Choosing the "Correct Diet"

Choosing the "Correct Diet"

Summertime.  This is the time of year where everyone and their dog seem to go on to a diet.  This is the time of year where they’ll swear they’re be slim and have that six pack for when they hit the beach during the summer.  

             There’s just one problem.  You don’t know which diet to follow.  Should you do a low carb diet?  A few friends been talking about doing a Keto diet?  What about paleo?  Is there a chocolate only diet?

             With so many diets out there, which diet would I recommend?  Good question. 

             This is a question I get asked a lot, especially at a holiday party, usually when someone is eating a donut or double fisting their drink.  Strange, I know…

             Before we go any future down the diet rabbit hole, let’s take a step back and ask yourself “what exactly is a diet?”  

             “Diet” has such a negative stigma attached, as if the only thing you can eat are salads, avoid pizzas or burgers, and cannot have a beer.  

             A diet should help you build muscle and lose body fat. A diet should improve your health and provide boundless energy without overly consuming your life. 

             There are a lot of named diets (Atkins, South Beach, Whole 30, etc.), yet ultimately each diet will fall into one of six major diets archetypes.  I’ll go over each archetype in detail, illustrating how the diet operates, the strengths and weaknesses for each diet and how you can achieve your physique goal.

             My goal is to provide you with the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision, so you can retake control of your health and transform your body to meet your physique goals.

Low-Energy and Very Low Energy Diets:

  Examples of Low-Energy Diets:  Most “crash diets.” Should only be prescribed by a clinical nutritionist and/or under close medical supervision.  

         How this diet works:

  • Often divided into two categories – Low Energy Diet (LED) and Very Low Energy Diets (VLED).
  • LED restricts total caloric intake to 800-1200 calories/day and VLED restricts total caloric intake to 400-800 calories/day. The LED macronutrient breakdown is approximately 70-100g/day, 15g/day, and 30-80g/day of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, respectively. 
  • Goal is to induce rapid weight loss (1.0-2.5kg/week) while preserving as much lean body mass (LBM) as possible.  

        Strengths: 

  • Rapid, short term weight loss; Dieters should loss between 1.0-2.5Kg, or 2-5 pounds of bodyweight per week.

        Weaknesses:  

  • Everything, due to a significant lack of proper nutrients and calories.
  • To put into perspective, one pound of Jenni-0 Lean Ground turkey (93% lean meat) is 680 calories.  So, if you were on the LED, you could have 1.5 pounds of ground turkey before surpassing your daily caloric intake, or 1.25 pound of ground turkey if on the VLED. That’s not a lot of food.
  • Overall hangry-ness throughout the “diet”; you will be crackly, irradiated, and unpleasant towards everyone
  • Requires a significant amount of self-discipline and motivation.  
  • Other adverse effects include -  cold intolerance, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, constipation and hair loss.
  • Unsustainable diet; this is a short term diet and there’s a strong possible you’ll regain the weight sooner than later.

        How to succeed on this diet:  

          To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach.  In addition, listen and obey to everything your clinical nutritionist and/or medical professional tells you. 

Low-Fat Diets:

        Examples of Low-Fat Diets:   USDA’s Food Pyramid, Food Guide Pyramid

        How this diet works:

  • As set by the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR), low-fat diets are generally defined as providing 20-35% fat, 10-35% protein, and 45-65% carbohydrates within the diet. 
  • It may be more accurate to describe this diet as a high carbohydrate (carb) diet, due to carbs being the dominant macronutrient source.

        Strengths:  

  • Has the support of the major health organizations, due to the large evidence basis in literature since the 1950’s.
  • Low-fat diets provide a more flexible macronutrient ranges.  This large flexibility is extremely beneficial for those learning to track their nutrition and/or hitting their macronutrient splits

        Weaknesses:  

  • No inherent flaws, yet dieters may falsely believe that dietary fats are “evil” or “bad” for them.
  • Dietary fats are not just a source of energy; they function as structural building blocks of the body, carry fat-soluble vitamins, involved in vital physiological processes in the body and are indispensable for a number of important biological functions including growth and development. So, no dietary fats are not “evil”. 

