Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Part 2: Are Compound Exercises Superior to Isolations?


In part 1 we talked about the different benefits of isolation and compound exercises, exploring the relevant research on this topic. In part 2 we are going to take this research and see how we can implement it to optimize our training for balanced muscle growth. Also, check out the impact compounds vs isolations have on fat loss. Building muscle and Losing fat starts with nutrition, get your bulking or cutting macros with the IIFYM calculator.

Practical Applications

As the research shows, in beginners, a couple of opposing compound exercises for the upper body (push/pull) is all you likely need to maximize muscle growth in this area. The same can likely be said for the lower body, although research is needed to confirm this.

Trained individuals, however, may need to do more than this. They need more of a stimulus to generate the same hypertrophic response. Wernbom (1) found that 3-4 sets per muscle group per workout tends to maximize the hypertrophy response in untrained people. While 4-8 sets were needed for more advanced lifters.

Remembering that compounds don’t hit all muscles they target evenly (e.g. bench press hits pecs harder than it does triceps and anterior delts). We can now try set up a workout around these guidelines. Your IIFYM coach can certainly help you with this process!


compound exercises


Sample Beginner Routine

From the studies in part 1, it’s rather clear that for complete beginners compounds are all you need for 95% of results. So a minimalist full body program for a beginner, performed 2-3 x per week, could look something resembling this:

• Back Squat 3 x 8-12
• Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-12
• Low incline DB bench press 3 x 8-12
• DB bent over row 3 x 8-12

Now before you lose your mind at how few exercises there are. The only muscles that miss out a bit here are calves (although they are worked to some extent during squats), middle delts (although they are worked to some extent during DB bench) and upper traps.

breastfeeding calories

Feel free to add in exercises to target these muscles. Yet, for a complete beginner, this is the most efficient use of time. It’s also important to remember this, from Lyle McDonald (a supporter of flexible dieting/IIFYM), in his article on beginner weight training:

“One goal of all training should always be to get the most adaptations/gains in performance with the least amount of training. That way, when gains slow down, there is actually room to increase things. Start too high, to begin with, and you’ve got nowhere to go when you actually need to do it.”

Furthermore, anecdotally, I’ve seen many beginners add a ton of muscle from focusing on progressive overload on these compound exercises for the first year or two of training.

Compounds or Isolations – which first?

Now that we know a mix of compound and isolation exercises is best for maximal muscle growth for everyone apart from rank beginners. The next question is – how do we order them?

A review of resistance training exercise order suggested that, “based on strength and hypertrophy effect-size data, the research suggests that exercises be ordered based on priority of importance as dictated by the training goal of a programme, irrespective of whether the exercise involves a relatively large or small muscle group.” (2).

…when smaller muscle groups were trained before larger muscles, the subjects did less total volume (4)

This implies that you should first target the muscle groups you are trying to grow the most while you are fresh.

For example, if you are training your whole upper body in one day, and your weakness is your back, train it first. And considering no advantage in terms of muscle growth has been shown to pre-exhaust a compound movement with an isolation exercise beforehand (3).

It is this authors’ opinion (as well as the IIFYM coaches) that compound exercises should precede isolation exercises. Due to there being a greater amount of muscle mass being targeted which could benefit from being fresher/less fatigued.


compound lifting


Compound Exercises Before Everything

To explain this further, considering compound exercises hit many muscle groups at once. Performing them fresh will allow for more volume across more muscle groups compared to doing them when fatigued.

When one tired muscle group might limit the volume that could have been placed on the others. This idea is backed by research which showed that when smaller muscle groups were trained before larger muscles, the subjects did less total volume (4). And as shown in part 1, total volume is important for muscle growth.

Yet, it would make sense that EPOC would be higher from a program based around compound exercises which use more muscle mass.

Furthermore, compounds also place larger demands on coordination, which is another reason to do them first. In fact, due to research over the last couple of years showing muscles grow well from a variety of rep ranges.

A great way to set up your program is with heavier compounds followed by lighter isolations later in the workout. For example, below is a sample routine for an intermediate trainee.

Sample Intermediate Routine (4x per week):

Upper body:
• Bench press 3 x 6-8
• Bent over row 3 x 6-8
• DB shoulder press 3 x 8-10
• Pull-up 3 x 8-10
• Fly 3 x 12-15
• Lateral raise 3 x 12-15
*Note – smaller muscle groups (such as biceps, triceps and anterior delts) need no direct volume due to how much indirect volume they get during compound exercises.

