I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time when nutrition is not a hot topic of conversation for parents, teenagers, recreational gym goers and athletes alike.
So instead of writing an article about what I think is right or what a nutritionist might say is the best thing to do. I’m going to share my own experiences with multiple different types of diets: Namely, the ones you’ll hear about in the fitness world.
- ATKINS DIET
This is the first encounter I had with a high protein diet. What I had understood of it and still do, is that you are unlimited by the amount of protein you may consume but should limit fat and carbohydrates. At the time, I had little understanding of macro nutrients or calories. So I just ate meat and egg whites. A lot of meat. And a lot of egg whites (gag).
Pros: Weight loss (that was my goal at the time) but it was inevitable because I was in a calorie deficit.
Cons: Not enough fat or carbohydrate to support activity.
- THE ‘BRO’ DIET- AKA BODYBUILDING DIET
This is what the fitness world refers to as ‘clean eating’. Low calorie, low fat eating. Lean white meat, some vegetables and few carbohydrates (but only to be consumed before lunch) is what I was allowed to eat.
Pros – Being very aware of every calorie I put into my body made me start researching more about nutrition.
Cons – Anti-social behaviour, mood swings, hormonal issues (girls – we need approximately 14% body fat for our reproductive system to work properly!), and I developed an unhealthy relationship with bro eating and bingeing. In addition, I would start to resort to artificial products with little or no calories to fill my hunger void.
- IIFYM or IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS
Tailored eating – or weighing and tracking everything you eat to make sure you are getting exactly the right amount of protein, fat and carbs for your body composition and goals.
What IIFYM suggests is that as long as you are getting those nutrients, then it doesn’t matter where you get them from (i.e lollies for carbs, cake for fat & carbs etc). It is recommended that you also hit your micro-nutrient intake but that is often overlooked.
Pros-You are eating enough to sustain your energy requirements. There are a number of calculators that you can find online where you enter your body weight, how much exercise you do etc and it tells you how much protein (normally 1g of protein per 1lb of body mass is what you need), fat (roughly 0.5g fat per 1lb of body mass) and carbohydrates (makes up the rest of the calories dependant on how much energy you need). I.e between 0.5g-4g carbs on a scale of sedentary to very active.
This also teaches you portion control. It is very eye opening to see how big a true teaspoon of peanut butter really is or how many calories are in a single Tim Tam.
Cons-It is easy to get carried away and eat foods that meet your macro requirements but have little to no nutritional value. I once went a whole day filling my allotted calories with cake, chocolate and lollies (and a couple of protein shakes). Needless to say I didn’t feel the greatest – I was tired and even the gym was hard work!
It also got quite tiring and tedious tracking everything and weighing out my food. This was quite restricting when going out with friends.
Similar to this is the Zone diet, which recommends you eat a certain amounts of blocks per meal (relative to your goals). Each block is made up of your macro nutrients. I haven’t followed Zone, so I won’t comment further. Do some extra research if you’re interested.
The CrossFit guideline to nutrition: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. To me, this means non processed foods that are high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrate.
I only really ever gave this a try for one solid 6 week block, where I allowed myself 1 ‘cheat meal’ a week and followed a sugar free, non-processed diet for the rest of the time. What happened?
Pros: I ate nutrient dense foods that gave me tonnes of energy. Good carbs such as kumara, pumpkin, good fats from avocado, nuts and seeds. I stayed full for ages. High nutrient foods give your brain quality energy to function.
Cons: I lost muscle mass mainly because my body did not know how to efficiently use fat for energy*. I got bored of kumara and pumpkin, so I started eating more fat and less carbs. This resulted in my body going to the glycogen (carb) stores for energy during CrossFit, which were depleted because I wasn’t consuming enough fruit, brown rice, oats, or foods my body was used to eating. When it came to cheat meals, I would eat absolutely everything I had wanted to eat during the week. This would include foods I normally wouldn’t even care for like bread or pasta, purely because I had been so limited and restricted with my diet during the week.
*Fat oxidisation or using fat for fuel is common amongst endurance or high performing athletes.
In conclusion, I’ve tried countless others but that’s a story for another time. I caution my friends, family and people I coach to stay away from any brand or scheme offering a ‘quick’ solution. There is no secret pill or shake. You can however, take some of the key points from these different diets and incorporate them into your current nutrition plan, such as using the calorie calculator to get a rough idea of the nutrients and calories you want to aim for. It’s about balance and the sooner we realise that, the happier we can be. There is Nothing that can provide us with the right nutrients as well as, real, non-processed foods. If we eat well 80% of the time, when we have special occasions then go for it – have your cake and eat it too!
Written by Coach Lisa