With so many eating styles out there how do you know which best suits you, especially if you are new to this game?
A successful style of eating is largely based on your personality and circumstances (i.e. a pastry chef on a low carb diet is asking for failure), so not all styles will work for everyone and in some cases, you may even have to customize it a bit more for your life.
Over the past several years we’ve seen the death of some of the former diets such as Atkins, South Beach, Subway and the grapefruit diet (seriously, grapefruit? lol); as others fall off new ones take their place.
This is a short list of some of the popular eating methods that we see popping up now:
- IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
- IF (Intermittent Fasting)
- Carb Cycling
- CRB (Carb Back Loading)
I’ll go over:
- What it does
- Who it’s good for and why (medical, lifestyle)
- Common Mistakes
- My Personal Experience
- More information
There are PLENTY of “diets” out there, so many that even I can’t keep up with them, but the ones I’ll touch on today are the ones that I feel have some merit behind them in addition to ones that I have used and cycle out with clients.
All in all, just remember that at “diet” is just a method of eating, this does not always include a calorie restriction, it’s simply just how you chose to eat for your body.
What it does: Also called the hunter-gatherer diet based on natural unprocessed foods. It’s a strong focus on eating only things that are nature based (in my words “If you can’t grow it or kill it, don’t eat it”).
I will admit that this is usually the style of eating I generally get my clients on first because when we switch to a “natural” way of eating we see a lot of success.
Who is it good for: Everyone will benefit from getting on a more “natural” way of eating and abstaining from foods with added chemicals, sugars or anything else that you can’t say in more than two syllables.
Our bodies were not built with the intention of consuming and digesting chemicals (HERE is a blog that is a freaky example of this), so changing our food to what our bodies were genetically based to consume allows for a leaner and healthier appearance.
This style of eating will be a great first way for anyone to starting learning how to eat better; it’s very basic and simple to follow. If a caveman couldn’t find it, then don’t eat it.
Side note: In the exercise industry people always want the latest and quickest shortcut to dropping body fat, so they want to skip the basics and move on to these crazy complicated diets. I was talking about this with a client of ours and she said it best.
“They are called the basics because they basically work for everyone.”
Majority of fat loss diets will start with an eating style similar to this so I would highly recommend that you get comfortable with this before trying the next fad of eating because you’ll find that the basics should solve the majority of your fat loss issues.
Common Mistakes: There are some that assume since it has the word “Paleo” written on the label or the cookbook then it’s ok to eat.
Let me say right now there is no such thing as “paleo pancakes,” pretty sure caveman didn’t have Gluten and Dairy Free banana, walnut cinnamon pancakes with all natural honey first thing in the morning.
Even if you can combine all natural ingredients to make something “healthier or cleaner” than the processed version you can still overeat natural foods and gain unwanted body fat.
Personal Experience: This is the cornerstone of not only all of our clients programs here but mine as well, food quality was one of the things that I ever did when I really began my nutrition crusade and still to this day has caused some of the most significant changes that I have seen.
It’s basic, the concept is simple and if you want to see an almost immediate change in your body start here.
More Information: Robb Wolf
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
What is does: IIFYM is a style of eating that is a bit more liberal in food selections if you are in a caloric deficit as long as you hit your macros (think protein, carbs, and fats). It’s physiology is that the body will lose the same amount of fat over a time period regardless of what foods you consume whether it’s sweet potatoes or ice cream.
Who is it good for: This is great for those people that hate rigid rules and want some “fudge” room (no pun intended) with their fat loss goals.
I’ve also found this to be beneficial for people in a muscle gaining stage due to the higher caloric needs, they may not always be able to eat 3,4, or 5,000 plus calories in a paleo based style.
Some common mistakes: What I’ve seen happen is that people will end up choosing lower quality foods for constant nutrient sources instead of higher quality foods, spite the premise of the diet you will notice a big difference in your appearance in getting your protein sources exclusively from fast food and not grass fed beef.
