Is IIFYM for muscle building even possible? Won’t flexible dieting get you fat? In this article you’ll learn how you can use the If It Fits Your Macros diet to gain mass without fat!
Feel like you want to see noticeable changes in your physique but yet the thought of eating chicken breasts, brown rice, and weight gainers puts you off entirely? Most guys who have the goal of packing on muscle want that to be lean muscle. After all, few want to actually ‘get fat’ in the process. Do that and you’ll spend another 3-6 months dieting afterwards. Not fun.
But yet, most don’t want to succumb to eating diet-like fare that you’d eat if you were cutting. When you build muscle and have that surplus of calories coming in, it only makes sense you’d want to be a little more adventurous with your diet. After all, now is when it’s easiest to fit those foods into your target calorie intake.
So what’s a guy to do? Give up on the idea of staying lean while building muscle so you can enjoy the foods you like or succumb to continued feelings of restriction as you turn down that invite to go for pizza with the guys?
Good news. You really can have your cake and eat it to (literally speaking!). It is possible to build muscle, eat foods you enjoy, and stay lean all at the same time. That is, if you use an approach called the If It Fits Your Macros approach.
You might have heard about this approach before but considered it more for those seeking fat loss. Don’t be misled: this program can work for those of you who want to pack on hard-earned muscle as well.
It’s even GREAT for keeping your testosterone levels high! And as you know, testosterone is the single most important hormone for building muscle.
Keep reading and you’ll learn:
Ready to ditch the grilled chicken and brown rice and liven things up a bit? Let’s get started.
First let’s talk about why this nutrition approach trumps others. As noted in the introduction, there are generally two schools of thought that relate to muscle building nutrition:
IIFYM in a sense is a bit more of a middle ground. It’s an approach that allows for more flexibility, but yet, doesn’t have you eating an all-you-can-eat buffet every single day.
As such, this provides numerous benefits.
First, you don’t become obsessive about food. We’ve all been there. The thoughts of a cheeseburger that will not let up no matter how hard you try and focus your mind elsewhere. While these do tend to happen more while on a hypocalorie intake when you’re hungry, if you’re eating 100% clean during a bulking phase, they can happen at this time as well.
Food is something that 99.9% of the population enjoys. You try and find one person who hates eating entirely.
Those people just don’t exist.
If you aren’t enjoying the nutrition plan you’re on, you’re less likely to stick with it. This applies to both building muscle and fat loss. If you aren’t sticking with your diet, you aren’t seeing results. Plain and simple.
By adopting a more flexible approach, you’ll be more inclined to carry it through until you reach your end goal.
Second, going hand in hand with not becoming obsessive about food, it also doesn’t taint your relationship with food. Some bodybuilders who are hard-wired to be type AAA individuals can develop an eating disorder in a sense when it comes to clean eating. They firmly believe that if a food is not 100% clean, they are going to blow up overnight.
This can create a lot of psychological stress and set you up for big problems over the long term. By allowing yourself to eat foods you crave – that plate of nachos for instance – and seeing that you aren’t gaining weight at lightening speed, you’ll keep a healthier mindset to eating overall.
Finally, those who use an IIFYM for muscle building typically have an easier transition into a fat loss phase if they need it afterwards. While if you use the plan properly, you shouldn’t pack on much body fat while you build muscle, but nevertheless, it’s unrealistic to expect 100% pure lean mass gains.
You’ll generally almost always gain a little fat in the process – at least if you want to see a healthy rate of progress.
By keeping your diet more flexible and including a wide variety of foods, a short dieting stint at the end doesn’t seem so painful. In fact, you might even find you welcome it.
So as you can see, the If It Fits Your Macros approach for building muscle is a very wise nutritional plan to use. Let’s now talk about how to set it up for success.
Just like any other diet plan you go on, calories will matter. While building muscle, nothing changes here. If you eat more calories than your body needs to build that new muscle you are trying to put on, you will gain body fat.
Therefore, one of the number one principles of this approach is that you have a target calorie intake and you stick to it. For most guys looking to build some lean muscle, you’ll want to aim for about 500 calories over maintenance on workout days and 200 calories above maintenance on non-workout days.
If you are very about keeping lean, eat at maintenance on non-workout days. Just realize you may see slightly slower progress because of it and your recovery may not be what it could be.
Life: it’s always about trade-offs.
Don’t know what your maintenance is? For most men active men, you can consider 15-16 calories per pound of body weight a reasonable place to start. If you want to be more sure, track your calorie intake for the next week. Get your daily average and if you are maintaining your body weight, this is what your maintenance intake is. Add your surplus of 0-500 calories to that.
Once you have your calorie intake set, you need to then figure out your protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fat targets.
While calorie intake does dictate whether or not you gain or lose body mass, the nutrients you consume will determine whether the mass you gain is fat or muscle.
Therefore, it pays to get these straight.
Every man focusing on building lean muscle should eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight. You might think you need to go much higher than this, but trust me, you don’t. If you were dieting and had a chance of burning up that protein as energy, sure, more protein is needed. But since you’re in a surplus, one gram/lb. will do just fine.
Next, set your carbs and fats. Here’s where things get muddled a bit. There is no hard and fast rule as to how much you have to consume like with protein. It’s really quite variable and dependent on your body and your preferences.
Let’s go by minimums then:
Minimum carbohydrate requirement: 100 grams on non-workout days, 150 grams on workout days.
Minimum dietary fat requirement: 0.35 grams/lb. of body weight
Get these minimums satisfied and after that, the calories you have remaining can go toward either more carbs, more fats, or a combination of both.
Quick tip: Remember there are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbs and 9 calories per gram of dietary fats.
Once you have your macros set, you’re free – more or less. Pick and choose whichever foods you want to eat to get those needs met.
Just remember two main guiding principles:
Sure, you may get 500 calories from eating either a burger or 4 oz. of salmon and 200 grams of sweet potatoes but which is going to pack in more nutrients? Clearly the latter. Those nutrients are what helps keep your energy high, your disease risk low, and your brain functioning optimally.
If you want to feel your best, try and eat healthy, natural foods 80-90% of the time. Think 80/20 or if you’re more keen, 90/10. Allow ‘fun’ foods 10-20% of the time but the rest of the time be smart.
If you really want to see optimal results, time your food when your body needs it. This means placing the vast majority of the carbohydrates you eat before and after your workout sessions. Your muscles are like sponges at this point, ready to suck up those nutrients so take advantage of this.
If there’s one point in the day when it’s best to eat a sugary, simple carb, post-workout is it. Use this to plan your day.
Protein should be spread out more evenly throughout the day and your dietary fats should be positioned in the meals when your carbohydrate intake is lower in order to provide the long-term energy that you need.
So don’t restrict yourself any longer. Get over the notion that if you eat one burger while bulking, you’ll get fat. You won’t. Use the IIFYM for muscle building approach just mentioned and you can eat for enjoyment while still reaching all your goals in the gym.
That is the POWER of the If It Fits Your Macros approach!
Btw. if you’re one of the few that are super serious about packing on the muscle this year, then consider reading our guide to the Best Testosterone Boosters. Not only will you guarantee faster muscle growth but you’ll also lose unwanted body fat in the process.
Author: James / Founder of BroScience
I started this site back in 2014 because I was tired of the fitness industry telling guys like me lies.
Getting ripped doesn't have to be so hard... I'm here to give you the truth! The no bullsh*t advice.