-fat foods is believed to stop you from eventually craving those foods at all.
- More frequent meals and less saving calories means more sustainable blood glucose levels and better-balanced hormones, energy and mood.
- Clean eating provides freedom to not have to whip out the scales and weigh every single piece of food you intend to eat.
- This way of eating can be very restrictive. Leading to feelings of guilt and shame when people ‘fall off the wagon’.
- Calorie intake is inconsistent – half a packet of rice here, extra sweet potato there. Your diet could be all over the place without you even realising it.
- Eating the same foods sources day in day out could end up restricting the range and variety of macronutrients you intake.
So, the million-dollar question. Which is best for fat loss?
It all comes down to what suits you, your lifestyle and mindset best. There is no hard evidence that flexible dieting/IIFYM is a lesser diet choice in terms of body composition and fat loss.
As long as your ‘treat’ foods are relative to your macro targets then whether you choose to get your carbs from a sweet potato or a slice of pizza the end result is the same. They will be broken down in the body and used for fuel. Body composition is regulated by macronutrient targets and calorie requirements, and you can fill those with foods of your preference.
However, the concept that all flexible dieters just constantly eat junk foods is false. I know instagram pictures of KFC and Ben and Jerry’s with the hash tag #iifym say otherwise but with every new diet concept comes those who have to take it to the extreme.
There is no reason why clean eating can’t be fitted into a tracked macro diet. Eating any foods regardless of the micronutrient content is definitely NOT healthy. But, choosing a wide variety of good whole food sources with the odd treat here and there will not only see you dropping body fat but also keep you sane in the process!
If you have been struggling to lose body fat and would like some help setting yourself up with a daily calorie budget alongside a training programme please get in touch.