Since I started studying nutrition last year I’ve fielded the same question from countless different members in the gym: “what’s the best diet?” As most of you know, I passed my Precision Nutrition level 1 certificate several months ago. Their founder Dr. John Berardi’s opinion, which he outlines in detail here, is one I agree with wholeheartedly.
Basically: There is no “best diet” and there’s nothing that will work for everyone.
I can already hear people that have found success with keto, paleo or something similar saying, “you’re wrong.” I respectfully disagree. The truth is, if you are not following any type of eating plan whatsoever, you’re going to lose weight and feel better if you start following one regardless of the type. It’s because you actually start to pay attention to what you’re eating. You’ll naturally cut out those afternoon snacks or sugary drinks or beers after work because they aren’t in your plan. However, how many of you have tried strict paleo and stuck with it for more than 6 or 8 weeks? How many people do you know that have? This is the reason I don’t suggest following any of these diets for my beginner clients. Trying to make such a huge, full-scale change almost always leads to immediate success followed by regression. So, how should you eat? First, let’s take a look at four
main things you should take into consideration.
Precision Nutrition has a great infographic about body types and fitness nutrition here. Basically, it boils down to this: If you are a person who is naturally larger (endomorph) you probably need to eat less carbs and more healthy fats. If you are a person with a more athletic body (mesomorph) you should eat a more balanced diet. If you are a slimmer person (ectomorph) you should probably eat more carbs and less fats.
Do you want to lose fat? Cut the carbs, add fat. Gain muscle? Up the carbs and calories and make sure you’re in the gym hammering weights several times per week. It’s important to have a clear plan of what your want with your body before you consider an eating plan
This one is easy. Do you want to eat strictly organic? Show me the money! The most money I ever spent on food was when I went strict paleo, the amount of meat and nuts I was eating got insanely expensive. Research the prices of the foods you want to start eating more of before you consider a change.
Food prepping is awesome! I love it. Many Sundays I’ll prepare roasted vegetables, grilled meats and healthy carbs for the week. However, here are three things I don’t have: kids, a significant other and a life. These can make preparing healthy meals in advance a real challenge. I do have a job, and I do work long hours, but being in the gym a lot isn’t exactly detrimental to my diet. Being in the office all day every day definitely can be. So, consider how much time you have before you decide you want to go on that new fad diet.
So how should I eat?
The truth is, finding the perfect diet for you could take months or even years of trial and error. A blood test can reveal if you are lacking certain vitamins and minerals in your diet, but even then finding the perfect eating plan to meet your goals takes time. A full scale diet change is best looked at as a long term process. With the individual clients I work with at the gym we start with small, sustainable changes. I’ll outline an example. A client comes to me and tells me that they want to lose weight. After a quick survey about their diet, I find out they eat almost no vegetables at all and they eat fast food and drink soda for lunch every day during the week. If I tell this person they have to eat vegetables at every meal and have to cut out all fast food and soda, how long do you think that will last? However, if that person resolves to eat 2-3 servings of vegetables twice a week and brings a healthy lunch from home twice a week instead of eating fast food, they will see massive changes. Furthermore, twice a week is easy. If they keep that up over three or four weeks, now it’s a habit. Once it’s a habit we can add another day of vegetables and healthy lunch from home. After three or four weeks of that another day…see what I’m getting at?
What changes can I make today?
Here’s three things I have everyone that works with me do.
- Cut down on added sugar: I didn’t say cut it out, I said cut it down. Do you put sugar in your coffee? Try to start putting it in every other coffee. Do you eat sweets every day? Try skipping them Monday and Wednesday.
- Eat more vegetables: I don’t mean you have to start living off salad, but try to add a few servings in per week. The benefits of vegetables are undeniable (vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.), but if you eat more vegetables you’ll probably naturally eat less garbage.
- Eat protein at every meal on days you work out: Your body can store fat and carbs, it can’t store protein. In order to make the most out of your workouts you need to make sure you have a steady stream of protein in order to build muscle.
If you want to get even more comprehensive try writing down everything you eat and drink for three or four days and then mark out foods or drinks you could either cut out or swap for a more healthy choice.
Additionally, if you want to chat about nutrition and fitness you guys know where to find me. After the open, I will start offering a more comprehensive fitness and nutrition program which will be tailored to the individual goals of each person who signs up.