Jun 15, 2018
Meeting in the Middle, Part Two
Gillean Barkyoumb

Part One of this article can be found here.

For as many possible benefits as there are for IIFYM, it’s by no means a perfect plan. So if you have an athlete who is intent on giving flexible dieting a try, be sure they know the cons as well as the pros.

Food quality concerns: The greatest potential shortcoming of following a flexible dieting plan is that the basic framework places little emphasis on food quality. For example, a McDonald’s chicken sandwich contains 25 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbohydrates, and 15 grams of fat, while a meal of brown rice and tuna has the same macronutrient composition. Obviously, the brown rice and tuna is a healthier and better option for an athlete, but based solely on total macronutrient intake, either is technically acceptable. This can lead to an individual choosing poor quality macro sources.

The key to doing well on IIFYM for athletes is not taking meal flexibility to the extreme. It’s fine to enjoy something sweet, savory, or salty every now and then, but flexible dieting is not an excuse to eat junk food all the time. To achieve optimal body composition and performance, food quality must be considered.

Lacking other nutrients: It’s clear IIFYM places a heavy emphasis on getting enough macronutrients. However, it is important for athletes to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fiber, as well. Unfortunately, flexible dieting does not provide guidance in that respect.

So, if an athlete wants to try IIFYM, make sure they pay attention to their micronutrient and fiber intake by encouraging them to focus on lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Athletes can also consider vitamins and mineral supplements to make up for any deficient micronutrients.

Tedious recording: Flexible dieting requires athletes to track their total grams of protein, carbs, and fat consumed every day. It is important to be very diligent and disciplined with this, which can take a lot of time, so it can be tough to fit in the busy life of a high school or college athlete.

There are some ways to make the recording process easier, though. For starters, there are numerous apps that can help, such as MyFitnessPal. One great thing about most of these apps is they recognize the user’s “favorites” or snacks/meals the individual eats often. So the more the athletes use the app to record intake, the more intuitive and faster tracking will become.

Another piece of advice is to encourage athletes to find a routine for when they record their macros. Maybe they enter their numbers for breakfast and lunch in the afternoon because they have some free time between classes, or perhaps they do it right before bed to cover their whole day in one shot. Finding a system that works for them will help streamline the process.

Potential for disordered eating: Because IIFYM necessitates a certain level of obsessiveness surrounding monitoring and tracking food, a fairly serious concern is the possibility that it can cover up or foster an unhealthy relationship with food. For this reason, athletes who have a history of disordered eating or may be prone to developing a disorder should not adopt the fueling plan.

Coaches must be vigilant for this and pay attention. If an athlete is obsessing over their dietary intake or losing an excessive amount of weight with IIFYM, reach out to a registered dietitian for guidance.

Image by Acabashi

Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD, is a nutritionist based out of Gilbert, Ariz., and the creator of MillennialNutrition.com, a site dedicated to exploring the shift in today's food culture.

Shop see all »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
website development by deyo designs
Interested in receiving the print or digital edition of Training & Conditioning?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites: