JDP Personal Trainer Scarlet Hollands uncovers the rules of dieting.
The term “diet” is something that is thrown around far too much these days and the majority of the time is seen to be a negative concept of how we, as humans, should approach food.
Diet is essentially defined as:-
“Types of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”
Whereas the more negative approach to the term “diet” is:-
“A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves to achieve a certain goal”
This often will consist of individuals taking drastic measures such as eliminating entire food groups completely or dropping calories to a dangerous/unmaintainable level and its these excessive measures that will induce a negative relationship with food but more importantly be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. This applies even more so when the output (exercise) is higher then the input (food) meaning the deficit is even more exaggerated in a negative way.
Dieting can fall into various categories and there are many different interpretations of what is correct/optimum. We see more popular “fad” diets that over-promise drastic results such as “The Atkins Diet” or “The Five Bite Diet” which are extreme ideas that perhaps worked short term for the individual but are unlikely to be maintained long term and more worryingly, avoiding complete food groups all together!
The key to a successful and sustainable diet, as cliche as it sounds, is balance. Our bodies require nutrients and fuel for it to function healthily. It is important to note that each individual requires different quantities and type of nutrients as not one body is identical. These nutrients we speak of fall into 2 groups:
Macronutrients: a type of food that is required in large amounts in the diet (eg – Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats)
Micronutrients: a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for normal growth and development (eg – Vitamins and Minerals)
As long as our bodies are receiving adequate amounts of both macro and micronutrients, we can be assured we are feeding our vessel sufficiently.
So how will this mean we will lose weight, drop body fat, increase muscle mass etc?
The basic rule of thumb is this:-
To lose weight/fat/size we must be in a caloric deficit to our maintenance calorie consumption whilst keeping the output high. Output > Input.
To gain weight/fat/size we must be in a caloric surplus to our individual maintenance consumption whilst keeping the output lower. Input > Output.
Eg: 24 year old female at 70kg with maintenance kcals at 2000.
Deficit = 1800 kcal
Surplus = 2200 kcal
Now we have a better understanding of the basics that are macro and micronutrients, we can now explore the different diet “techniques” that compliment various goals and body types.
1. Counting Macros
This is a hugely popular way to diet as it is completely individual and everyones numbers will differ. This way of dieting can be used to lose/gain and maintain weight and simply requires the individual to consume good, wholesome foods that are within their macronutrient allowance for the day. See example below:
This shows this individual is consuming a total of 1733 calories, 153g carbs, 145g protein and 52g fat a day for their fat loss goal. To do this those macros have been spread over a variety of foods allowing for flexibility and preference.
2. Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent Fasting is a term for an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. This doesn’t specify about which foods to eat but rather when you should eat them. This means this should be seen as more of an “eating pattern” rather then a diet however for best results, applying the “counting macros” technique to IF will ensure you are still eating adequately for you but just a change in time as to when you eat.
There is no right or wrong way to apply this technique to your eating habits as everyone will experiment and find what works for them. We all technically fast every evening whilst we sleep but we break this as soon as we sit for breakfast in the morning. People who Intermittent Fast most commonly will extend this fasting period until 12 noon and continue to consume food until 20:00 that evening when they fast until noon the following day. This popular method is more frequently known as the 16/8 method as you are fasting for 16 hours of the day and eating for 8.
3. Raw Food Diet
Another popular way of dieting is the raw food diet. This consists of only consuming wholesome foods in their natural form (ie not cooking it). The main rule of thumb with this diet is to only consume foods that are no higher than 118 degrees in temperature so can be a little warm however not cooked. Staples in this diet consist of raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. Also some unpasteurised dairy products, raw eggs, meat and fish. This diet obviously has restriction which allows the consumer to only eat raw, usually organic foods which can ensure your are not destroying the nutritional value by cooking it but again by following you set macros here also, you can ensure you will achieve your physical goals.
4. Carb Cycling
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body; they fuel our workouts and provide sufficient energy to sustain us throughout the day. So many people fear carbs as they have such a bad rep out there but actually the more we cut these out, the more our bodies will be deprived and yes you may drop weight for the short term but as soon as carbohydrates are re-introduced, your body weight will fluctuate rapidly. Many people misunderstand carbohydrates and only see them as things like pasta, bread and rice etc, which is correct, however sugar is also a carb and sugar is present in the majority of foods out there and if not obvious like sweets, chocolate and biscuits then things like granola which is predominately oats (a complex/starchy carb) is actually riddled with hidden sugars like honey, sugar and flavourings. Carbohydrates in excess (in whatever form) will be turned into fat and add to the adipose tissues in the body so it is vital to get you carbohydrate balance spot on.
Carb cycling is a technique used to assist with the timing of consuming carbs. By cycling them we can deplete glycogen stores on a lower carb day to replenishing these stores on a higher carb day and aiding recovery. This will allow the body to burn fat more efficiently and will also make your body more receptive to insulin, improving your bodies muscle-building response. This technique should be solely focused on clean sources of complex carbohydrates and eliminate all bad carb sources.
Below is an example of a 5 day carb cycle with 200g being the highest carb day:
- Day 1 – 150g
- Day 2 – 100g
- Day 3 – 50g
- Day 4 – 125g
- Day 5 – 200g
Essentially what I’d do is drop 50g of carbs over the course of the first 3 days, then increase by 75g for the next two days. Some people prefer to raise fat intake on the lower carb days, or to increase fats on their off training days, to make up for the lost calories on the lower carb days.
Conclusion of the Rules
These are just a few ways in which we can adapt the basic rule of thumb to compliment our individual goals and needs. Dieting for a goal doesn’t have to be so extreme as we sometimes hear particularly if we are looking to maintain our physique longterm once the goal is achieved and it is with minor manipulation and correct knowledge of food and nutrition that will allow us to make minor changes the will see us change for the better.
If you do have any questions with regards to nutrition and would like assistance from one of our team of personal trainers, do get in touch. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet as most of the time it will come from unreliable sources. If you are unsure the best thing is to ask a qualified trainer/nutritionist rather then spiralling down the wrong route because of something you read online. You only get one body, look after it. Thankfully it is extremely forgiving so its not too late to make some positive changes and achieve your dream physique!