Lower body:
• Back squat 3 x 6-8
• Romanian deadlift 3 x 6-8
• Leg extension 3 x 10-12
• Leg curl 3 x 10-12
• Calf raise 3 x 10-12

An advanced trainee’s program could look very similar. Only with extra isolation exercises added in to address their individual weaknesses or areas that are lagging compared to the rest of the body. An IIFYM coach can help you out with this assessment, as they have for many clients!


fat loss

Fat Loss

So far we’ve just talked about compound exercises vs isolation exercises in terms of muscle gain. Rightly so, because that’s what resistance training does best. In terms of fat loss, compound exercises burn a greater amount of calories per unit of time due to more muscle being used.

However, resistance training should not be programmed in a way to burn the greatest amount of fat. It should be used to build muscle, while cardio and diet (tracking macros through IIFYM) should be used to burn fat, as these will have a larger impact on caloric balance. To accurately and quickly work out your macros, use the

It should be used to build muscle, while cardio and diet (tracking macros through IIFYM) should be used to burn fat, as these will have a larger impact on caloric balance. To accurately and quickly work out your macros, use the IIFYM calculator.

Although the calculator is a fantastic resource! Our coaches can build your Custom Macro Blueprint with numbers and an approach that’s dialed in.

However, having said this, some studies have shown large amounts of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) from resistance training (5). Unfortunately, no study has compared the EPOC response to resistance training using compound vs isolation exercises.

Yet, it would make sense that EPOC would be higher from a program based around compound exercises which use more muscle mass. Since this will cause more metabolic disruption. Couple this with an IIFYM diet and you’ll see great results for fat loss!


In summary, there’s no doubt that compound exercises are more efficient for body composition changes, but for those seeking maximal muscle growth that aren’t complete beginners. Adding in some isolation exercises for individual muscle groups that are lacking or don’t get sufficiently trained by compounds will help ensure maximal muscular development.

In short, base your routine around compounds, and sprinkle in isolations where needed!

Compounds VERSUS isolations???


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from Articles & Interviews – IIFYM

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are Compound Exercises Superior To Isolation Exercises?


Compounds vs isolations – training’s version of the clean eating vs IIFYM debate! By the way, here’s a link to our IIFYM calculator to help you optimize your diet. This article, on the other hand, will help you optimize your training. Both compounds and isolations have been included in the training programs of those seeking to optimize body composition over the years.

However, which one is better for muscle gain and fat loss? Is one or a combination of the two better? What does the research say? This article will answer all these questions and more, and put this topic to rest once and for all!

First off, it’s important to define what compounds and isolations are before we go on. Compound exercises target multiple muscle groups, whereas isolations are exercises that target one muscle group. For example, the bench press is a compound exercise as it targets the chest, triceps and anterior deltoid.

Whereas a bicep curl is an isolation exercise as it targets just the biceps. This is where understanding functional anatomy comes into play. Since the joint actions that are being performed will determine which muscle groups are performing the heavy lifting.

It’s also important to understand which muscle groups are being trained in order for you, or your IIFYM coach, to plan effective workout routines. For example, you might train chest one day (including doing the bench press) and arms the next.

In reality, you’ve trained triceps 2 days in a row! This may cause issues with muscle recovery, as most people seem to take at least 48 hours to properly recover from compound exercises (1).

Let’s start with outlining some of the advantages of isolation and compound exercises.


compound lifting


Compound Exercises – Advantages

• Probably the biggest advantage of compounds is that they hit multiple muscle groups at once and therefore count towards volume for each muscle. This is important as the volume is one of the most important factors for muscle growth (2). Therefore, compounds are more efficient per repetition from a global hypertrophy perspective.

• Allow for easier progressive overload. Ever gone from 9kg dumbbells to 10kg dumbbells on lateral raises and found the mere 1kg jump to be significantly harder? Compare this to going from 90kg to 92.5kg on bench press – the jump is much smaller. Therefore, it’s easier/more convenient to progressively overload.

• Can be safely performed in low rep ranges, unlike isolation exercises which don’t lend themselves to low rep ranges. This allows you to target low and high rep ranges in your training, both of which have been shown to cause significant muscle growth (3,4).

• Release more growth hormone and testosterone than isolation exercises (5). Which the most recent research shows might have an impact on muscle growth (6). However, the jury is still out on this, and every second study seems to have a different conclusion.

The Prime Mover

However, it’s not all good news. Every compound exercise has one muscle group that contributes the most to the lift (known as the prime mover). This muscle benefits the most from the exercise. Other muscles benefit as well, but not as much as the prime mover.