Personal Experience: This works great when you’re dieting down and just have that craving for pizza or Oreos (my personal favorite). Do not sub in high processed carbs in place of your greens, rice or other healthier carbs choices, I would merely use this method for those cheat days when you just need your fix but still want to remain in that caloric deficit.
More Information: IIFYM
IF (Intermediate Fasting)
What is does: IF is a method of eating that prolongs the timing between meals, so instead of an individual eating every two to three hours throughout a 16 hour span (assuming that you sleep 8 hours a day… but who does that right lol), your eating window may reduce down to 8-4 hours.
Who is it good for: I have found this works very well for those overly busy people that feel they don’t have time to cook or eat for long periods of the day, think busy parents or business professionals.
Also for those that have had consumed a diet high in processed carbs and have had constant elevated insulin levels (think pre diabetes); this style of eating prolongs the window of not eating which allows the liver to take a break from pumping out that hormone.
Some common mistakes: You assume that since you have been fasting for 16-20 hours you may go on a food bender and eat whatever you want, again food quality trumps all. Or you have to TRY to force this into your lifestyle, you will just end up stressing more about it than before.
Personal Experience: I did a blog about this over a year ago just with introducing IF into my diet (HERE). This is something that I still practice to his day and will on occasion go till later in the evenings, about 20+ hours, without eating so to let my body have a break from digesting excess food after a cheat day; as of now though I’m still a big believer that if you feel you are insulin sensitive (me again) that prolonging your first meal can be very healthy for the body.
What it does: Carb cycling was one of the original macro nutrient manipulators in the bodybuilding world. It’s a style of eating that focus on cycling carb levels throughout the week (High day, Medium Day, Low Day, repeat), also you’ll see that people who do focus on this style of eating will manipulate fat levels as well, so when they have a low carb day then their fat intake will be higher and on higher carb days the fat levels will be lower.
Who its good for: People that are ready to start learning how to manipulate some macronutrient levels, a good starting point is higher carb days when you work out and lower carb days when you don’t.
Common Mistakes: People eyeballing their carbs on lower carb days which will cause you the eat more than you had allotted. Take the time to learn how to measure out your food.
Personal Experience: It’s still something that I continue to do as well; for my workout days I’ll have higher carbs and my rest days are lower carbs, very easy to do.
More Information: T-Nation (Researched Approved Carb Cycling)
CRB (Carb Back Loading)
What it does: This involves a bit more nutrient and macro (most carbs) manipulation during a very small window in the day.
What a person does is follow a VERY low carb diet early in the day, workout later in the evenings (not always but in most cases) then take advantage of a post workout and pre bed time window where they would consume a calorie dense meal that can include higher glycemic or processed carbs.
Who it’s good for: Those busy professionals who are too busy to really eat during the day that workout later in the evening.
Common mistakes: As strange as it sounds the most common issues with this NOT eating high enough glycemic carbs during the backload or eating too many of those carbs; there is a limit to how many “bad” carbs someone can have, it’s not a night time free for all.
Personal Experience: Unfortunately my day doesn’t really allow me to really take advantage of the full benefits of this because I tend to work out in the middle of the day. When I do have an opportunity to work out later in the day I will have consumed a pretty hefty amount of carbs after workout and before bed. I will testify that I do sleep pretty well and wake up looking pretty good.
If you get the macro measurements down for your body then it’s pretty cool to see the overnight changes.
More Information: Carb Back Loading
Can you mix it up?
These are different variations of the same goal, getting you leaner and keeping/obtaining more muscle and you may find that one style works VERY well for you EXCEPT for one part of it, etc… so it is possible to combine several to make it a hybrid or find a style that works for you.
I personally will follow a paleo based program, skipping breakfast and eating majority of my carbs at night before bed with an occasion cheat carb and cycling my carbs consuming more on workout days and less on my rest day.
If you do decide to get on any of these or create your own you must remember that in the end if you are trying to get leaner or gain muscle without putting on copious amounts of fat then you’ll want to make sure that you are keeping within the calorie and macro ranges.
You’ll have to play around with any style or method you want to do for about two weeks until you have found what works for you, but when you do… damn this world gets a LOT and I mean a LOT easier.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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