Figuring out the perfect macros for you can do wonders to help you control hunger, shred fat, and give you the energy to hit your goals in the gym. It’s kind of like finding the cheat codes to fitness.

This is what forms the foundation of the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) way of eating. IIFYM means you don’t have to spend time poring over long ingredients lists. All you have to do is make sure the macros — carbs, fat and protein — match up with your own macro requirements.

However, there’s a long-running debate in the health and fitness community about IIFYM’s major pitfall: a lack of focus on clean eating. Is IIFYM really the magic bullet to getting the body of your dreams, or is it a recipe for poor health?

IIFYM: the diet that lets you eat whatever you want

IIFYM proponents will often boast about being able to eat whatever they want while still building muscle and losing fat. From protein treats like pancakes, bars and pudding to straight up cheeseburgers and donuts, it’s hardly surprising that a diet that allows you to eat junk food on the regular is so popular.

Granted, this is generally an extreme interpretation of hitting your macros. But there are few things more satisfying than getting the green light on My Fitness Pal after demolishing a stack of pancakes that would put The Rock to shame.

How important is clean eating?

The biggest criticism of IIFYM is usually that it advocates for consuming processed, artificial foods while neglecting nutrient density. Sure, that protein bar has 20 grams of protein and less than five grams of carbs. But what about the other 30 ingredients?

Any dietician worth their degree will tell you that consuming a lot of processed foods (or rather, consuming very few whole foods) every day isn’t great for your health— even if you are looking ripped in the process. Things like industrial seed oils, sugar and even certain artificial sweeteners can do serious damage to your health, especially when consumed regularly.

Not to mention the importance of micronutrients. All humans have nutritional needs, and subsisting on protein substitutes that offer little in the way of micronutrients isn’t going to make you a healthy human being.

IIFYM and clean eating aren’t mutually exclusive

So if eating whole foods is so important, then why are so many people still on the IIFYM bandwagon? The answer is simple: you can do both.

It’s kind of like eating a ketogenic diet. To some people, this means consuming lots of butter, cream and cheese and not a whole lot of vegetables. But some people on a keto diet eat plenty of (low carb) vegetables, avocados, nuts and other foods. It’s just two different ways to follow the same way of eating. Saying you eat keto doesn’t actually reveal anything about how nutritionally dense your diet is, because it can be done in so many different ways.

The same goes for IIFYM. You can still eat plenty of nutrient-dense whole foods with the goal of hitting your macros.

A great compromise is to stick to the 80/20 rule: eating clean 80% of the time and indulging 20% of the time. Yes, there’s more to health than losing fat and gaining muscle. But the occasional Quest bar (or even double cheeseburger with curly fries) isn’t going to kill you.

Want to optimise your fitness lifestyle even more? Check out our range of functional bodyweight equipment to really put those carbs to good use, no matter what macronutrient split you do! And don’t forget to reach out to the NC Fitness team with any burning questions you might have.