Two recent papers on untrained individuals suggest that isolation exercises are not necessary.

This means that compound exercises can create imbalances in the growth of the various muscles involved. For example, barbell shoulder press will hit the anterior delts harder than the middle delts.

So, if this was the only shoulder exercise used, this will likely result in the middle delt being underdeveloped. Which in turn means the trainee will miss that ‘capped’ shoulder look.

In intermediate-advanced trainees who have only ever done compound exercises, it is likely you will see underdeveloped muscles. Such as calves, middle delts and upper traps in particular, compared to the rest of the body.


isolation exercises


Isolation Exercises – Advantages

• Better target individual muscles. Compounds don’t always take each muscle through a full range of movement, which is important to maximize muscle growth (7). For example, deadlifts from the floor are claimed to be the ultimate mass builder. Yet, do not take any one muscle through its full range of movement.

• Allow you to increase the volume for specific muscle groups without impacting others that don’t need any more volume. For example, lateral raises to target middle delts, but let anterior delts rest, which is hit with a lot of volume in any pushing/pressing exercise.

• Way to increase volume without increasing central/systemic fatigue as much as compounds. What takes it out on your whole body more – a set of leg extensions to failure or a set of squats to failure? The coaches at IIFYM know the answer to this!

• Safer to take to failure and for higher rep ranges. It is potentially dangerous taking compounds such as deadlifts to failure or to train it in higher rep ranges as fatigue influences form. For example, spinal erectors may fatigue before hamstrings/glutes, putting you at risk of low back injury.

• Help improve activation of individual muscles/mind-muscle connection.

Effect of Training Status

While there are benefits to both isolation and compound exercises, research has shown that training status plays a large role in the need for isolation movements. Untrained people may only need a few sets per muscle group to maximize the stimulus for muscle growth from a resistance training session.

IIFYM blueprint

Whereas advanced trainees may need more than double that volume per session (8). This is where isolation exercises come in handy as they allow for more volume with less systemic fatigue. Intelligent coaches, such as the ones at IIFYM, know this well. Let’s take a look at the research on untrained vs trained people.

Studies on Untrained Subjects

Two recent papers on untrained individuals suggest that isolation exercises are not necessary. Since they don’t produce any more hypertrophy than compound exercises that target the same muscle group (9). Interestingly, they don’t provide any extra benefit when performed in addition to compound exercises (10)!

In a 2015 paper by Gentil (9), they took 29 people and split them into 2 groups. One group performed only lat pull-downs for the biceps, while the other performed only bicep curls for the biceps.

They did this training twice a week over 10 weeks, and after 10 weeks there was no difference between groups for bicep muscle thickness. Suggesting that compound upper body exercises are just as useful as isolation exercises for arm muscle hypertrophy.


weight training


To take this one step further, Gentil (10) again split 29 people into 2 groups – one group performed only multi-joint (compound) exercises (lat pulldown and bench press). While the other group performed the same compound exercises PLUS single-joint (isolation) exercises (lat pulldown, bench press, elbow flexion, and elbow extension).

After twice a week training over 10 weeks, they found that doing single-joint exercises on top of the multi-joint exercises resulted in no additional benefits in terms of muscle size or strength gain!

Muscle development requires a focused diet and proper training. Have one of our coaches build your Macro Blueprint to help you build muscle!

This led the authors to conclude that “in order to save time we can choose exercises that target a higher number of muscle groups at a time (compound exercises). This strategy can increase training volume and reduce the time commitment.

Which, in turn, may improve exercise adherence since a lack of time is the most cited barrier for an individual engaging in any exercise program (9).” Here at, our coaches are all about creating strategies to improve adherence for clients!

Study on Trained Subjects

But do these results hold true for trained subjects who may need more volume to grow? de Franca (11) investigated this idea with 20 young men with at least 2 years resistance training experience. They split the subjects into 2 groups – upper body compounds only or upper body compounds plus isolations and performed an 8-week training block.

Both groups significantly increased flexed arm circumference (1.72% vs 1.45%, for compounds and compounds + isolations, respectively). As well as, arm muscle circumference (1.33% vs 3.17% for compounds and compounds + isolations, respectively).

Another significant limitation is that most of the studies to date aren’t long enough to see significant hypertrophy (only 8-10 weeks).

Comparison between groups revealed no statistically significant difference in any variable. The authors concluded that “the addition of single-joint exercises to a resistance training program involving multi-joint exercises does not seem to promote additional benefits to trained men. Suggesting multi-joint only resistance training to be a time-efficient approach.”

