Whenever someone asks about what diet I would recommend, one of the key questions I ask is, “What kind of food do you eat every day?” About half of all the people will say that they have been on some kind of diet in the past. Some had good results, and some had terrible results with the same diet.
How can this be?
Because everyone is different!
Here is a summary of some of the popular methods of dieting, and their pros and cons.
This is important to understand. Everybody is different. Our bodies react to different kinds of eating plans and different kinds of exercise regimes. All of our goals are different so it only makes sense to TRY and choose an eating AND training regime that will suit not only your goals but your lifestyle too!
- Atkins Diet – very low carbohydrates, eat protein and fat in an unlimited way
Pros: Most people eat too many carbs to begin with, leading to excess fat gain due to high blood sugar and insulin, and the Atkins diet does help with that.
Cons: There is a tendency to “not care” what protein and carb sources are used. Low quality choices may be chosen e.g. chicken nuggets and vegetable oil. This is bad for cell and cardiovascular health in the long run. In addition, vegetables may be considered “too much carbs” when in fact they need to be eaten no matter what diet you follow.
- Intermittent fasting – eat for an 8 hour window each day, fast for the remaining 16 hours
Pros: Very convenient. You can skip breakfast and have a big lunch and dinner. This suits busy people well. It is also harder to over-eat when you only have 8 hours to eat. This is a good choice when you are traveling or have no control over your food intake. After all, having fewer chances each day to eat bad food is a good thing.
Cons: People may be famished and eat whatever is in sight leading to eating during your 8 hour window, but choosing bad choices of food. No, you can’t just eat chocolate cake. If you make bad choices you will still be fat. Good choices of quality protein and fat are still needed.
The other cons are that this method only works for a person who is naturally good at stress management (doesn’t store tummy fat), is already quite lean (fat people tend to do better with multiple small, healthy meals) and will not binge eat during their feeding window.
- Calorie counting – weigh and measure everything you eat each day
Pros: This is one of the methods that high level athletes can use to get really lean. There is a science to adjusting how much to eat, but when it is adjusted for your body, it is one of the ways that can help you get into the “fitness model” shape. When done with a good nutrition coach, this method can also be done while maintaining good health.
Cons: You need to be obsessive about the portions you consume. Most natural bodybuilding coaches suggest you miss your daily nutrition target by less than 5 grams per nutrient. For example, if you are supposed to eat 200g of protein, you should be within 195-205g. This requires lots of home cooking and food scale use which may not suit your lifestyle.
- The Paleo Diet – “eat only what a caveman eats”
Pros: This is an excellent baseline diet where you eat only unprocessed foods which tend to be high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber. Lean meat, nuts, fruit and veggies make up this diet. Many people do well on this as a starting plan.
Cons: This may not be the ideal diet for some athletes as they train so hard and/or they are so lean, that they need to use carbohydrates at the right times, in the right amounts, for best results.
- The “SSD” Stressed Singaporean Diet – Bun/toast/cereal in the morning, biscuits at work, cai-fan or chicken rice at lunch, and wonton noodles at dinner followed by a milo dinosaur at supper
Pros: Uh…. Need I say more ? Its good business for the bakery and food court?
Cons: This is the most common way that Singapore residents eat. It is also the most common way to get into the “SSS” Stressed Singaporean Shape. Which means skinny, yet with a high percentage of fat. It lacks veggies (we need at least 6 cups per day), quality protein (at least 4-5 palm size servings for inactive men, and 2-3 for ladies), and is full of refined sugars and flours (check out our rising diabetes rates).
Any of the diets listed above are better than this!
- Whats best for me?
There is a wide variety of genetic difference, activity level differences and hormone profiles in in this world we live in, which is why almost everyone has or prescribes different nutrition, supplement and training plans. Some are national level athletes, and others are people who haven’t exercised for 30 years. How can they be treated the same way?
But in general, for the regular office worker, the paleo/atkins style with enough veggies, and no bad fats is a good start. If you are very lean naturally, or very active (4-6 hours of hard exercise per week or more), then add in some starches after exercise. And if you travel, then consider intermittent fasting only temporarily for a few days rather than stuffing yourself on a trip. And please, stay away from the “SSD”.
I always tell my Clients and Athletes that Nutrition and Exercise are like religion and politics. Find what works for you and what YOU believe in and STICK WITH IT. People will always try tell you their way is best, or their gym is better, or they know more than you. Truth is: What works for someone else might not work for you. Take peoples nutrition and exercise advice and use it as a guideline.
You know your body better than anyone else. Use this advantageous knowledge and get into the best shape of your life. You don’t need a new year, just a Monday 😉
Yours In Training