Eating Clean vs Counting Macros


Eating Clean vs Counting Macros

Hey guys! So I'm always researching and trying to learn the most I possibly can about fitness and nutrition. I've come across a topic that is super interesting to me. The debate is:  "should you focus on eating clean foods off your approved foods list or just focus on making sure your nutrients hit your macro-nutrients limits for the day?"

What's the difference between eating clean and IIFYM?

Clean Eating - There is no unique definition for clean eating. In my opinion, clean eating can be described as eating non processed, whole foods and trying to stick to foods that are organic.  My clean eating slogan has always been "If it came from the ground or has a mom, eat it!"  That basically means, if it's plant based and natural, or if it's a healthy lean meat then it's acceptable in the clean eating diet.

Those who eat clean usually pick from their approved foods list which in VERY general terms usually refers to items like  sweet potatoes, brown rice, lean meats, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, etc...

People who eat clean tend to stick to their list of clean foods and don't allow anything from off the list (except on a cheat meal or two a week)

Counting Macros - The percentage of 40/40/20 is a very common macro guideline for dieters.  This means you will distribute 40% of your calories to protein, 40% to carbohydrates and 20% to fat.  You can either divide each meal into this portion or you can have different portions throughout the day that will equal 40/40/20 by the end of the day (the free MyFitnessPal app works great for tracking this!).  Some may change their macro percentages based on their goals, but this is just a guideline and a good example for this debate.

Why Counting Your Macros May Be A Better Option

Now....the debate comes into play when you ask yourself....

"If I'm counting my macros, is it okay to have some low fat ice cream or a slice of pizza if it fits in your macros for the day?"

Some people say yes, that's okay.  This will allow you to never feel deprived and will still give your body the correct proportions of nutrients it needs.   I'm not saying that having a slice of pizza every day is okay, but in moderation, maybe it's okay.

The biggest problem that people have with basing their diet on macros is that they will usually not get in enough fiber which is important for your body to stay satisfied for longer periods of time.   When you have that scoop of fat free ice cream, you're more than likely not going to get in enough fiber as you would with a full balanced meal.

But in the end of the day, if your calories are spot on, your macros meet their goals and you managed to fit in a scoop of low fat ice cream or a piece of pizza, do you think that's wrong?


I think I may experiment more with this topic to get my own personal experience before I decide which way is better for my body.   I have personally found that sticking with a small list of clean foods will leave me craving more unhealthy foods in the long run.    Maybe if I started focusing more on the "if it fits my macros" method, maybe I would be less inclined to have that extra cheat meal on the weekends?  I'd love to do some research and use myself as a test subject to see how my body reacts to this "fitting it into my macros theory".

What do you think?  Do you think you can maintain a fit body as long as you're still eating about 5 meals a day but focusing more on your macros, instead of just making sure you're eating "clean"?

I'm sure both options work, but the macros method seems to be a bit more relaxed and maybe more of a lifestyle than a strict "clean eating" diet.


There's  a great video about this subject by BioLayne HERE.

I'd love to hear what you think!!! Leave a comment below!


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  1. Trisha Smith says

    I personally fit my cheat meal (once per week) into my macros. I think in order to maintain my clean eating I need to be able to induldge once in awhile. I know that pizza and ice cream are not the best choices (although ice cream and pizza can be clean) I like to have the “bad” kinds sometimes. I am ok with either choice and I feel like people need to do what satisfies them based on their goals.

  2. Megan says

    I like how clean eating makes me FEEL but it is so hard to maintain and be 100% consistent at! Too much temptation around. Right now I am doing IIFYM, for the most part, still trying to eat clean most of the time, but I won’t beat myself up if I have a low-cal wrap that isn’t “clean” or if I’m on the go and need to grab something quick, I’ll search for best options. Stressing over needing to eat clean can definitely lead to huge binges! It’s difficult to find on-the-go “clean” foods unless you want to eat apples and almonds all the time (Okay, I’m sure there’s more options, but still…) I think eating to macros and not necessarily “clean” can definitely maintain a fit body…I’m sure there are tons of fitness people out there who have amazing bodies by eating non-clean foods. Good topic!

    • says

      Perfectly said! Clean eating and having such restrictions on a diet can definitely lead to binge eating and unfortunately eating disorders. When you feel guilty for eating a subway sandwich or something and feel like you’ve failed, that’s not healthy!!

      • Megan says

        Yes, I agree!!! I remember when I was first researching clean eating, I ran across a forum where someone said they ate Subway and there was a response saying how “bad that stuff is” and the girl felt so bad about her food choice when it really wasn’t that bad! I just think if it fits your calories and it’s not loaded with grease and trans fats, then eat it! Millions of people have lost weight using programs like weight watchers and such, and have gotten into better shape, so it really comes down to the amounts you eat, not necessarily WHAT you eat…and of course, exercise!

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