Steven Hall is the founder of Revive Stronger, and a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter
In many ways, If It Fits Your Macros is a solid way to eat for someone interested in improving their physique. Tracking carbs, protein and fat means you’re doing a great job of nailing the basics, and people have built fairly impressive bodies on nothing else. But is it the optimal approach for someone looking to improve as much as possible? Absolutely not.
The biggest problem is, considering food composition for health is probably as important as your macronutrient intake. Long term health is a consideration, obviously – but even if you’re taking that out of the equation, you’re selling yourself out in the medium and possibly short term by neglecting certain aspects of nutrition.
On the most basic level: something many people don’t think about is that nutritional labels aren’t particularly good, in that the potential inaccuracies are very high. The FDA, for instance, permits inaccuracies of up to 20% on food packaging, so ‘200 calories’ actually means 160-240 calories. Similarly, switched-on restaurants might have their macros on the menu, but they aren’t weighing out portions in the kitchen.
Perhaps more importantly, you’re potentially causing yourself harm via lack of fruit and vegetables and wholegrain. If you haven’t got a healthy body you can’t train, and training is the stimulus for adaptation. Long term, if you aren’t eating nutrient-dense foods, you’re going to ruin recovery and eventually get ill, which is going to hamper or even stop your training. You might feel fine in the short term, but you could be trading that comfort for long-term progress. Here’s how I’d suggest fixing it.
Something I always recommend is: don’t have a meal without having a fruit or a vegetable. If you’re eating a meal that’s rice and chicken, bulk that meal out with broccoli or spinach. If you don’t like vegetables, blend them up and have them first thing in the morning with your protein shake: spinach and even kale taste fine in a smoothie.
You need omega-3s. Very few bodybuilders who are prepping will eat much salmon or fatty fish, but essential fats become very important. Especially with my guys we bias carbs and keep fats as low as they go – but you want to make sure you’re getting fats that are the highest quality. In reality refusing to eat omega 3s can bite you in the arse: invest in some quality fish oil, and take it at least once a day.
In the longer term, variety of fruit and vegetables is really important for health: you should aim to experiment with cooking new things, and rotate your colourful greens and slow-release carbs. Prepping for a bodybuilding competition can take place over such a short period of time I’m not sure it’s an issue, but even then I’d recommend a multivitamin as a shotgun approach.
I personally think health is as important to your body as anything else. In my opinion people doing IIFYM are missing a bigger piece of the puzzle than they realise, especially if they’re doing it long-term. Don’t trade your health – or your results two years from now – for being able to Instagram a slice of pizza next to your abs.