• The 4 Most Effective Diets

    It’s been a month since 2017 began, and I’m sure many of you decided to start a new diet as part of your New Year’s fitness resolution.

    The problem I see with a lot of fad diets that come up during the first few weeks of January is that they’re designed to be implemented for short periods of time and produce absurdly fast results. And while that may seem enticing, it’s not at all realistic or enjoyable for 99% of the population, and that makes these incredibly unsustainable long-term.

    A diet needs to be implemented into your lifestyle for a longer period of time in order for it to work. The truth is that it takes time, effort, and consistency to not only lose fat, but also keep it off long-term.

    The New Year’s fad diets are touted by certain fitness “gurus” as being the best diet, or the only diet that works. In reality, the only diet that works is the diet that you can stick to: the diet that fits you, and your lifestyle. That’s what makes a diet effective.

    Whether you’ve already fallen off the wagon due to the diet being unsustainable, or if you’ve yet to start because you don’t know where to start, I’m going to go into detail on four different diets that I consider to be the most effective. These diets are effective because they’re very sustainable and will take you far if you can stick to them. I’ll explain how to implement them, weigh the pros and cons of each, and give my recommendations on what may be best for you based on your preferences and your lifestyle.

    But let’s pause for a moment because I want to make something very clear:

    ANY diet can work provided that 1) you can stay consistent with it, and 2) you pay attention to your energy balance.

    1. This is probably the most important aspect of nutrition. Staying consistent requires that the diet realistically fits your lifestyle, and is enjoyable to you. Keep that in mind when deciding on any diet.
    2. Energy balance = calories in vs. calories out. Following a diet doesn’t mean you’ll magically get in shape. You need to be burning more calories than you are taking in on a consistent basis in order to lose weight. Put very simply: move more, eat less, and over time you will lose weight.

    With those two points in mind, here are the four most effective diets:

    1) Ketogenic

    A keto diet is a diet where you virtually eliminate carbohydrates (except for some fibrous veggies) and get almost all of your calories from fats and proteins. This puts your body into ketosis, which forces the body to use fat as it’s main energy source, theoretically putting you into a more optimal fat-burning state.

    What to do: Ditch the carbs, eat lots of fat, and a fair amount of protein. This means eating a lot of meats, cheeses, oils, and creams. You can have vegetables (like high fat avocado) but most keto recommendations state not going over 20-30 grams of carbs per day, so don’t overdo it.

    Pros: The main pro with the keto diet is that it’s very effective with fat loss – especially in the early stages of the diet. It’s also pretty simplistic and convenient: No carbs? Eat it! There are a lot of varieties of food you can have, and some very delicious low/no carb recipes out there, plus most restaurants can hook you up with a plate of just meat and veggies. Unless you want to get really precise, you don’t have to track your food intake either (other than being cautious about carbs).

    Cons: While it’s simple in the sense that you only need to eliminate one macronutrient, mentally it can be tough. It’s a very strict diet, and like any diet, it won’t work well if it’s not put into place long-term. You definitely need to have an all-or-nothing kind of mindset for success with this diet. And while it is fantastic for fat loss, it’s not ideal for gaining and simply maintaining muscle, so you need to think of a smart exit strategy when you’ve reached your fat loss goal.

    Worth noting: You need to eat a lot of fat! Like 60-70% of you daily calories are from fat! That means a lot of bacon and eggs, bun-less cheeseburgers, and adding coconut oil and heavy cream to protein shakes. But be careful not to over-eat on this diet (remember: ENERGY BALANCE). Just because you’re not eating carbs, it doesn’t mean you can have a tub of mayo and a package of bacon at every meal.

    My recommendation: If you take a more extreme approach to diets, and can be very strict, keto will get you great results! It allows for a good amount of flexibility in regards to eating out, and quite a bit of variety. But remember that you will be missing out on all sorts of carb-y deliciousness. If you’re cool with that, keto is awesome!

    If you’re interested, here’s a great place to start: http://www.ruled.me/

    2) Paleo

    The Paleo diet is a “hunter-gatherer” diet: plenty of meat, fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, oils, and tubers. In fact, that’s all you eat! Wheat, dairy, soy, legumes, and any sort of processed junk foods are out on this diet.

    What to do: Cut out all the non-Paleo food sources listed above, and eat like a cave(wo)man.

    Pros: You eat a bunch of whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods so it has some great health benefits, and obviously encourages healthier food choices. From that alone, it can be very effective for most people. The great thing with Paleo is that there is an emphasis on higher fats (not nearly as high as keto) so most Paleo recipes out there are incredibly delicious. It’s also nice to use long-term, as it can be useful for both losing body fat and gaining muscle.

    Cons: This diet can be fairly costly as organic veggies, and grass-fed meats are preferred. It isn’t the most convenient diet out there: it’s tough to eat out, or go over to a friend’s barbecue and constantly ask whether or not certain foods are Paleo. Also, because of the vast amount of foods that need to be cut out in order to meet the Paleo requirements, it can be tough for some to stick to. Sometimes bananas just don’t cut it when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth.