However, issues of statistical significance vs real world significance come into play here. For arm muscle circumference, a 3.17% gain is more than double a 1.33% gain. What trained person who is optimizing their diet through IIFYM wouldn’t want more than double the increase in arm circumference!?


compound exercises


Also, 8 weeks may not be long enough to show up significant differences between groups in trained people. The authors state that “it does thus remain a possibility that significant differences might manifest in trained participants over a longer training duration with the inclusion of single-joint exercises.”

Also interesting is that “the participants of the present study habitually performed single-joint exercises prior to participation and the exclusion of these exercises did not appear to significantly compromise their results.”

Limitations and Other Research

While this research offers some interesting insights. There are a number of important limitations to these studies that need to be acknowledged. One such limitation is that the methods used to measure muscle size (ultrasound and circumference) do not consider non-uniform muscle hypertrophy.

Since previous studies have suggested that isolation and compound exercises result in different patterns of muscle hypertrophy (12). The results of the comparison are limited to the region analyzed and not necessarily representative of the response of the whole muscle.

An evidence-based approach is even more crucial when it comes to your diet. One of our coaches will build your Macro Blueprint based on proven science.

Accordingly, one may argue that performing isolation exercises may be necessary for the complete development of a muscle (13).Furthermore, there is a lack of studies examining the effect of isolation and compound exercise on muscle growth in the lower body.

This is important because it’s possible that the effects may be muscle group specific. As for the lumbar extensors, studies have tended to support the view that this muscle group may benefit from single-joint exercise (13). Therefore, future research should look at the effect of isolation vs compound exercises on muscle growth in the lower body.

Another significant limitation is that most of the studies to date aren’t long enough to see significant hypertrophy (only 8-10 weeks). Therefore, Ribeiro (14) suggested that “to draw more definitive conclusions, further research is required with more sensitive testing methods better suited to detect subtle hypertrophic changes in response to short-term resistance training protocols”.


compound exercise


Concluding the Present Evidence

Furthermore, in contrast to the studies above, other relevant research has highlighted a need for isolation exercises. Ogasawara (15) found that beginners who trained the bench press for 6 months increased their pectoral hypertrophy by ~37% while their tricep hypertrophy only increased by ~21%.

This shows that isolation exercises might need to be added to maximize tricep gains. The IIFYM coaches can certainly show you some great isolation exercises to maximize tricep growth! They’ve helped numerous clients with muscle growth!

Additionally, some studies have shown different muscle activation patterns in isolations vs compounds. For example, higher rectus femoris activation in leg extensions vs squats, and higher vastus lateralis activation in squats vs leg extensions (16).

Finally, one study showed that exercise variety was better for growth than intensity changes. The varied exercise groups presented hypertrophy in all of the quadriceps muscle heads, whereas the constant exercise groups did not (17). Therefore, it might be necessary to hammer a muscle with different types of exercises to maximize muscle growth.

Be sure to check out PART 2 of this article to see the practical applications of this research for your own training, and to explore the effect of compounds vs isolations on fat loss!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Diet Break: Is It Time For You To Push Pause?


The mere thought of going on a diet is enough to make someone reach for the cookies and hold on for dear life. Fat loss OR ice cream? How about both! When most people think of a diet they think of bland food (thankfully, not you because IIFYM and flexible dieting for the win!), endless hours of cardio, and going to bed every night curled in the fetal position holding their poor, rumbling stomach as they cry themselves to sleep.

Thankfully though, since you’re on the IIFYM website, you know that isn’t the case! Many individuals aren’t even sure where to start with their diet, and, unfortunately, set themselves up for failure from the get-go. Check out the

Check out the IIFYM calculator or one of our coaches to get the best advantage possible. Plus, the news gets even better! You don’t need to diet yourself into the ground in order to see fat loss. Plus, implementing flexible dieting means you get to bring the shreds, and hold onto the food you love. Don’t believe me? Continue reading…Cue mind being blown.

Diet Break

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Taking a break from your diet. Pausing your calorie deficit AND allowing it to aid in fat loss. But don’t worry, you and your diet will be reunited soon enough. (And you’ll be on much better terms).

Plus, pairing a diet break with IIFYM, you’ll be in macro heaven. In the most basic terms, a diet break is a brief interlude from your calorie deficit, as well as a reduction in cardio. This can be executed two different ways.


diet break


The Full Diet Break

This method is best suited for individuals who aren’t in contest preparation and not restricted by time constraints. A full diet break consists of 10-14 days of tracking a little more loosely. What’s important is to continue eating at your normal times, and strength train as usual.

