Vince: How is IIFYM different that cheat days/cheat meals? Is one better?
Nick: I’d like to tell you there’s such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer; but in the end, it really depends on the individual.
For some people, IIFYM is synonym of stress reduction in their life – which helps them make the right choices.
But for some other folks, it will be an excuse to eat at restaurants or chew on sugary bars and other crappy foods – only to justify this behavior by the fact that they’re fine as long as they hit their macros.
Well, let me tell you that someone looking to get any kind of results will see dramatic reduction in their digestion, the strength of their immune system, their recovery and overall performance if they replace their clean carbs (rice, potatoes, etc.) by pure sugar… all the time.
That’s when IIFYM becomes an enemy more than an ally. That’s the mentality some young trainees have, and that may even make them proud that they can get away with going to McDonald’s every single day post-workout – because they’re in a “bulking phase” and will do just fine because they hit their macros.
It’s a mistake.
Eating Frankenstein ingredients like the famous KFC gravy (made with what lies at the bottom of their fryers) and sipping on your favorite high fructose corn syrup and petroleum-based coloring-laden drink on a regular basis is a very bad habit to develop – and it will take a toll on your health and gains, no matter how invincible you think you are.
On the other hand, I find that people sticking with one cheat meal a week – or even an entire cheat day a week – portion control the amount of crap they’re eating by default.
I really prefer the term “treat meal” or “treat days” because I think these strategic over feedings need to be guilt-free and stress-free – but the main point here is that having a system in place to prevent going overboard with this whole IIFYM mentality is critical.
If you’re just relying on your willpower, or don’t even care about what foods end up in your body because you think only macros matter… you CAN get results, but they will be eventually slowed down by your bad habits.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But with time, your body will have a harder time processing all these toxic ingredients and you’ll have to deal with hormonal imbalances and all sorts of health issues that will kill your results. Might as well learn how to respect your body and maximize your gains starting today – by sticking to the right foods at least 90% of the time.
Vince: Thoughts on intermittent fasting?
Nick: Hot – no, very hot – topic these days.
Because of the big debate going on, an equal number of people try to argue whether intermittent fasting is beneficial for building more muscle, losing more fat or even extending your lifespan.
There are interesting points in favor of intermittent fasting:
- One study showed a dramatic rise in human growth hormone during a fast – 1300% for women and 2000% for men (1)
- Can decrease the number of fat cells in your body
- Helps create a calorie deficit without thinking about it too much when on a fat loss diet
- Gives your digestive system a break and increases the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut – boosting your immune system in the process
- Much, much more
Other studies are pointing in the other direction:
- Reduction in protein synthesis
- Muscle loss
- Much, much more.
It’s easy to get lost in studies and pointless debates.
To me, overthinking the mechanisms behind certain practices makes it very easy to forget WHY we’re doing all this.
We’re looking for better health, better looking bodies, and a happier life. That’s what really matters.
So here’s my take on fasting depending on your goals:
Fasting for an entire 24 hours will help you understand one important thing: Not eating food for some time won’t kill you.
For a lot of people, that’s a big relief – especially people who obsess about getting their meals in every 3 hours and that you see sweating and freaking out if they accidently forget their protein shake at the gym or might have to skip a “critical anabolic feeding”.
As a side note, anyone travelling by plane should consider fasting. Fasting until you arrive at your final destination helps you avoid the terrible airport foods, while reducing jet lag by 7 to 17 folds. (2)
For muscle building:
If you’re a skinny guy like me trying to gain mass, fasting can potentially make it hard for you to consume enough calories. That’s the downside.
But it really depends on how your body reacts to it, and how you include it in your lifestyle. Entire communities of people like the folks over at Leangains.com are getting huge and muscular while using intermittent fasting regularly.
That works for them. They use fasting sparingly, and strategically.
If you already have a hard time eating enough because of a small appetite or if intermittent fasting gives you undesirable side effects (cravings, mood swings, fatigue, etc.)… then ditch it.
Fasting is just another approach you can try. Another tool in your toolbox.
One last thing – if you spend time arguing about why fasting is bad and dangerous in random forums, but never skipped a meal in your entire life… your best bet is to (pardon the language) “shut the hell up”.
Science and studies are one thing, but real life eventually beats all the pointless debates. Does it work for you? Good for you! Does it screw up your results? Then don’t do it!
For fat loss:
One big advantage of fasting for fat loss is that you can reduce your calorie intake very easily – without thinking about it too much.
Instead of counting calories (I’m not a big fan), intuitive portion control or whatever your preferred method is… you simply don’t eat for a period of time. Then, you go back eating normally.
If that feels manageable for you, and if you get results from it… keep doing what you’re doing. As long as you’re doing some sort of resistance training and never fast for more than 36 hours at a time, muscle loss shouldn’t be an issue.
If you want to be on the safe side, consuming 10g of BCAAs pre-workout is a good idea, and many proponents of IF recommend them.
Again – if fasting for fat loss is synonym of uncontrollable hunger, miserable fatigue and an overall feeling that you’re losing your damn mind – then don’t do it!
If you find it helps you, incorporate one or two 24-hour fasts in your routine or even use daily short fasts like the Renegade Diet or even the Warrior Diet.
If you read that far…
You’re as much as a health & fitness freak as I am. You might want to check out my brand new program, Truth About Fat Burning Foods.
It’s the ultimate food choices guide I’ve been working on for the past year.
This honest attempt at providing short and sweet recommendations for each and every food out there contains more than 600 references and studies.
Nick “The Nutrition Nerd” Pineault
You can also join me on Facebook if you would like to learn more.
PS – Vince, thanks a ton for letting me speak the truth on your blog. Love your work man.
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