    Worth noting: Just because it’s Paleo does not mean it can be eaten in unlimited quantities. You still need to make sure you’re not overdoing it with the calories, and for best results on this diet, I’d suggest some weighing and tracking of foods be done.

    My recommendation: If your main nutritional issue is eating low-quality, nutrient devoid foods, Paleo can be a great kick-in-the-ass to get yourself in gear to living a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t mind a little food source restriction and you love meat, veggies, and sweet potato, give it a go!

    If you’re interested, check this out: http://robbwolf.com/what-is-the-paleo-diet/

    Here’s a list of some great Paleo (and keto)-friendly foods: http://muscles.zone/low-carb-foods/

    3) Intermittent Fasting

    On an intermittent fasting diet, you alternate periods of time where you fast, and where you eat. Calories are completely restricted during certain periods of the day (usually 16 hours of fasting), and then during other periods (usually 8 hour “feeding” windows) you have as much eating freedom as you’d like. Some IF protocols suggest longer fasting periods, but this is the general lay of the land.

    What to do: You wake up and skip breakfast, drink black coffee or any other calorie free beverages, and you continue to not eat until noon. Then you eat as much as you’d like until 8pm, and stop again for another 16 hours. There are other protocols for IF out there, and your feeding window can be altered depending on your schedule and preferences.

    Pros: Your calories get restricted as you only have a certain amount of time to eat throughout the day. Some IF advocates suggest that the act of fasting actually has hormonal fat loss benefits, but this theory is up for debate. It can be very convenient as you simply cut out a couple meals a day and most of the time you don’t need to worry about tracking your food intake. If you’re busy, and on the go in the mornings and don’t have much time to eat anyway, it can be very straightforward and beneficial.

    Cons: This diet doesn’t always fit everyone’s schedule, as you do need to pick a feeding window and stick to it. A lot of people may also have trouble going for such long stretches with nothing in the tank. It’s also tough to gain muscle when you’re not eating regularly.

    Worth noting: Make sure you eat before going to the gym! Some light, fasted cardio isn’t going to hurt you, but it can be dangerous to lift heavy weights and exert yourself with no pre-workout meals. And as stated above, choose a feeding window that works with your schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, just be mindful that you’re not gorging on super-high calorie meals during your feeding window. As you get to a lower body fat percentage you may need to start eating less, and at that point I’d suggest tracking your calories.

    My recommendation: Don’t mind going long stretches without eating? Okay with not eating anything after a certain point in the day? If yes, then go for IF. It allows a lot of flexibility with food sources, and it’s an easy way to lose weight without tracking your food.

    Here’s a good starting point for any would be intermittent fasters: http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html

    4) IIFYM (aka Flexible Dieting)

    “If It Fits Your Macros”, or flexible dieting is a diet where you eat a specific amount of calories in a day, and make sure that those calories are comprised of an exact range of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats). Once you do that, you have the freedom to eat whatever you want.

    What to do: You need to weigh and measure out all of your food (regardless of how “healthy” you think it is) and log those numbers into a food database like MyFitnessPal to make sure you’re getting the correct calories and macros.

    Pros: IFYM is extremely effective as it is incredibly precise with your caloric intake and macronutrient composition, and it allows for a lot of flexibility and wiggle room with the foods you can eat (if it fits your macros… EAT IT!). You can enjoy whatever foods you like as long as they are tracked accurately. It’s also great as a long-term diet, since it can be used for both fat loss, and muscle gain. Plus, you don’t have to restrict any particular food sources, so a wide variety of foods (literally everything) work with this diet.

    Cons: Unless you eat the same foods every single day, it can be inconvenient for some to constantly scale out and track all the food they consume every day. You need to be a little meticulous, and put in a little more effort than the diets listed above.

    Worth noting: It’s a common mistake with newcomers to this diet to just eat low quality food sources and junk food on a consistent basis simply because the foods fit their macros. You still need to remember to eat a good amount of lean protein sources, nutrient dense carbohydrates like fruits and veggies, and healthy fats. Adequate fibre intake, as well as a healthy supply of vitamins and minerals is important with this diet. However, after all your health needs are met, have fun with pizza, donuts, ice cream… you name it! But balance is crucial.

    My recommendation: Once you get past the initial inconvenience of scaling and tracking foods (after about a week of doing it consistently, it becomes second nature), there’s not much to dislike about this diet. It is extremely effective due to the accuracy, extremely flexible due to the wide variety of food choices, and the tracking only requires a little bit more effort than the diets listed above. If you’re completely opposed to weighing out your food and tracking it, then by all means pick another diet, but otherwise, I don’t think it makes much sense to eat any other way. If desserts, and junk food aren’t your thing, that’s cool! You can eat however you want, but the option for flexibility is there.

    If this tickles your fancy, start here: https://www.iifym.com/


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