Im sure you have heard about them all: Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, Intermittent Fasting, Vegan, Zone, Mediterrianian, the list goes on and on! The question is, which is the best diet?
Let me make this as clear as I can. THERE IS NO ABSOLUTLY PERFECT DIET FOR EVERYONE!
Lets start off with a few things that need to be considered when structuring your diet.
-Age: This ties in with time, as the older you are, the less time you have to prepare food.
-Body type- Tall, thin, stocky build, all types have different needs.
-Budget- Eating clean does not have to be expensive, but having a larger budget really opens up the options and directions one can go with the diet.
-Deitary Restrictions and/or preferences- Vegan? Gluten-free? No dairy? Dont like certain kinds of veggies? How willing are you to explore new foods?
-Time for preparation and eating- More time to prepare food can open up more options for a larger menu. If time is a restriction, then how simple are you willing to eat each day?
-How lean you want to be- The leaner you want, the more strict the diet. This becomes more of a complete lifestye choice.
The human body can adapt to multiple nutritional condtitions. Look all around the world and you will find a wide varity of different diets that all produce a much lower national BMI than we host here in America.
The underlining simularity of all diets is one thing- THEY RESTRICT ONE MACRONUTRIENT. When broken down, pretty much any effective "diet" is the same.
1- They make you more aware of what your eating. Restrictions of any macro forces a serious follower to really check the food labels, log calories and think about what they are eating.
2- They promote portion control by monitoring and counting macros, making the "dieter" choose more nutrient-rich foods to fill thier calories, and actually seeing how calorie-dense some of the common choices can be.
3- They promote higher amounts of physical activity
4- Usually high protein- we all know the more protein, the better you preform, the smoother your immune system and digestion run, and the more muscle mass one can keep while at a smaller calorie intake.
How do I choose whats right for me?
The answer is simple- WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU.
The truth is, all the "diets" will work. The important part is finding the way of eating, obviously at a calorie deficit (if you goal is to lose weight that is) that FITS YOUR LIFESTYLE. Take what all of the "diets" do well and combine them into your own personalized diet plan that you can keep up each and every day without all of the will-power, starvation and shaming yourself for going off the rails.
If you think for example that Paleo is the go-to for you, but you cant keep up with food prep and find yourself always going for foods that are not allowed on the diet, then its probably not for you! Same goes for Atkins, South Beach, Zone or whatever.
Here is an easy way to design your own diet plan:
1) Log your food on MyFitnessPal (or whatever tracking app you want) for 1 week. Be sure to get your weekend in there, as thats when diets are put to the true test.
2) Look at what macro you are eating the most of. IF its protein, nice work! Now what else is high? If its fat, especially saturated, then try to restrict some of your fat intake for a couple weeks and see what happpens. Eating a lot carbs, especially sugar (over 50g per day is a lot)? Then cut back your carbs, start by cutting 15-20% of the total amount for a week or two (that could be as simple as having one peice of toast instead of 2), monitor progress, re-evaluate and cut out some more.
3) Eat Balanced. Noone can live a normal life restricting a macro nutrient. Build your diet around a full diet that allows you to eat foods in all categories.
4) More color on the plate. Its old advice, but timeless. We do not eat enough fruits and veggies. Try to find a way to get at least 1 serving of bright colored or deep green fruits and veggeis in one meal per day. When that goes well, add them to another meal, etc. Got it? Easy peasy.
5) Dont jump in head first. Keep it simple. Log, evaluate, drop or add whats needed, then repeat. The slower road is the the consistant road. Diet is a lifelong process, not an overnight fix. This goes the same for exercise, just because its some cool "fat scorching protocol" or whatever, doesnt mean that you are ready for the volume or frequency of the program. Start with just simple 3x10 on one movement per body part (legs,back, chest, shoulders, arms, core) 2-3x per week and progress accordingly.
6) Last but definatly not least, try not to CUT things from your diet, you want to ADD to it. Focus on adding more beneficial things into your diet and less on cutting out things. When you tell yourself that you dont want it, guess what, you now want it! When adding in smart, healthy choices and habits, the things that you want to drop or avoid slowly do so on thier own, and dont require all the sacrifice.
Remember, small changes yield big returns. Now get out there and eat!