One of the most confusing parts of trying to lose (or gain) weight, is choosing what diet to follow. Often you will hear terms, such as;
‘This one looks good, I’ll try it.’
‘I did that one last year so I’ll choose a different one this year.’
‘My friend lost 10kg on that diet, I’m definitely switching to that one from Monday!’
And so on….
The fundamental problem with this mindset is:
There is not one single diet that works for everyone. Different diets will work for some people and not for others. Different diets might also work for some people at one point in their lives and never again. You must have a plan that works for YOU and only for YOU. A plan that you can do consistently, day in day out, that it becomes a lifestyle you can MAINTAIN for the rest of your life.
(I would re-read that if I was you. Even print it out and stick it on your fridge or work computer)
In that case, what diet plan is the best for you? Let’s look at a few of the popular diets and dietary methods, out there today.
Note: DON’T pick a diet below and dismiss the others. You won’t know what works best for you without some trial and error. Furthermore, you may take bits here and there from the diets and adapt them to work for you.
Whole Foods Diet: In a nutshell, this should be the base of all nutrition plans. Eating whole, nutritious food that provide the body with the energy, vitamins and minerals it needs, is vital. Anything that used to be living or grew from the ground, are the fundamentals of a whole foods diet. Limiting processed or pre-made foods/meals, altered by man, is a positive.
Paleo (Caveman) Diet: The Paleo diet is based around foods that our ancestors used to hunt, gather and eat, tens of thousands of years ago. There is a high emphasis on proteins, such as meat, fish and eggs. Fresh fruit, vegetables, tubers (potatoes, root vegetables etc.) nuts, seeds and spices are also included. Cereal grains, such as wheat, dairy, refined sugars and anything processed are frowned upon and usually emitted for good.
Ketogenic Diet: A ketogenic diet is the idea of using ketones as the bodies main fuel source. Ketones are formed from the breakdown of fats in the liver. A typical keto diet is extremely low in carbohydrates (under 30-50g a day), moderate in protein and very high in fats (roughly 70% +). From this, our bodies will enter ketosis and use fat as fuel with the result being, a greater amount of body fat lost.
Intermittent Fasting (IF): IF is method of eating that revolves around fasting (usually for 14-18 hours). From then you eat your allotted calories for the day in a small feasting window (6-10 hours). The fast often begins after the last meal of the day and ends in the early afternoon the next day (8pm–2pm, for example). IF can benefit those who live a busy lifestyle and can’t find the time to prepare/eat meals during the day.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): IIFYM is a concept where you can be flexible with the foods you consume, if they make up your daily macronutrient and calorie needs for the day. This allows people to enjoy a wide variety of foods and still reach their goals. Sticking to nutritious foods 80% of the time is encouraged.
Traditional Bodybuilding Diet: A traditional bodybuilding diet is based around smaller meals (anywhere from 4-8) eaten more often throughout the day. This diet works well for people who need a large surplus of calories (3,000-10,000kcals), as the added meal frequency allows calories to split throughout the day.
There are many more popular diets out there but I’ve gone with the ones I believe are most prevalent now, and the easiest to maintain in the long term.
What Will Work Best for You?
Lifestyle, day to day habits and what kind of person you are, will distinguish what will work best for you. Again, don’t drop yourself in one category. For example, you might reach your goals on a ketogenic diet, using a traditional bodybuilding method.
Are you someone who struggles to eat breakfast, is busy all day at work but manages to sit down to a big family dinner? If so, IF might work well for you?
Do you hate cooking and can’t prepare more than 2 meals a day? If so, don’t choose a bodybuilding diet!
Do you enjoy fattier foods, (e.g. salmon, red meat, oils, avocadoes etc.)? If so, you might favour a ketogenic diet.
I hope you get the idea of where I’m coming from. Trial and error is essential in building nutrition plans and long-term health. What I will say is, everyone should start from a whole foods diet and go from there. Don’t jump before you can walk. Start to reduce processed foods and focus on consuming whole, nutritious foods, at least 80% of the time. That’s exactly how I get my clients started. Once that has been accomplished then we can go from there.
Building a diet requires a basic understanding of calories and how many you need during the day. As I said before, eating a whole foods diet is step one. Once you’re comfortable with that, we can consider daily calorie needs.
