What are Clean Foods and Do They Matter? (IFFYM)

“Clean” Food is a term that has been around the bodybuilding and fitness community for years.

Many guys say clean foods are the best way to get ripped. Their claims range from, “If you eat clean you’ll get shredded” to “Eating junk food won’t help you build muscle.” What they fail to realize is that calories are more important than the specific foods you consume.

Of course your diet should contain some healthy food, but there is no need to go overboard like eating chicken breast and brown rice every 2 hours on the dot.

Picture Credit: Buy Steroids

What makes a food clean?

No, spraying windex on your food does not make it clean.

Jokes aside, there really is no definition of clean foods, so I’ll define them for you. Most clean foods are low in fat and high in protein, and if they are carbohydrates they are usually vegetables (high in fiber). The remaining carbs are usually foods like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, white and brown rice. These clean eaters stick to lean meats like chicken breast, turkey, lean beef, tuna and other fish. They generally get their fats from almonds, olive oil, peanut butter and fish oil supplements (or fish itself).

Does eating clean help with fat loss?

Eating clean can help for fat loss, but what these “Bro-scientists” fail to realize is that they are misattributing the weight loss for eating clean, instead of eating less calories. If you eat at a calorie deficit you will lose weight regardless of the foods that you eat.

That being said, clean foods can aid in weight loss simply because they are generally lower calorie foods and people tend to eat less of them. A single skinless 6oz chicken breast is roughly 140 calories with 27 grams of protein. If you are dieting on 2000 calories in a day you could literally eat 14 chicken breasts (1960 calories). Why you would eat 14, I don’t know, I couldn’t stomach that many chicken breasts. The reality is clean foods get boring really quick, but the fact is you can fit a lot more of these clean foods in your diet than junk food.

I hate clean foods can my diet just be junk food instead?

If you’re seriously asking this question you probably know the answer. Some people workout for their health. and not just for their looks. Eating junk food with no fiber, little protein and low satiation is not ideal.

Some studies out there have shown that having more fiber in your diet can help more with weight loss. Eating small amounts of protein on a diet is not ideal because eating enough protein is important in order to maintain your muscle while dieting.

Low satiation means that the food doesn’t make you feel full or satisfied. If you eat these foods you might end up more hungry than you were before you even ate them. I can guarantee that if you truly are eating clean you will not be daydreaming about your next meal. For these reasons you should keep junk food to a minimum, and if you’ve been dieting hard and need to have a cheat day then go for it.

The solution?

The solution is to eat some healthy foods and some not so healthy foods. If you want to go the “bro” route and eat all clean foods then do whatever makes you happy. If the diet is really working for you then stick with it. If you decide to eat a few cookies or some ice cream, no big deal. But when you can’t put down a bag of potato chips you will run into a problem, especially if you’re trying to lose fat.

There is a popular trend in the fitness community called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Macronutrients are your protein, carbs and fat. The idea is that you need to find out how many calories you need to eat, and then find a macronutrient ratio that works best for you.  Some people like a 40% Protein, 40% Carbs and 20% Fat ratio, but don’t get caught up in the numbers.  Many people think IIFYM means you can eat anything especially junk as long as it fits their macros. But in reality, the diet was created suggesting that people eat 80% of the calories from clean foods and the other 20% with Junk Food. IFFYM can work, just like most diets can as long as you track your calories.

Find out what works for you.

Find foods you like to eat.

Remember that if you really want to lose fat, you will need to forgo some of the foods you ate before. Focus on calories first, then macronutrients. Clean eating can help, but it isn’t the only solution.


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