Along with these changes, your amount of cardio will be reduced by 50%. That’s right…more food AND less cardio. Feeling uneasy? Talk to one of our coaches to see if this approach is best for you. This diet break strategy is one we use with our clients that have been dieting for 16-20 weeks, feeling lethargic and have stalled with weight loss 3 or 4 times already.

Our coaches have the experiences to provide you with your proper diet break macros in your Custom Macro Blueprint.

The Partial Diet Break

This method is best for competitors, or those coming off of an extreme deficit. Unfortunately, many competitors don’t give themselves enough time to be able to implement a diet break; which could be notably beneficial for fat loss.

Plus, using IIFYM and flexible dieting along with a diet break makes the process much easier, and generally, keeps the dieter sane; because let’s be honest. We can’t abstain from the sweet stuff forever.

In an attempt to maintain homeostasis our body adjusts as it sees fit; generally by stalling weight loss.

The difference between the full diet break and the partial diet break is during the partial, you can either add roughly 500 calories or increase calories by 20% to perceived maintenance regardless of your weight loss goals.

Rather than loosely counting, you continue tracking as usual. But, with a substantial increase in calories. Again, talking to one of our coaches to see what approach is best for you is a great place to start.


diet break


Mental Benefits of a Diet Break

While dieting, it’s inevitable that our stress levels increase. Weighing in weekly; your calories and sanity hanging in the balance. If you’ve dieted before, you’ve been there. Your weekly check in determines if you get to hold onto those precious carbs.

Or, if you’ll be kissing that nightly bagel goodbye and saying hello to an extra 20 minutes with your mistress; elliptical trainer.

Knowing that another calorie cut is imminent is enough to send your stress levels through the roof. But hey, at least you kissed that bro diet goodbye and welcomed flexible dieting into the family. Happy thoughts, right?

Observing Fat Loss in the Long Term

Another interesting point to note, which will sound obvious, is that fat loss is not instantaneous. It takes time; and a lot of it. So, the thought of this is usually off-putting to most. Sacrificing sitting down and mowing down an entire box of Oreos (highly doubt THIS fits your macros) is something not everyone wants to give up.

breastfeeding calories

Especially if your goal is a significant amount of fat loss. An extended, several months, or even up to a yearlong diet sounds atrocious. Thankfully, if you follow IIFYM, it isn’t AS painful, but dieting regardless of circumstances can be a long tumultuous road.

Also, IIFYM, paired with a diet break, and an end in sight, makes your weight loss journey feel more doable. Take, for instance, a weekly refeed, this is enough to get a competitor through the week.

The knowledge that within several days they get a break from the monotonous routine of salads and veggies for every meal. (Hello, poverty macros and flashbacks of life before IIFYM!) There are rough guidelines for such breaks. The leaner you are, the more often you’ll need a diet break. This below chart is outlined for men, and as a general rule, women should add 7% to body fat.


diet break frequency


Frequency of Diet Breaks


Body fat % Frequency of Diet Break
<10% Every 4-6 weeks
10-15% Every 6-8 weeks
15-25% Every 10-12 weeks
25%> Every 12-16 weeks

As you can see from the chart above, this gives the dieter a substantial recess physically and mentally, along with aiding in the overall fat loss. Having an end in sight and a solid time frame makes the thought of dieting much more palatable.


Physiological Benefits of a Diet Break – More Fat Loss!

The physiological benefits come down to hormones. While dieting, certain hormones levels go up, while others go down. In an attempt to maintain homeostasis our body adjusts as it sees fit; generally by stalling fat loss.

Your body is not concerned with getting your body lean enough to strut your stuff in a swimsuit.

Along with weight loss, another benefit that should be noted is the likely increase in performance due to the calorie elevation.

Your body is concerned with keeping you alive and healthy. In an attempt to preserve precious fat stores, your body lowers testosterone, thyroid, and leptin.

While increasing cortisol and ghrelin. This means low energy, extreme hunger, lack of sleep and irrational irritability (how DARE your roommate drink your last diet coke!).


diet break


The “Whoosh” Effect

Especially through a long dieting phase, hormones can shift so much that fat loss stalls altogether, sleep quality further decreases, and workouts suffer. Plus, once your calories reach an all-time low, IIFYM isn’t as fun as it once was. You begin yearning for those Cheerios.