They are a few ways to calculate your daily calorie needs but below is the simplest one and is a great place to begin:
Daily Activity Level
|Sedentary (minimal exercise)||Body weight in lbs x 10-12||Body weight in lbs x 12-14||Body weight in lbs x 16-18|
|Moderately active (training 3-4 times a week)||Body weight in lbs x 12-14||Body weight in lbs x 14-16||Body weight in lbs x 18-20|
|Very Active (training 5-7+ times a week)||Body weight in lbs x 14-16||Body weight in lbs x 16-18||Body weight in lbs x 20-22|
Source: Precision Nutrition Individualization Guide
For example, you are a 150lbs woman who wishes to lose weight. Currently, you are training 3 days a week, so your calculations will be as follows:
150 (lbs) x 12-14 = 1,800-2,100 kcals a day
Important note: if you wish to lose weight don’t think less is more, because it’s not. If you are very active don’t think you can multiply your bodyweight by 10 (like a sedentary person). Yes, you might lose weight initially. After a few weeks, though, you will have low energy and end up binge eating to replace all the calories you should have been eating in the first place! Consistency always wins, remember that.
Other Points to Consider
These calculations are a starting point. Before you start, take measurements (body weight, body fat and/or tape measurements) and progress photos. Follow the plan for 2-4 weeks and re measure everything. From there you can adjust if needs be. Tracking progress is key in reaching your goals.
Build up to your calorie goal if you’re currently far from it. For example, if you should be eating 1800 calories and are currently eating 1000 calories, build it up by 200-300 every week. Don’t take that 800 calorie jump straight away. Tip: Use a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal to see how many calories you eat daily.
Protein is your most important macronutrient at this point. To work out how much protein you need daily, take your body weight in kg’s and multiply it by 1.5-2. This will give you your protein range that you should aim for daily.
It would be foolish of me to write a diet article without mentioning training. Training and nutrition go hand in hand when it comes to body composition changes. If you train effectively and eat properly, you stand a much better chance of reaching your goals.
Training should be a mixture of resistance training (weights/bodyweight) and cardiovascular (sprinting, walking, playing sports etc.). Frequency is key for most people and you should aim to do something every day. For example, you may weight train in a gym 3 times a week, play tennis with a friend on a Saturday, do yoga one day a week and go for a 30-minute stroll on the other 2 days. Again, like your diet, work training around your lifestyle. (In terms of the calorie table above, training refers to weight training or high intensity sports, not general activities like walking).
For those of you who aren’t sure about an effective weight training programme to help with fat loss, check out the sample 3-day programme below. I’m a big fan of this programme as the whole body is worked 3 times a week using mainly big, multi-joint exercises. Furthermore, the nature of moving from one muscle group to the other in quick succession will keep your heart rate high and produce a better fat burning effect.
Sample Fat Loss Program
|A1. Sumo/Conventional Deadlift||4||6-8|
|A2. Dumbbell flat chest press||4||6-8||90|
|B1. Dumbbell reverse lunge||4||10-12 each leg|
|B2. Bat wing row||4||10-12||90|
|C1. Stability ball roll outs||3||8-15 (slow)|
|C2. Loaded carries||3||60-90s walk||90|
|A1. Barbell back squat||4||6-8|
|A2. Bent over single arm row||4||6-8||90|
|B1. Glute-ham raises||4||10-12|
|B2. Seated Arnold press||4||10-12||90|
|C1. Standing barbell curls||3||12-15|
|C2. Cable triceps pushdowns||3||12-15||90|
|A1. Romanian Deadlift||4||6-8|
|A2. Incline Barbell bench press||4||6-8||90|
|B1. Weighted side step ups||4||10-12|
|B2. Underhand close grip lat pulldown||4||10-12||90|
|C1. Cable twists||3||12-15 (slow)|
|C2. Loaded carries||3||60-90s walk||90|
- This is a 4-6-week program
- Aim to increase the weights each session whilst still maintaining good form and keeping within the given rep ranges
- Aim to reduce the rest break by 15s every 2 weeks
- A1, A2 means the exercise are performed straight after one another with minimum rest
Finally, make sure you train with a high intensity and put the effort in. If you calculated your calories on training 5-7 times a week, but you train in a half-hearted manner, that can ruin the calculations and your progress.
I hope this article has given you an insight into how to create a diet that will work for you. It can be confusing, I get it, but it should now be clearer with the information I’ve provided above. If you have any questions or need help creating personalised nutrition plans, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more help and advice please check out my Instagram page sam_xceedfit
Or visit my website www.xceed-fit.com
Good luck and speak soon,