T Nation

IIFYMacros v Micros


OK so I have a question that is not in the least bit important or pressing, however I find it quite interesting. People always say that it is not good enough to just follow your macros because you miss out on vitamins and minerals and fiber.

Now I am not going to do this but I was wondering what would happen if someone consumed all their carbs from say white bread, candy and pop, got their fat from butter and protein from say a whey protein source. But they supplemented with around 30g fiber powder a day, took mutli vitamins, fish oil and b12.

How would this person benefit from eating meat and vegetables over junk and taking in their micro nutrient needs via supplementation?

I asked this on a "paleo" message board and they couldn't really provide a reason other than its not "natural". But eating a selectively bred banana or open heart surgery are not either, but that does not mean they are not good and does not mean they are not effective.

I was hoping someone could show me any scientific studies or provide data/ peer reviewed literature showing that the body utilizes vitamins from whole foods differently than it does from supplements.

Thanks guys.


It's actually reasonable to do this.

Cover these first:
1) Adequate protein from complete or mostly from complete sources.
2) EFA intake (eg, 6 grams of fish oil or 15 grams of flax oil or combo of whatever fats give you enough for a day)
3) Generous servings of veggies and fruits per day.
4) Fill in the rest of caloric need with what you want.

Now, consider step 4. What reasonable person is going to consume all of their fat intake from just butter and all their carbs from only white bread and candy unless they're the most indisciplined, uninformed person, or with a bizarre daily palate or in some odd circumstance in which they'd have to do it.

Ah, just what I love seeing these days: people taking IIFYM to the utmost extreme, UNREALISTIC situations.

Question Are YOU considering getting ALL of your protein from whey? All of your fat from butter? And all of your carb from Wonder Bread?

Who would be inclined to do this? If it's a concern, do you think anyone is even aiming to do this?


But if there is no difference in how your body absorbs and utilises the micros, how is it undisciplined?

If there is a difference do you have any proof to corroborate what you are implying?

Again I eat a lot of fruit, I love grilled chicken, but saying it is stupid to get all your protein from whey and your crabs and fat from junk and micro nutrient intake from supplements only, without any evidence to show it is less effective, it just seems like a blind faith argument akin to blind belief in a monolithic deity with no evidence to justify it..

Seeing as nutrition is supposed to follow a scientific model where you advocate something based on its proven effectiveness to reach a specific goal, why are fiber powders, omega 3, b12 and multivitamins any less beneficial than fruit and veg?


I didn't say it's less effective. I have no proof of that.

I'm asking who would be inclined to make themselves miserable with a whey, butter, and bread diet.


That was just an exaggerated example. Whey protein, ice cream and snickers bars would be another example. No I don't think people are considering doing this, but that was not what the thread was about was it.

I just wondered if there was any scientific backing for the "real food is best" arguement you see on most forums.


In concept at least, this has been done (not candy and white bread)... with genuine survivalists, arctic explorers, people like that who have an actual need to find a condensed, food source that can last and be used indefinitely.

In that case, if history is any guide, beef pemmican is the way to go, supplemented with ascorbic acid. There were a few documented cases where people lived healthily exclusively on this diet for several years.

(Pemmican is just true beef jerky -- made via slow dehydration of lean beef, not the stuff you buy at the store -- mixed with beef tallow, usually in equal weights and allowed to harden. Sometimes seasoned, sometimes not.)


As far as:

One of the bigger issues to consider is absorption and effectiveness of the micronutrients. In vegetables, many nutrients occur in synergistic combinations that make the whole more effective than the sum of the parts. This is one of the reasons why certain greens complexes have been shown to be more effective than the inorganic mineral forms in most multivitamins.

Another aspect to consider is rates of absorption, and the effects on insulin from consuming "junk". Generally, better foods provide your body with more sustained energy than junk food.


I think the superiority of 'whole foods' gets further strengthened with each additional warning on the dangers of excessive supplementation.

Which, so far, includes vitamin a, vitamin e, calcium, iron in males, etc


Hey man, can you share any links you have on this? I have heard people say it but have never seen any evidence for it. Same with the whole Omega 3 causes cancer bullshit.


I have never seen any paperwork supporting the position.
What I have seen is over 28 years of lifters trying anything and everything to progress (including any number of people trying the 'maximum suppliment' approach). If the goal is maintenance or bodycomp(without a LBM concern), the approach may have some validity. I have never seen a lifter make more than marginal progress at adding LBM without the majority of the calories coming from whole foods.


I think the OP posses a great question. Basically, can I rely on supplements and whey protein shakes and eat whatever the fuck I want IIFYM? Why get your macros from stuff you may not like as much, say brown rice, and instead eat snickers bar. Sure, sure, I know a lot of people will say 'but i love brown rice, blah, blah, blah. I also agree with his comeback to the quoted rant - shut the fuck up with option. This is a case were actual scientific studies would be interesting.


