by Ninja Callum McVickers
Should you eat Paleo? The Zone diet? Atkins? Intermittent fasting?
What the hell is with all this contrasting information?
I feel your pain.
All the conflicting information on dieting makes it equally as hard for coaches, as there’s so much variation and bullshit people seem to forget what’s most important.
I get asked this question a lot: What is the best diet for fat loss?
To most people’s surprise, my answer is generally,
“The one that works for you.”
Can you eat these foods in the prescribed way over and over and over to achieve your desired goal? If not, then the supposed awesome diet is not awesome enough for you. Sure, certain strategies may be more optimal for certain folks, but the single most important factor in any transformation is consistency.
And a little bit more consistency,
Oh and…Yeah. More consistency.
Your diet should fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
Don’t make the mistake of letting your life revolve around your diet. It’s just not practical long-term for the average person.
A New Solution
Most of the time I find a flexible dieting approach works best. Mainly because it’s not a diet.
That’s right—flexible dieting is not actually a diet. It’s a method in which you track your calorie intake and adjust it to meet your desired goal.
With flexible dieting, there’s no dogma, no “superfoods,” and no strict rules about what you can or can’t eat. While tracking calories is nothing new, flexible dieting is unique in that it’s based around scientific principles and targets based on current research. This ain’t Weight Watchers.
Let’s go back a few steps and identify exactly what you’re going to need in order to be successful with flexible dieting.
First and foremost you need an idea of your daily calorie intake.
There are several formulas you can use to estimate your caloric needs, which based on your weight, height, and activity level, can give you a decent ball park figure.
Try Googling the Katch-McArdle BMR method for a simple start.
No one formula is better than the other as they’re all based on generalized data, so don’t take this figure too seriously.
From there, you’re going to need three things:
- A bodyweight scale
- A food scale
- A dietary tracking application (MyFitnessPal is a personal favorite.)
Now for a week or two, you’re going to weigh, scan and track everything you eat.
Then, every morning, on an empty stomach, after using the bathroom, you’re going to weigh yourself.
Rinse. And repeat.
After you’ve weighed yourself for seven days, you should have seven weigh-ins.
Now, you’re going to average them out. For you mathematicians at home, do your shit… If you’re like me (awful at math)—add the days on a calculator and divide by seven.
Do this for two weeks and then compare your average weight for week one against your average weight for week two.
Ok so I’m weighed and shit, what then?
What happens to your weight here is important. Generally, if your weight goes up chances are you’ve been eating too many calories. If it stays the same, you know you’re around your maintenance calories.
Annndddd if it goes down, then yeah you guessed it, you’re eating below your maintenance. This is calorie tracking 101, and a very simplified version at that.
Nonetheless, it’s a good starting point for anyone looking for a sustainable dieting strategy that can achieve the same, if not better results, with a shit ton less stress.
Side note: Not everyone is going to have linear changes in weight. For example, excess salt or carbohydrate can increase your scale weight through water retention. This is not an accurate measurement of changes in bodyweight, which is why you should try and keep your food selection pretty similar during this process—at least for these couple of weeks.
Let the Tracking Begin
After the first two weeks, once you’ve got your weight figured out, I would suggest tracking the big rocks, your total calorie and protein intake. They’ll make the most difference.
If you want to get really geeky you can start tracking your macronutrients – your protein, fat and carbohydrate intake. But to be honest, once calories and protein are set, playing around with carbs and fat just comes down to personal preference.
Track how you feel also. If you feel better on high carbs and low fat then go with that.
But—if you feel sleepy as shit after a big bowl of rice, it’s probably not the best idea to have a high carb intake during the day. (Unless of course you plan on being a bad ass and falling asleep at work.) Instead, choose foods that are higher in fat and lower your carb intake. This may mean eating mainly protein and fat sources throughout the day, then adding in some carbs at night.
The only caveat here is that you don’t want your carbohydrate intake to drop low enough that it affects your gym performance.
These couple of weeks are about learning what your body needs. Then, whatever works for you, as long as it fits your daily goals, you’re golden.
Fruits and Veggies
While your calorie and protein targets are your big rocks. Don’t neglect your fruit and vegetable intake; I usually suggest 2+ fruits 2+ vegetables a day as a minimum. Water is also essential here: Shoot for 2-3L of water daily, and if you’re exercising, add an extra 500ml-1L, depending on the intensity.
It is important to add that if you’re a coeliac sufferer or have gut reactions to certain foods, then the puzzle becomes more complex. Flexible dieting can definitely still work for you but you just have to be a bit more savvy with your food choices.
If you’re in the 1% of coeliac sufferers I feel for you. But don’t worry; me & Ryan are teaming up:
- Consistency is the key to looking good naked. Or not naked. But also naked.
- Remember that flexible dieting is not a diet. It’s a unique way of tracking your calorie intake and matching it to targets based on scientific principles and current research.
- Tracking your calories is not a life sentence. Even tracking for a couple of weeks will give you a good idea of what’s going on with your metabolic rate.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about calories. Your fruit, vegetable and water intake are crucial for your overall health.
- Context Context Context! If you suffer from gut inflammation or you have a medical condition, having flexibility in your nutrition may be the opposite of what you’re looking for.
As you can see, nutrition for fat loss not black and white. Usually there’s a gray area that must be considered.
What works for one person may not necessarily work for another, even with the same principles. The human body is super complex and what we’re really doing in nutrition is making the best guess possible.
What’s been your nutrition journey for fat loss? Leave me comment and let’s talk about it!