My beef with IIFYM

Categories: Videos & podcasts

Don’t have my studio set-up but wanted to give you a quick update on this new study and what we can learn from it to make dieting easier.


00:00 Introduction

00:44 Problem with IIFYM

01:01 New study


I have beef with “if it fits your macros”. I’m not disputing energy balance or thermodynamics or any of that. It is true, which is the fundamental principle of “if it fits your macros” that if you replace, say, 500 calories of white rice in your diet with 500 calories of ice cream, you’re still at an energy deficit. You will lose approximately the same amount of fat.

There might be a slight difference in the thermic (effect) of food, and this is non-trivial for like whole un-processed foods high in fiber versus foods that are very processed. But it’s a very, very small difference. May not be practically meaningful in most scenarios. So generally, how you fill up your macros, given the same macronutrient distribution does not have a significant impact on fat loss. That’s true, but “if it fits your macros” originated as a response to the question – Can I eat this food?

And when you say, well, if it fits your macros, then you are neglecting the social, psychological, cognitive, behavioral components of this question. And I think that some of those are actually very important. A new study showed that if you eat high sugar, high fat foods for a period, then it will increase brain reward pathway activation while eating and it will decrease your preference for leaner foods. If you read my book, you’ll know that this is in line with the general literature. Most studies show that we learn to like the foods we eat. It’s not the other way around.

And this is also why we have acquired tastes of things like coffee, black coffee. Most people don’t like black coffee when they first start drinking alcohol, same way. These are foods that on first taste you might even think are disgusting. And then you eat more of them and you actually learn to like them. And after a while you learn to love them. Now you can do the same things with vegetables or foods that you think are healthy, lean, satiating, that fit your diet well, that allow you to reach your fitness purposes. If you still consume like junk food, snack foods, crap that’s very high in calories, not satiating, low in nutritional value. If you keep eating those foods, then it prevents you from liking other foods. So in that sense, yes, it is true. If you fit some ice cream into your diet doesn’t change much as long as you stick to your macros. But you have to take into account that it alters your brain and your own preferences. So when deciding which foods to eat, you should think of it as a lifestyle perspective.

Don’t just think now can I eat this and get away with it, but rather think which foods fit the best into my lifestyle? What is the kind of diet that I want to eat that allows me to reach my goals in a manner that does not make me hungry, does not make me hate life, and still allows me to enjoy food.

So in that sense, you have to wade or add the extra costs when it comes to junk foods, high processed, high calorie, poorly satiating foods, you have to add to the cost that they will change your liking for the other foods in your diet. And therefore that’s short beep in happiness that you may get from the single meal may drag down the happiness that you get from the rest of your meals. So take that into account when selecting which foods you think fit into your lifestyle. If you like this type of content, I’d be honored if you like and subscribe.

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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