Quality IS important.

Case in point - Read this: chriskresser.com/vitamin-k2-the-missing-nutrient Now go ponder.

Also consider there is research showing that K2 correlates to increased testosterone.

Everything Brick said is absolutely true.

Eat a wide variety of whole foods at their peak of freshness.


Source LPI

Relationships between distributions of longevous population and trace elements in the agricultural ecosystem of Rugao County, Jiangsu, China. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18521708

Sure you could take a molybdenum supplement but how on earth are you going to figure out that you need to do that? Another reason truly organicly grown food is better. It all starts with the source whether that be the soil, or the quality of food your meat was grazing.

Also, as a personal note, in the past, I tried eating a lot of my protein from whey for convenience sake, and needless to say, I felt like shit.


Fruits and vegetables are composed of phytonutrients that scientists are still unable to replicate in supplement form. Thus, as Lorez stated, fruits and vegetables offer a substantial benefit to the human body that cannot be achieved by other means. Phytonutrients are completely different from vitamins and minerals.

The "whole foods are better" argument stems from the fact that the body responds much more effectively to vitamins and minerals found in their whole, unprocessed form. Simply meeting nutrient needs via supplementation would be very ineffective, because the body is not able to effectively utilize synthetically created vitamins and minerals, and the majority of those supplements would remain unabsorbed and be excreted. In fact, new research has shown that consuming synthetically produced anti-oxidants actually decreases life span and may in fact harm the body's innate immune system, leading to an increase in autoimmune diseases. The overwhelming consensus from the scientific community is to eat a diet including a large variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc, and to avoid artificial supplementation unless absolutely necessary (Vitamin D would be a good example of an exception to this rule).

The body is an infinitely complex organism striving to maintain homeostasis in several interdependent systems, a process which is still not well understood, thus making it very, very difficult to explain all these intricacies unless you have a formal understanding of human physiology - thus, there really is no simple answer to your question, but I think this should cover most of it!

Sorry for the long post: TL;DR eat a diet composed of a variety of whole foods and avoid artificial supplementation if possible!


This is allw ell and good, but ity is pure conjecture, you have provided no scientific data to prove this theory of real food being bettert than supplementing to hit micronutrients.

I am not attacking clean eating. I am not looking for arguements, I was merely hoping proponents of clean eating could provide me some peer reviewed studes, concrete data or anything that overwhelmingly states in clear fact that vitamin and fiber supplements are less effective than eating lots of fruit and or vegetables.

Anything without evidence is not an answer I am looking for.

I myself can find no evidence that clearly proves vitamins from food is superior, more absorbance or gives you any other noticeable benefits.

If you eat a high fat snack with your vitamins the absorption rate is optimal and not an issue.

Anyone who can prove micro nutrients from food are better than those from supplements, please post some evidence.

By the way guys, thanks for the answers, I appreciate the interest but I am only after scientific data, not personal anecdotes.


No links handy but yes, I'm referring to those mainstream articles (and all their sensationalized headlines) that summarized studies whose focuses were fairly limited. Still, one can perhaps draw 'bigger-picture' conclusions from the overall trends: whether a fat-soluble antioxidant (vitamin e) or a fundamental electrolyte (Ca++) it does seem like "too much of a good thing" is very much in play.

Somewhat relatedly, one can point to the lessons learned from trans-fats: just because we can chemically engineer something and its perfectly logical to do so, well, that doesn't mean our bodies will flourish from it.


Did you see the study I posted about Rye Bread vs Wheat Bread?


OP you already know the answer to this lol

two IIFYMers:
1. all calories from gelatin, vegetable shortening, and sugar packets (swallow the whole packet paper and all to get that 30g fiber)
2. eats some vegetables and quality food

one gets scurvy the other gets muscles


Yes but it was irrelevant, If I supplement with vitamins and mineral and fiber, I don't need them from my wheat or rye bread.


Great, now just post some proof your claims and we can be done. Thanks.


My posts were not irrelevant. What multi has k2 in it? I'm trying to point out that the result of your hypothetical ("what would happen if someone consumed all their carbs from say white bread, candy and pop, got their fat from butter and protein from say a whey protein ... supplemented with around 30g fiber powder a day, took mutli vitamins, fish oil and b12") is far removed from optimal, and would result in dysfunction if followed for any length of time.

First and most clearly B12 is in practically every multi-vitamin i've ever come across. Secondly fish oil is not the only essential fatty acid not found in butter. Further, most multis are garbage with synthetic vitamins, and further they lack phytonutrient synergisms in whole foods, which is also a downside of your hypotheical. Also, you said "fiber." I posted a study showing significant differences in post prandial blood sugar levels from bread with otherwise exactly the same macros and fiber content.

How are these things irrelevant? You're being stubborn. My point is that this is much more complex than you could possibly imagine. Should I amend my previous post to simply state "this is much more complex than you could possibly imagine" and leave the science out?