More and more these days you hear terms like “bioscience” and “if it fits your macros” in relation to bodybuilding diets. And then there’s always that one smartass who, when you tell him you eat “clean,” hits you with, “That’s good you should always wash your food before eating it!” Shut up, bro, you know what I mean.
On one side of the argument you have the poptart-eating flexible dieters, complete with MyFitnessPal always one click away along with the need to constantly remind you that they’re doing everything right due to their own crushing insecurity. And on the other you have your broscientists, with their six perfectly portioned tupperware meals that they prep weeks ahead of time and carry around everywhere they go to make you feel bad about yourself and question everything you’ve ever done.
So who’s got it right?
The truth is that flexible dieting actually has a lot of science behind it. Calories in vs calories has been proven to work for fat loss, muscle gain; pretty much any physique goals you have. That said, I think a lot of people use it as an easy way out, which if you’re doing it right, it should be anything but.
“If It Fits Your Macros” only actually works if you diligently track everything you’re putting in your mouth. Sure, you can eat poptarts for breakfast. That doesn’t mean you get to skimp on your protein intake for the day. You need to hold yourself to a higher discipline than you would just eating an arbitrary amount of chicken and rice every day.
The whole point of IIFYM is to find a balanced, sustainable meal plan consisting of foods you actually enjoy while still maintaining a consistent diet. Too many people take it as, “Cool, I get to eat whatever I want 100% of the time.”
On the flip side, the reason people who follow a “broscience” diet – including the vast majority of competitive bodybuilders – seem to get great results is that they’re usually able to hit their macros without even trying. If you’re eating an 8oz portion of meat six times a day, chances are you’re going to hit your protein needs. As long as they’re getting good carbohydrate and fat sources as well, then yeah, they’re going to get great results. That doesn’t mean you can’t get the same results with flexible dieting, but you need to take the time to do it right.
For my own nutrition, I try to incorporate the best of both worlds. The basis of my diet is going to be your typical bodybuilding-style tupperware meals, but I’m never going to shy away from going and getting the occasional burrito or burger in order to hit my extremely high calorie needs. Think of it this way: if you’re not getting good results with your broscience diet because you’re unable to eat enough calories, then something had better change before you waste anymore time.
One thing that definitely slows down beginner trainees trying to put on size is the obsession with eating only clean food. An 18-year-old, 145lb kid with a lightning fast metabolism is not going to have the appetite to consume the amount of calories of chicken, broccoli, and brown rice that he needs to grow. He needs calorie-dense foods, and yeah, that means going out and having something that didn’t come out of a tupperware container once in a while. This is another perfect example of why you shouldn’t obsess over the tiny details when you’re first starting out.
Lift weights, eat plenty of food and plenty of protein, and build yourself a base before you jump on that Mr. Olympia contest prep diet.