This is where a diet break can be hugely beneficial. If you’ve dieted before, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon; a giant family dinner, relaxing, kicking back and enjoying yourself with zero stress after a long week of low calorie.

If you believe that you need a diet break, then let one of our coaches provide your diet break macros in your Custom Macro Blueprint!

The next morning you wake up and wah-la! You feel lean AND the scale is down several pounds. How could this be? Well, unfortunately, this is not an overnight weight loss (as badly as we wish it were). In the bodybuilding world, this is referred to as the “whoosh” effect.

The increase in calories temporarily lowers cortisol levels, thus releasing the excess water being stored in our bodies. Plus, the extra glycogen filling your muscles, forces water out. Now, as I said, this is generally just water. But, the lowering of cortisol has massive effects longer term.

Balancing Those Precious Hormones

When calories are increased back to maintenance and cardio is dialed back, it gives the hormones a chance to get to a more normalized level. This means more fat loss and more of those much missed and well-deserved goodies IIFYM has allowed you to have in your diet.

Can you say win-win? Through strict dieting phases, metabolic rate slows. Your metabolism is not a singular entity. It is comprised of dozens and dozens of hormones throughout the body.

It’s important to maintain the diet break for the suggested time (10-14 days) because, after about 7 days, hormones begin to regain balance, and the following 3-7 days ensures they reach maximum potential.

In simple terms, regaining this balance gives your body the break it needs to start letting go of unwanted weight. It is important to note that an increase in carbohydrates is important because of the thyroid, as well as leptin, are particularly sensitive to them. So an increase (100-150g/daily minimum), would be sufficient to elevate thyroid and leptin enough to a higher functioning level.


diet break


Start Loving Your Happy Place Again

Along with fat loss, another benefit that should be noted is the likely increase in performance due to the calorie elevation. We’ve all been there. Your one-time happy place has become a chore. You have zero energy, and the lower the calories, the less energy you must execute a killer workout.

So, a slight pause could be what you need to get your groove back in the gym and potentially gain back that lost strength. Those extra carbs are enough to make you feel like you could crush your last PR. (Use that carb high with caution.)


There are substantial benefits, both physically and mentally, to implementing a diet break; even more so when paired with IIFYM. So, you can either diet yourself into the ground (which many do), or give yourself a break, and ultimately increase the likelihood of more weight loss and overall success in the long run.

Get in touch with one of our coaches to help you calculate your diet break macros. Remember, weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Work smarter not harder. Okay, enough clich├ęs. You get the point.


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

IIFYM Under A Microscope: Before and After Results


Right up there with fasted vs fed cardio, there’s few more polarizing debates than the IIFYM vs. Clean Eating debate argued endlessly over the last 5-6 years within the fitness industry. Broccoli versus brownies, pasta versus pastries- choose a side and prepare to fight for it to the bitter (or sweet if you chose IIFYM) end. Although fun to joke about, the misconception that total macronutrient intake and food quality are mutually exclusive has gotten seriously out of hand.

Don’t feel comfortable choosing between fruit and fro-yo just yet? Good news for you, you never had to go without either to reach your fitness goals and correctly applying IIFYM (here’s the IIFYM calculator to start the process) is much more reasonable than many extremists would have you believe.

Pull out your microscope and take a look at the real IIFYM approach, and prepare to see why balance and moderation can be much more beneficial than extremism and restriction for gaining more muscle, losing body fat more effectively, and enjoying life- broccoli in one hand, brownie in the other!

IIFYM Application vs. Intent

For coaches such as myself and the coaching staff for, it can be frustrating seeing how often those in the fitness industry lead others to believe that food groups should be severely restricted, or that food choice itself is completely irrelevant. IIFYM was never developed with the intent of encouraging Pop Tarts and Protein Powder to be the bulk of a diet and provide optimal body composition results.

Instead, IIFYM (otherwise termed Flexible Dieting), was meant to allow flexibility within an otherwise nutrient-dense diet during situations such as traveling, social events or merely the periodic family night out at the favorite restaurant. IIFYM was about, and still is for educated coaches, allowing people the flexibility to choose the foods they prefer, that fit their budget, and are easy to access in their area to fit their daily macronutrient needs. All while still making sure to consume a variety of macro and micronutrients that support overall health and performance.


diet for performance


How to Actually Use IIFYM

IIFYM is about going to eat with the family at the local steakhouse without smuggling in your food scale or shirking all responsibility and falling off the wagon. IIFYM is about having the freedom to enjoy a few servings of homemade cake after a day of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. It’s not for cramming as much “fun food” as possible into a diet and simply keeping within a given macronutrient total.