        How to succeed on this diet:  

   To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach. If this approach is sustainable for you, aim to lose between 1-2 pounds per week.

Low Carbohydrate Diets:

Examples of Low-Carb Diets:  Atkins, Paleo, Dukan, South Beach, Stillmans, Ketogenic

        How this diet works:

  • Low carb diets lack an official well-defined objective definition for there is no universally agreement to what qualifies as a low-carb diet.
  • AMDC suggests 45-65% of total energy to be deprived from a carbohydrate source, so any diets with a carb intake below 45% is considered “Low-carb”.  Some diets limit carb intake to 200g or 400 calories.

        Strengths:  

  • By setting carb intake so low, this keeps insulin levels low, which forces the body to burn stored fats instead.
  • Forces the body to utilize proteins and dietary fats more
  • Large amount of macronutrient flexibility, which grants greater food choice flexibility
  • Assists in reducing risk factors associated with Type Two Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome.

        Weaknesses:  

  • Dieters may falsely believe that carbs are “evil” or “bad” for them.
  • Similar to dietary fats, carbs are an essential macronutrient.  In fact, carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy.
  • Due to low carb intake, dieters may experience “carb flu”

        How to succeed on this diet:  

   To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach. If this approach is sustainable for you, aim to lose between 1-2 pounds per week.

Ketogenic Diets

        Examples of Ketogenic diets: Standard Ketogenic diet (SKD) – 20-50g net carb/day.  Targeted Ketogenic diet (TKD) – 25-50g of daily net carbs consumed 30-60 minutes prior to exercise.  Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – alternate set days with a ketogenic diet and carb-loading days (450-600g); also known as “carb-loading.”cycling.”

        How this diet works:

  • Very similar to low carb diets, yet due to recent popularity I feel it warrants its own category. 
  • Ketogenic diets are objectively defined by its ability to elevate circulating ketone bodies – a process known as ketosis.  
  • Ketogenic diets are similar to low-carbohydrate diets by restricting carbohydrate intake to either 50g or <10% of total energy while maintaining a moderate amount of protein (1.2-1.5 g/kg/d), with the remaining energy intake stemming from dietary fats (~60-80%) depending on protein and carbohydrate intake levels.  

        Strengths:  

  • Manipulates the body’s insulin levels and forces it to utilize fats as the primary source of energy to burn
  • In addition, by combining a higher protein content with a low-carbohydrate diet seems to be the crucial factor in promoting greater weight loss during controlled hypocaloric conditions.  

        Weaknesses:  

  • Similar weaknesses as the low carb diets, which excludes/minimizes high carb foods which can be potentially nutrient dense and disease preventative.
  • Dieters may falsely believe that carbs are “bad” for them. The dietary extremes can potentially make sustainability difficult for long term results.

        How to succeed on this diet: 

         To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach. If this approach is sustainable for you, aim to lose between 1-2 pounds per week. 

High-Protein Diets:

         Examples of high-protein diets: Atkins, South Beach, Dukan, Paleo, Stillman’s, Ketogenic, Protein Powder Diet

        How this diet works: 

  •   This is another diet lacking an objective clear definition; generally defined protein intake exceeding 25% of total energy, or 1.2-1.6g/kg with the remaining percentages deviating wildly between dietary fats and carbs.

         Strengths:

  • There’s substantial evidence that high protein diets are excellent for improving body composition.
  • Of all the macronutrients, protein has repeatedly shown to have the highest thermic effect, most satiating macronutrient and most metabolically expense macronutrient.  
  • In fact, protein consumed at 1.6g/kg has been shown to be better at preserving lean body mass and reducing body fat.
  • If you are going to overeat one macronutrient, it’s better to overeat protein than carbs or fats.

