Meat and potatoes or why IIFYM does not work for me

Almost no food has the same down-to-earth ring as meat and potatoes, as not even steak and eggs became synonymous with the basics and fundamentals of things. Given that it has been a staple food in Germany and Central Europe for at least a hundred years and many dishes in our local cuisine are built around meat and potatoes, there is also a bit of weird locally patriotic sense of being connected to ones ancestry. So in short, sometimes I am guilty of eating meat and potatoes not because of its taste or nutrient profile, but just because it gives me the ice cold fuzzy feeling of being an efficient and proper German, surpassed only in having forms stamped with numbered seal stamps.

behold meat and potatoes

I only wrote this article to have a use for this picture.

Having addressed a possible source for a placebo effect, I noticed that whenever I regularly incorporate meat and potatoes in my diet, everything just seems to be better, in particularly my progress in the gym. And when I say incorporating meat and potatoes, I really only mean regularly adding potatoes to my meals, as chicken is often the closest thing to a vegetarian meal I get during the course of a week.

It is not about the carbs

At first glance one might think that it is about more carbohydrates in my diet. But my basic meal plan has already about 100g from milk and at least 50g coming from different sources like nuts, dairy products and chocolate. Most of the time even more, as I really enjoy nut butters with chocolate and milk in the evening. So even if I only eat my pounds of meat and drink my milk and have some midnight snack, I do not eat low carb.

fish and potatoes

I heard some people regard fish as vegetarian, so, behold, a vegetarian meal.

But maybe more carbs are even better? Well, if that would be the case, other sources for carboyhdrates would be equally good, right? Well, as everyone is gluten intolerant these days, I do not even need to elaborate how pasta is the intestinal incarnation of the devil. Bread and cake are hit and miss, as it seems to depend on the flour and on the baking agents used, how well I can stomach it. At least I can eat homemade cake in large quantities without getting into trouble and it really helps my lifting efforts, but it is almost impossible not to make any progress if you have a caloric surplus each day which surpasses the average caloric intake of the fatass next door. So the remaining contestants are pure sugar and sweet products like corn flakes, fruits like bananas and the holy grail of bodybuilding nutrition, rice, preferably with broccoli and chicken. Oh, and maybe oats. However, oats also seem to be related to the gastrointestinal Beelzebub. I simply can not justify eating corn flakes and other stuff for fat children every day, so this leaves me with bananas and rice. But I do not like eating that much fruit, so all that remains is rice.

As already mentioned, there is this weird connotation of rice being somewhat a clean carb source and what not. Also it is cheap as fuck, easier to cook than anything else (especially if one has a rice cooker) and can be combined with almost anything. So I have to admit, on my German efficiency-equals-sexy-scale, rice beats the living shit out of potatoes. But here is the catch: No matter which kind of rice I eat, it does not yield the same improvements like eating potatoes. In fact, rice makes me almost as tired and bloated as pasta and several kinds of bread. So much for clean food.

Gut biotope and IIFYM

So, as I am equally enthusiastic about eating nothing but meat and milk, eating potatoes, eating rice and eating cake, I think I can rule out the placebo effect of eating certain kinds of food (I mean Arnold pounded away cake after training, it should yield gains!). Also I can reproduce the effects not only in isocaloric diets, but also keeping macros roughly the same. So why is IIFYM - if it fits your macros - failing me? Is science flawed? Is it not only calories in, calories out? Of course not.

However, most of the time people did not take one thing into consideration: Our digestion. At least this is changing now and people with significant audiences or some grey matter start to think and write about it. See, our digestion relies on a massive amount of bacteria living inside us, practically making the food rot inside us and we simply absorb some of the nutrients through our intestinal wall. Quite disgusting. But as it turns out, the composition of these bacteria is also very important - so important that some conditions are being treated by transplanting stool from one human to another.

And here is exactly why IIFYM does not work for everyone and is almost always not the most effective choice. Each food also nurses some of the bacteria inside your gut. Fibre and vegetables seem to have an undisputed positive effect on your microbial ecosystem. Simple starches and sugars seem to feed the wrong type of bacteria, sometimes leading to problems, sometimes not, as the makeup of your bacteria is quite unique. So on the one hand we have negative effects by feeding the wrong foods. On the other hand, feeding the right bacteria also improves the efficiency and effectiveness of your digestion, possibly leading to improvements beyond what is expected from the pure macro nutrient composition.

Going bananas

As a conclusion I am going to try to move a part of my caloric intake to fruit. Until recently I always saw it as somehow superfluous candy for people who do not want to admit that they are eating essentially sugar, however maybe there is something to fiber. At least it should add variety to my diet and that is allegedly a good thing.