Suggesting that clients restrict certain food groups, limit themselves to specific “health foods” or swinging the other direction by encouraging a “no holds bar” on any fun food the client can fit are not only all unnecessary but also downright unethical.

IIFYM isn’t about sacrificing health and performance focused intake goals for fun foods, it’s about knowing how to balance the needs of the body with the enjoyment of everyday life.

Coaches like those on the staff and myself want both athletes and non-competitors to eat for health and performance, but also know when to treat themselves as dietary “budgets” allow once certain goals are met such as fiber, hydration, whole grain, and fruit & vegetable intake.

Gone are the days (if they aren’t, find a new coach ASAP) of encouraging clients to follow restrictive diets, or suggesting that food selection itself doesn’t matter at all. Instead, science is continuing to show us that although total caloric intake is a major factor in improving body composition, food choice does matter when making long-term improvements in muscle growth, training performance, and body fat reduction. How exactly does it matter? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Appropriate Fuel for Proper Performance

The first proclamation by IIFYM extremists in a keyboard dispute will be something like, “total caloric intake is the only factor that matters in weight loss.” The irony is although their statement is technically correct, it’s short sighted.

Find out your proper macro/caloric intake with a Custom Macro Blueprint which lays out an entire approach which is easy to follow!

Thermodynamics, which in terms of nutrition is the rule of energy balance (calories consumed versus expended), does, in fact, dictate changes in total body weight. More calories consumed than expended leads to weight gain, and the opposite holds true for weight loss.

The often-overlooked factor by many is that of body composition when it comes to muscle tissue versus fat tissue, as well as optimizing gym performance. Take, for instance, just a few roles some vitamins & minerals play in performance.




Performance Boosting Micros

Magnesium supports proper muscle function, protein synthesis, energy production and plays a role in over 300 enzyme systems. Found in mushrooms, dark leafy vegetables, bananas and other nutrient dense foods.

Vitamin E is a collection of compounds that serve as antioxidants within the body which maintain and repair various types of cells and also support a healthy immune system. Vitamin E can be found in various foods including almonds, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B6 is a soluble, versatile vitamin that plays many roles including the metabolism of carbohydrate and fats for energy as well as supporting cognitive function. You can find Vitamin B6 in foods such as wild-caught tuna, bananas, beef and hazelnuts.1

breastfeeding calories

These are three of countless examples in which vitamin and mineral intake ultimately affects physical performance, recovery, nutrient usage and long term health. If you’re sick less, recover faster, and able to exert greater force and total work output from workout to workout. It’s clear that over the course of months and years in the gym, you can experience greater overall muscle growth and/or body composition changes. Compared to someone chronically under eating nutrient dense foods, the athlete consuming a balanced diet is much more capable of maximizing their physical potential.

It’s clear that over the course of months and years in the gym, you can experience greater overall muscle growth and/or body composition changes. Compared to someone chronically under eating nutrient dense foods, the athlete consuming a balanced diet is much more capable of maximizing their physical potential.

More isn’t Better

Before you conclude that endlessly eating “clean” is the best idea for maximizing results, keeping in mind that more isn’t always better will go a long way in helping you find the right balance for yourself. Although it’s important to consume a sufficient intake of micronutrients, there comes a point of diminishing returns where excess micronutrient intake won’t lead to better performance or body composition changes.

Although it’s important to consume a sufficient intake of micronutrients, there comes a point of diminishing returns where excess micronutrient intake won’t lead to better performance or body composition changes.

…even if macronutrient goals aren’t listed in the diet plan, they are still consuming a certain amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat each day.

Just as Jerry Seinfeld would argue a “towel can’t be more wet, once it’s wet;” after intake is sufficient, you can’t eat cleaner and see more progress. Although it can’t necessarily cause harm to consume greater than adequate intake of most nutrients, it’s unlikely to pose a greater benefit to performance or body composition.

Instead once your bases are covered, this can be a great time to incorporate IIFYM principles and enjoy some of your favorite “fun” foods to meet your daily food intake goals for the day, without the fear of negatively impacting performance.

IIFYM isn’t about sacrificing health and performance focused intake goals for fun foods, it’s about knowing how to balance the needs of the body with the enjoyment of everyday life. Eating carrots consistently for health, and cake occasionally for the enjoyment.


iifym diet


Your Diet Plan is Still IIFYM!

