Diet. What do you think when you hear that word? Not a lot of good things I bet.
Now most people tend to go to extremes when they start a diet. Common sense and moderation are thrown out the window. It is like the word ‘diet’ makes our brain’s function, well not function!
I used to be one of these OCD people who would ‘eat clean’ when on a diet and trying to drop fat or pig out and just eat anything in sight when trying to put on weight.
What is the end result, well we either find it too hard, boring and restrictive so we can’t stick to it for long enough to drop the fat we want or we get lazy, unstructured and loose so we put on too much fat.
The key to any ‘diet’ success is understanding the basics behind it, calories and energy balance. To put it simply, a calorie deficit = weight loss, a calorie surplus = weight gain.
Body composition is determined by (apart from training) consuming the appropriate calorie intake and meeting minimum macronutirent requirements. Meal type, food type, meal frequency and meal timing play NO PART in body composition.
So depending on what your goal is you need to know what the appropriate calorie intake is. That will determine how much you can eat. Once the calorie requirements have been calculated, the next important part is ensuring you are consuming adequate macronutirents (protein, fat and carbohydrate) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to support your goals, training requirements, hormonal and metabolic functions.
Ok so all the technical stuff has been worked out, now this is where the fun starts. I don’t like the terms ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ but that is what is generally taken to the extreme. The clean-freaks only eat chicken and broccoli, boring and the dirty pigs eat like, well a pig!
There is another term – If It Fits Your Macro’s (IIFYM) that only requires common sense to help make ‘dieting’ easy and what I try to educate my clients about. IIFYM is just a more fancy name and interpretation of the moderation concept. Keep this in mind, it is not the food name that makes you lean or big, it is your calorie intake which determines that.
IIFYM basically means any food type can be consumed as long as your calories and macronutrients allows for it. Sounds perfect right, well it is almost. A little common sense is all that is required and then it is perfect.
I’ll explain a little further. Ensuring that you are functioning at your optimum levels (hormonally and metabolically), you need to be consuming adequate amounts of the essential nutrients – protein, fat, water, vitamins and minerals. A carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient nor is fibre, but I do look at fibre as being beneficial. A certain level of fibre should be consumed each day. So if you have ‘X’ amount of calories to consume and by consuming your essential macronuritents will make up a portion of those ‘X’ calories. This is where the common sense comes into play.
Choosing foods that allow for you to meet your nutrient needs are of personal choice. With that said, common sense should come into play with choosing the foods as your first goal is to ensure you are consuming your required essential nutrients (protein, fat, vitamins and minerals). For the most part all the typical ‘nutritious’ foods (meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts) would be the best option as they make meeting your nutritional requirements very easy. But again, the food name doesn’t mean much just simply eat whatever helps you meet your requirements. Nothing should off limits, but common sense should be used.
Ok so we have consumed foods that have helped us meet our minimum requirements of our essential nutrients (and fibre) but we still have some calories left over to consume. What do we do? Well that is easy, eat whatever you want to help you fill in the calorie requirements! Yes you read right, eat whatever you like. Anyone for chocolate?
As a reminder and as previously mentioned, your body composition is determined by consuming the appropriate calorie intake and adequate macronutirents. Hormonal function and metabolic function is controlled by calorie intake, adequate micro and macronutrient intake. The food name does not determine body composition.
Knowing what we do now after reading all the previous information, what benefit would having an equal calorie meal of say, some steak and vegetables instead of ice-cream if all the requirements etc have been accounted for? None. The Ice-cream is not going to make you anymore fat or lean than the steak and vegetables will. You just might have a little more sanity after having the Ice-Cream!
In a nutshell, dieting should and can be flexible. The amount of flexibility the diet has is determined by the amount of common sense you use. If you use common sense and understand what determines your body composition results, dietary wise you will never feel restricted, bored or not have some form of basic structure. Nothing will be extreme and everything will be in moderation, so the ‘diet’ will not feel like a ‘diet’ and success will be had.