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Nicole Rakowski

Nicole Rakowski

Nicole Rakowski, an accomplished entrepreneur and fitness expert, has risen to prominence at the young age of 31. As the co-founder, Chief Fitness Officer, and Strategic Industry Expert of Fitsentive, she has been recognized for her exceptional contributions in the fitness industry, earning a coveted spot on NYC Journal's Top 40 Under 40 list in 2024.

Rakowski's innovative approach to wellness has revolutionized how individuals engage with fitness through Fitsentive, a cutting-edge fitness app. Beyond her entrepreneurial success, she is a competitive athlete, and published cover model. As an internationally renowned keynote speaker and TED Talk presenter, she is a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.

Despite facing adversity in 2017, Rakowski's resilience propelled her to success. Pursuing a PhD in Health Management at McMaster University, she continues to push boundaries in her field. Committed to promoting health and wellness, she actively shapes government policies and advocates for mental health awareness.

Follow Nicole on Instagram @rakowskinicole

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Does IIFYM Really Work for Contest Prep

In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, the concept of "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM) has gained significant popularity in recent years. This approach to nutrition revolves around the idea that as long as you hit your daily macronutrient targets, you can eat whatever foods you want and still achieve your desired physique. But the question remains: does IIFYM actually work, especially when it comes to contest prep?

To answer this question, we must first understand the basics of IIFYM. The fundamental principle of IIFYM is that the key to achieving and sustaining a lean, muscular body is to focus on hitting specific macro targets – typically protein, carbohydrates, and fats – without being overly concerned with the types of foods consumed. In other words, as long as you meet your daily macronutrient goals, you can include a wide variety of foods in your diet, including those that are traditionally considered "unhealthy" or "off-limits."

Proponents of IIFYM argue that this flexible approach to nutrition makes it easier to adhere to a diet in the long term, as it allows for greater variety and enjoyment in food choices. This can be particularly beneficial during contest prep, when many athletes struggle with strict meal plans and food restrictions. By allowing for more flexibility in food choices, IIFYM may help to reduce feelings of deprivation and increase dietary adherence, ultimately leading to better results on stage. Additional psychological benefits of IIFYM include the reduced feelings of food restriction and guilt. Knowing that you can enjoy your favorite treats within your macros can lead to a healthier relationship with food.

However, critics of IIFYM raise concerns about the potential downsides of this approach, particularly when it comes to contest prep. One of the main criticisms is that focusing solely on hitting macro targets may result in a lack of attention to other important factors, such as micronutrient intake (Brickhouse Nutrition, 2023), food quality, and overall dietary balance. By solely focusing on hitting macro targets (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), individuals may inadvertently neglect other essential nutrients. A diet lacking in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber could result in nutrient deficiencies and compromised health. In addition to the potential risk of nutrient deficiencies, overconsuming calorie-dense, nutrient poor foods is also an area of concern. The flexibility of IIFYM allows for indulgence in calorie-dense foods, including those with low nutritional value. Some critics contend that this flexibility might lead to overconsumption of less healthy options, hindering progress toward achieving a lean, competition-ready physique. Lastly, there may be a lack of transparency when it comes to the macro calculator (Castaneda, 2022). IIFYM provides a macro calculator to determine daily macronutrient needs. However, it doesn’t disclose how the calculator reaches its conclusions or whether it represents the most current scientific knowledge about individuals.

So, does IIFYM actually work for contest prep? The answer may lie in the individual context and goals of the athlete. While IIFYM can be a useful tool for some individuals, particularly those who struggle with adherence to strict meal plans, it is important to consider the potential trade-offs and limitations of this approach. In the context of contest prep, where precision and attention to detail are crucial, it may be beneficial to prioritize food quality, micronutrient density, and overall dietary balance to ensure optimal performance and results on stage.

Scientific literature provides some insights into the efficacy of IIFYM for contest prep. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes following an IIFYM approach during contest prep experienced similar improvements in body composition and performance compared to those following a traditional meal plan (Helms et al. 2014). However, the study also highlighted the importance of individualizing nutrition strategies based on the unique needs and goals of each athlete, suggesting that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate for everyone. A more recent study published by Conlin et al. (2021) found that a flexible diet strategy is equally effective as a rigid eating approach for weight loss among individuals engaged in resistance training. They state that IIFYM allows individuals to focus on meeting specific macronutrient targets (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) while still having flexibility in food choices. The study suggests that individualizing nutrition strategies based on unique needs and goals is crucial, rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach.

A common question I’ve been asked is “How can athletes address micronutrient deficiencies while following IIFYM?” I always say that while IIFYM offers flexibility and individualization, it’s essential to address micronutrient deficiencies to maintain overall health. These are some strategies for athletes to ensure they meet their micronutrient needs:

  1. Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Foods: While IIFYM allows flexibility in food choices, focus on whole, nutrient-dense options. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals.
  2. Track Micronutrients: Alongside tracking macros (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), pay attention to micronutrients. Use a nutrition app or consult a registered dietitian to monitor your intake of vitamins (like vitamin C, vitamin D, and B vitamins) and minerals (such as iron, calcium, and magnesium).
  3. Supplement Wisely: If you struggle to meet micronutrient needs through food alone, consider targeted supplements. Common deficiencies among athletes, including bodybuilders, include vitamin D, iron, and magnesium. I always tell my clients to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.
  4. Variety Matters: Aim for dietary variety. Different foods provide different micronutrients. For example: Iron: Include lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and fortified cereals. Calcium: Dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified plant-based milk. Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
  5. Hydration: Proper hydration supports nutrient absorption. Water helps transport vitamins and minerals throughout the body. Stay hydrated to optimize micronutrient utilization.
  6. Be Mindful of Alcohol and Caffeine: Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with micronutrient absorption. Limit alcohol consumption, and balance caffeine intake with adequate water.
  7. Consider Blood Tests: Regular blood tests can identify deficiencies early. If you suspect a specific deficiency, it would be wise to consult with a healthcare provider for targeted testing.

In conclusion, while IIFYM can be a viable approach to nutrition for some individuals, particularly during contest prep, it is essential to consider the potential drawbacks and limitations of this approach. By prioritizing food quality, micronutrient intake, and overall dietary balance, athletes can optimize their performance and results on stage, ultimately achieving their desired physique. As with any nutrition strategy, individualization and attention to detail are key to success in contest prep.


BrickHouse Nutrition. (2023, May 7). If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): A Flexible Approach to Dieting. Retrieved from: https://brickhousenutrition.com/blogs/articles/if-it-fits-your-macros-iifym-a-flexible-approach-to-dieting

Castaneda, R. (2022, June 23). What You Need to Know About the IIFYM Diet. U.S. News. Retrieved from: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/iifym-diet

Conlin, L. A., Aguilar, D. T., Rogers, G. E., & Campbell, B. I. (2021). Flexible vs. rigid dieting in resistance-trained individuals seeking to optimize their physiques: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1), 52.

Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 20.


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