I’ve always found it funny how distinct the separation of clean eating and IIFYM is deemed to be in online debates, but how impossible one is without the other in reality. For anyone following a given meal plan based on clean eating (whatever that actually is, Windex seasoning maybe?), even if macronutrient goals aren’t listed in the diet plan, they are still consuming a certain amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat each day. As the meal plan is changed each week, so are the set macronutrient goals as a consequence.

By “clean eating” or following a set meal plan, dieters are simply fitting pre-determined macros with very nutrient dense food choices. Sorry self-proclaimed “clean eaters,” you’ve actually been following IIFYM this entire time.

Instead of wasting months on figuring out your proper diet approach, have one our coaches build your Custom Macro Blueprint

By choosing to follow IIFYM in its originally intended strategy, you simply have the option to choose both nutrient dense and occasional “fun” foods of your choice rather than being the slave to a “coach” demanding certain foods are necessary for success and others are to be avoided at all costs.

Want to eat 15 grams of carbohydrate worth of strawberries instead of raspberries today? Already have 2-4 servings of fruit and vegetables and would like to use some remaining carb and fat macros for a bit of chocolate after dinner?

Believe it or not, you won’t spontaneously combust, and can actually reach your fitness goals all the same by simply practicing moderation and tracking your total daily intake along with meeting your micro-nutrient intake goals.

Flexible Macros, Sustainable Future

There’s nothing wrong with routine and efficiency. Some people simply prefer to eat set meals each day to help with scheduling during the workweek. That being said, eating a set group of meals from day to day, then making a point to swap out different fruits, vegetables, and other foods periodically is much more manageable than feeling obligated to only eat specific foods, or totally restrict foods for an extended period of time.

Although certain crash or fad diets may work in the short-term if a caloric balance is adjusted, it’s imperative that people realize the long-term implications that must be considered. IIFYM not only allows for more enjoyment in food selection but simply provides a much more sustainable approach to lifelong nutrition.

You won’t always have a full kitchen to prep and pack every meal, you, of course, don’t want to miss out on social events the rest of your life for the sake of accurate food tracking, and you surely can’t imagine a life where certain foods are continually avoided at all cost.

For many, it’s common to be encouraged to severely restrict foods then have “cheat meals.” By doing so, those cheat meals full of otherwise restricted foods, lead to immediate regret for having consumed so much they become sick, which doesn’t only increase the chance for rebound fat gain but also creates a risk of poor long-term relationships with food; or even outright eating disorders.


diet restriction


Cleaning up the Restriction

Just recently I had a client sign on with me that had suffered from working with an extremist Clean Eating minded coach. She was several months post show yet still eating incredibly low calories, performing a lot of cardio, but most importantly, absolutely terrified to eat anything but a few select foods.

Fruit intake was nearly non-existent, the thought of carbs after 5 pm was absolutely terrifying, and the idea of including anything fun through the use of IIFYM was absolutely out of the question.

As we began working together, it was a gradual transition as I helped her find a balance between eating for health & performance and still finding time to enjoy favorites foods while keeping within a daily intake goal.

It was important not just to get food intake up and aerobic activity down to improve health markers, but to also create a positive mindset that allowed her to apply IIFYM while enjoying little things like the occasional cupcake, or eating a meal out with friends.

How to calculate macros

Progressively, through calculated adjustments, her food intake rose, energy in the gym improved, carbohydrates were no longer an object of fear, and body composition improved. Also not to be forgotten, her body weight has remained essentially the same as when we started through improved macronutrient distribution, improvements in adherence and more efficient training performance.

During the IIFYM transition, my client went from eating a stressful, restrictive meal plan, to eating a more, nutrient dense balanced diet but also including foods such as tortilla chips, homemade Mexican food, and baking with chocolate chips and other pleasant items.

She once again enjoys date nights with her boyfriend, and progress in the gym is better than ever. All of these amazing changes have occurred in just over 4 weeks time, and show no signs of letting up.

Actual Client Highlight


  Starting Current
Client Weight (lbs.) 131 132
Carbohydrates (g) 90 145
Fat (g) 35 55
Protein (g) 165 150
Calories 1,335 1,675



Enjoying different foods in moderation through IIFYM doesn’t have to be an excuse to have a poor diet, and isn’t you being “weak.” It’s a sustainable approach that can allow you to have fun at events, periodically eat the foods you enjoy, and still follow a diet conducive to your health and fitness goals… not for 30 days, not for a contest prep, but for a lifetime. Now when putting it this way, IIFYM doesn’t sound bad eh?


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