Paleo vs Low Carb vs IIFYM
The debate of which is better?
Paleo vs Low Carb vs “If It Fits Your Macros”
Some kind of ancient rock diet? Carbohydrate deprivation? Bacon-stacked quarter-pounder heaven? What is the deal with these three popular diet trends?!
Ok, hold on, let’s get some things straight. Paleo diets do not actually contain rocks; you will not be completely depriving your body of carbohydrates on a low-carb diet; and just because “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM) diets allow so much freedom does not mean you should eat like a human trashcan!
So then, what exactly are these three diets, and how can I figure out which is best for me?
Well, let’s take a closer look at the each diet.
But before we jump into the breakdown of each diet, if you haven’t already read my post about The 90-10 Rule of Dieting, click the linked text. If you have, please proceed.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet, one of the most popular diets within the Crossfit community, is slowly s=but surely making its way into the lives of the average gym rats. Sometimes referred to as the pavement diet, primal eating, or primal dieting, the Paleo way has some notable benefits but also so disadvantages.
Basic Guidelines of Paleo:
The Paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and mono- and poly- unsaturated fats.1
The Paleo diet excludes grains, legumes, dairy, salt, many processed foods, and starches.1
Benefits of Paleo:
Potential to aid in weight loss.
Excludes gluten and dairy, which have been regularly associated with food allergies and gut sensitivities in a growing number of the population.
Excludes excess salt and many processed foods, which are associated with risk factors of cardiovascular disease and obesity.2
Disadvantages and precautions:
Strict to follow – might be too strict for some people.1
Very little significant research exists supporting the diet.1
Known food allergies can further limit nutrient intake, making diet detrimental to health.
The Low Carb Diet
The dreaded Low Carb diet, or the most beloved low carb diet (for giving drastic, short-term success rates), is one that has been around for years. The Low Carb diet has gone by many names over the years (none of which I will mention, since there are so many), but the one common theme seems to be that if you deprive yourself completely of carbohydrates, you will lose weight! Well yes, that can and most likely will happen, but the weight loss is usually in unison with agony of deprivation and sometimes just sucks!
Basic Guidelines of Low Carb:
Varies depending on personal guidelines.
Usually includes meats, fish, poultry, eggs, non-starchy vegetables.3
Exclusion or very low intake of grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, pastas, breads, legumes, seeds, and nuts.3
Benefits of Low Carb:
Considerably significant research exists supporting the diet.2,3,4
Potential to aid in weight loss.2,3,4
Can reduce cholesterol if regularly consuming fiber-rich legumes.4
Can decrease risk factors of cardiovascular disease.3
Disadvantages and precautions:
Beware of ketoacidosis* – a potentially life-threatening condition that can be brought on by lower carbohydrate intake.
*Ketoacidosis: lower carbohydrate intake leads to increased ketone production in the body. Ketones are the acidic byproduct of burning alternative energy sources for fuel, such as fatty acids and amino acids. High levels of ketones in your blood can disturb your natural acid-base balance and lead to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis can lead to life-threatening seizures and kidney failure.
The If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) Diet:
The If It Fits Your Macros Diet (or IIFYM for short) may be one of the fastest and most popular trends to hit social media. Practically every person is now a self-proclaimed “flexible dieting” specialist because they had success with eating whatever foods they wanted, but while practicing restraint in the quantity and portion size. I mean, that does sound pretty appealing…You get to eat whatever you want. Anything. Donuts? Sure. Pizza? Yup. Ok…I’m sold. But wait, what about those little important things called micronutrients?
Basic Guidelines of IIFYM:
Varies depending on personal preferences and guidelines.
You have no limit on your food selection, you can eat anything you want (as long as it fits your macros)
Benefits of IIFYM:
Flexible diet – no inclusion or exclusion criteria, as long as it FYM (fits your macros).
Disadvantages and precautions:
Might be too much freedom for some people.
Too much variability to conclude whether this diet aids in weight loss or leads to weight gain.
Potential to under-consume critical micronutrients.
Potential to consume more low quality proteins, saturated fats, and processed sugars, which can lead to fat storage.
In summary, it is up to you! You should consider your own ability to abide by guidelines, any known food allergies you might have, and personal food preferences! Remember, you want to adopt a diet you can truly get behind and continue for more than just a couple weeks!
Remember these few key points:
-Calories in vs calories out is the main key to weight loss or gain
-Micronutrients are just as important as macronutrients
-Tracking your foods and what you’re consuming can lead to better overall success (consider using an app such as MyFitnessPal)
-Eat whole, as close to nature, unprocessed foods 80-90% of the time with 10-20% exceptions of whatever you want (start small and work your way up to 90%!)
-Supplements are helpful if you’re in a pinch or on a strict budget (just pay attention to the ingredients!)
The other option? Say “no” to diets (that sounds like a good name for a blog post…) and follow The 90-10 Rule of Dieting for a better, healthier you. Thanks for reading. Until next time, go make today great!
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1. Masullo L, Papas MA, Cotugna N, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use and nutrient intake among individuals with multiple sclerosis in the united states. Community Health. 2015; 40:153-160.
2. Foreyt JP, Salvado JS, Caballero B, et al. Weight-reducing diets: are there any differences? Nutrition Reviews. 2009; 67(1):99-101.
3. Bazzano LA, Hu T, Reynolds K, et al. Effects of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets: a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014; 161(5):309-318.
4. S Tonstad, N Malik, E Haddad. A high-fibre bean-rich diet versus a low-carbohydrate diet
for obesity. Human Nutrition And Dietetics. 2014; 27(2):109-116.