         Weaknesses:

  • While it may be better to overeat protein rather than carbs and dietary fats, there’s limited research showing that exceeding 1.6g/kg will significantly improve body composition
  • High protein diets may also cause spontaneous reductions in overall energy level, which negatively impact your progress (not to mentioned constipation if dietary fiber intake is insufficient).  
  • Over reliance on protein consumption may lead to sub-optimal carbohydrates and fat intakes which can inhibit performance, especially for the athletic population.  

How to succeed on this diet: 

   To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach. If this approach is sustainable for you, aim to lose between 1-2 pounds per week.

Intermittent Fasting

        Examples of Intermittent Fasting (IF): Time-Restricted feeding (16 hour fasting period followed by eight hour feeding period), Alternate-day fasting (24 hours fasting followed by 24 hours feeding period), or Whole Day Fasting (one to two 24 hour fasting period with a five day maintenance caloric take)

         Strengths:

  • Relatively strong evidence for all three IF methods for either for performing equally or sometimes out performing daily caloric restrictions for improving body composition. 
  • TRF combined with resistance training has shown evidence for reducing body fat while maintaining strength and lean body mass.

         Weaknesses:

  • During intermittent fasting, you’ll go through long bouts of being hungry, and/or hangry.  
  • Intermittent fasting requires significant and careful planning for the athletic population to ensure optimal performance.   

         How to succeed on this diet:  

   To achieve your physique goals on this diet you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit, be patient, and consistent with your nutritional approach. If this approach is sustainable for you, aim to lose between 1-2 pounds per week. 

 

   So, there are all the major diet archetypes.  Did you notice any themes?  For my observant readers, you probably noticed a common theme.  

  Did you miss it?  Then go reread the article.  

             Done?  Good. As you have noticed, each diet operates by having individuals in a caloric deficit while restricting a macronutrient consumption (whether it’s dietary fats, carbs, or protein) over time.   

             To achieve your physique goals, you’ll need to focus on being consistent, patience, and staying the course with your nutritional approach. The best diet is the one you enjoy and able to stick to long-term while making consistent, measurable progress.  

           However, its damn near impossible to make progress when you are making poor nutritional choices.  You’ll need to have a sustainable diet full of quality foods, otherwise you’ll constantly feel hungry, deprived and miserable while dieting.  There is a saying” you cannot out-train a bad diet” and it’s 100% true.

             Regardless of which diet you choose above (please avoid #1; you’ll thank me later), follow these four simple action steps:

1) Calorie intake will always reign supreme:

 Your caloric intake must match your physique goals.  If you want to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit. If you want to build muscle, you’ll need to eat more to be a caloric surplus.  If you are unsure if you are meeting your goals, tract your calories for awareness and to create a menu to match your goal.  

2) Eat real food: 

By real foods, I mean minimally proceed foods.  One of the easiest ways to get minimally processed foods is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  Focus on getting a variety of vegetables and fruits (eat the rainbow), and lean proteins (i.e. chicken, lean cuts of ground beef and turkey).  

3) Consistency:  

The more absolutist (read: strict) you become with your diet, the more likely it will backfire on you.  Do you need to nail your diet 100% every single day? NO! We are human being, not machines.  We make mistakes. Don’t swell on your mistake or make it worst. Avoid the “all or nothing” mindset!  Instead, stay on course, and focus on nailing your diet 90% of the time and treating yourself the other 10%.  

4) Patience:  

Whether you are trying to lose body fat or gain muscle, you’ll need to be patient.  This is the hardest part.  I cannot tell you how many clients have told me that they are frustrated by their lack of progress, and only been dieting for only 1-2 weeks.  A healthy weight loss should be should between 1-2 pounds per week.   This requires a substantial mindset shift, and this is where many individuals struggle with.

           At the end of the day, you must hold yourself accountable to meet your goals.  You must know why you want to do this.  Don’t just focus on the superficial level, dig deep.  You must really know why you want to do this: the emotional reason behind your decision. This is what separates those who achieve their goals and those who don’t.  Otherwise you’ll continue the cycle of yo-yo dieting and begin right back where you started.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your problems, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
— Theodore Roosevelt
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