Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Your coach only THINKS he (or she) is doing IIFYM.

Your coach only THINKS he (or she) is doing IIFYM.

Some fruit I ate earlier. I'm having a pizza next. It's Flexible Dieting.

Some fruit I ate earlier. I’m having a pizza next. It’s Flexible Dieting.

Well, maybe not your coach. Hopefully your coach is great. Maybe I’m your coach or someone I’m friends with is.

There are a few good ones out there, but for the most part I see a lot of people appointing themselves coaches and entirely butchering the concept of IIFYM.

The difference between how I do things with my Flexible Fueling strategy vs how most people seem to do things with what they think is an “If It Fits Your Macros” strategy is as follows:

Most people are calculating a DEFICIT and working to that, while I am interested in calculating a target for best performance and condition.

Decidedly average selfie I took at training today.

Decidedly average selfie I took at training today.

When people are focused on calculating a deficit, the question is “a deficit from what?” and also for that matter “a deficit of how much?”.

Often it’s a deficit from “however much you’re currently getting, on average”. So, you track your intake for a few days, work out how many calories it is, average it out… there’s your “maintenance”. Subtract some amount (it might be 500 cals for example) and there’s your new target to be in deficit.


If you’re not working to any targets to begin with, your current intake is just some random amount. Subtracting an arbitrary number from this random amount and assuming the result will in some way resemble an appropriate (forget “optimal”) target for performance, recovery and adaptation to training is … :\ … I was going to say “overly optimistic” but it is actually just flat out illogical.

That’s not IIFYM, it is just calorie counting and calorie restriction based on the conditioned assumption that you’re eating too much to begin with and the entirely illogical premise that you can best build a lean, strong and healthy body by depriving it of the energy and resources that it requires. It’s still just an attempt to starve weight off although people feel like they’re being more scientific because they’ve done some poorly applied mathematics first.

The thing with calorie counting and restriction is that… like we discussed in my popular rant on facebook yesterday, you’re just training your body to run on less fuel and still somehow get through training and get through your day. Regardless though, if it is not restricting to a dangerous level you may still see results BUT the reality is that most people (myself included) don’t really have it in them to dial in strict adherence indefinitely. At best people will be motivated to dial it in hard and tight for a few a months… individual mileage will vary but let’s say 12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time before someone will either start to become a little complacent even if they’ve had good results or say “this is bullshit and I quit” if they have not had good results.

Now this won’t be half as bad as compared to someone who has done some of the more common very low calories + restricted food choices “clean eating” type nonsense but STILL… if you’ve trained your body to get by on an inadequate level of fueling, when you get complacent and drift back towards less structured eating habits it’s likely to be a greater energy intake than you’re used to getting, and I don’t have to tell you what happens to that energy that you’ve trained your body not to require.

Rather than that, consider this.

Twelve weeks building up towards higher, optimal, maximum usable energy and macronutrient targets to facilitate best performance at training, best recovery from training, and promotion of lean mass at the expense of fat stores as an adaptation to training.

Now, for the people who want to clutch at straws and try to pull me up on semantics; YES, obviously “the most you can put to use” is less than an amount at which you would not draw on fat stores due to energy intake being beyond your requirements. So indeed we are still “in deficit” but there is very real difference in the results of calculating our energy and macro targets intelligently with a focus on “how much we can put to good use for best results” vs “how far into deficit”.

You require a certain amount of energy just to be alive, to run your organs and regenerate skin cells and all manner of functions you’re not even really aware that you’re doing. Then you require a certain amount to get through your day able to tolerate… I mean, to interact with others and perform your job at work or at study. We burn a certain amount at training although the real value of training is not the energy that we expend but in how we adapt, and we require a certain amount further to all these other requirements to facilitate this recovery and adaptation to training.

Being at a strategic deficit can be advantageous as we will tap further into fat stores to make up for the shortfall in energy provision vs energy requirements. However, being too far into deficit simply means not providing the necessary resources to do all of those good things we talked about in the paragraph above, and running yourself into the ground while actually hampering fat loss at the expense of lean mass. The opposite of what you are actually trying to achieve.

So let’s wind this up.

Let’s say similarly to what we discussed earlier, 12 weeks of building up towards optimal, maximum useable, sports nutrition targets for best performance, recovery and adaptation to training. During that 12 weeks the challenge will be in eating enough to meet your requirements even when you’re not feeling hungry. Beyond that 12 weeks, depending on the individual you might find some people decide “this is bloody great and I can keep this up as long as feel like it and keep driving towards better and better performance and results”, which is great.

Other people are likely to think “that was great but I think I have a pretty good handle on this now and can just make good choices to eat when I’m hungry, confident that I’ll be getting it close enough most of the time” aka “intuitive eating” and that is also great.

My observation of that latter option is that intuitive eating after a period of working towards maximal targets will come in at a slight deficit due to no longer doing the “eat even if you’re not hungry” part. What happens when we’re at a slight, strategic deficit? As discussed a couple of paragraphs earlier, we tap even further into fat stores to make up the balance.



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