Fad diets come and go with the seasons and have been doing so for decades. For most, a sounddiet is the most challenging facet of fitness to understand and control in maintaining a healthylifestyle compared to training, recovery, and supplementation. One of the main reasons being isthat we are surrounded by unhealthy food choices. Our North American Diet that the governmentdeems as the standard of healthy eating is forever changing, and in the opinion of most educatedprofessionals, considered actually unhealthy and a contributing factor to our current state ofhealth, or lack thereof.
How is proper diet and nutrition subjective? It seems like every month, another study isreleased that completely contradicts a previous study that says food X is good or bad for you.Without getting into the complicated politics of most studies and trials, it’s fair to say that if youwant to control the outcome of a study to promote a product, it is easy to manipulate thevariables to get the desired and biased result.
The Issue with Modern Diets
The problem with diets isn’t the diets themselves, although most diets are fundamentallyflawed. The problem is that 95% of people who try a diet never follow it through to the end. Yo-Yodieting is when an individual follows a diet, loses weight, then goes off the diet, resumes pooreating habits, gains back all the weight or more, and then goes back on the diet or a new diet. Thisperpetual cycle of gaining and losing weight is very common and can go on until the frustratedindividual gives up on dieting due to their lack of sustainable results.
Most diets also neglect to prioritize increasing your daily energy expenditure or exercise. Youneed to expend calories/energy by being less sedentary and moving around to lose fat andmaintain your existing muscle tissue to aid in fat loss. This is where exercise becomes crucial.Despite the abundance of health products and the importance placed on convenience, there is noquick fix for our body and optimal health.
Most diets, if adhered to, can help you initially lose weight as they generally share a similarphilosophy of cutting back the total amount of calories consumed to the point where youare in a calorie deficit. Being in a calorie deficit will force the body to mobilize stored glycogen, fat,and even protein from muscle tissue to fuel the body, causing weight loss. What’s not generallyknown is where the weight loss is coming from. Ideally, you want to burn stored body fat whendieting, not muscle tissue, as muscle tissue is metabolic and burns calories, stimulating yourmetabolism. So diets that cause you to lose both fat and muscle are not ideal, and losing strictlystored fat can be difficult. It also becomes difficult to continue losing weight as your metabolismslows down during prolonged periods of calorie restriction.
We all have different tolerance levels to certain foods and, therefore, different results. Most dietsgenerally tend to be one size fits all. As humans, we are generally considered omnivores meant toconsume meat and plants. Both food groups provide us with different micronutrients, vitamins,and minerals required in the body for normal physiological functioning. So with diets that excludean entire food group, you’re eliminating food that provides your body with essential micronutrientsthat serve as catalysts for a myriad of chemical reactions that keep us alive and healthy. You canalways supplement with vitamins and minerals to cover what may be missing in your diet, butconsuming adequate amounts of each macronutrient can provide your body with the requirednutrients.
The best diet is going to be similar for most people. Every day each of us needs a certainamount of protein to stay in a nitrogen balance to maintain existing muscle tissue. Muscle tissueis highly metabolic, and by having a surplus of nitrogen from dietary protein, you can gainmuscle from exercising, which in turn raises your metabolism and allows you to burn morecalories throughout the day.
Protein can come from meat, dairy, eggs, legumes, grains, etc. Different protein sources providevarious micronutrients and amino acids. You want to consume complete protein sources thatcontain a full amino acid profile. When consuming plant-based diets, one needs to consumevarious foods to ensure they get a complete source of protein, as most plants aredeficient in varying amino acids.
Carbs for Energy
Carbohydrates are primarily used for energy. Consumed carbs get broken down into glycogenwhich is used to fuel our muscles and brain. Your body stores glycogen in the muscle and liver forwhen it needs it. Having stored glycogen ensures the body will utilize it and spare burning muscletissue when it needs energy. The fibre found in carbohydrates aids with digestion helps controlcholesterol and has numerous other vital functions. Healthy carb sources include fruits,vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, etc. Unhealthy and all too commonly consumed carb sourcesare basically all processed foods in a box or bag. These convenient, fast, cheat foods are high insugar and fat, and low in nutrients.
Healthy fats are also required in the diet to provide energy, support the growth of new cells, aid inthe absorption of nutrients and help produce various hormones in the body. There are goodand bad fats to consume. The good ones come from meat sources, nuts, seeds, and certainoils. Bad fats, including trans fats, should be eliminated from your diet; they are commonlyfound in most fast and processed foods.
Every day a certain amount of calories need to be consumed to maintain your currentbodyweight. To lose or gain weight is quite simple. Calculate your daily maintenance caloriesand either cut or add 3-500 calories per day. The only way to lose weight is to be in a caloriedeficit, where your body starts mobilizing energy from stored energy sources, ideally fat. Yourbody is clever and will eventually adapt to your calorie restriction, and your weight loss willplateau. The trick is to increase calories for a few days to trick your metabolism into notdropping. To prevent lowering your metabolism, you need to incorporate exercise. Exercisestimulates hormones that increase your metabolism, enhances your health and well-being,conditions all your body’s tissues and systems, and builds lean muscle tissue, which causes youto burn more calories daily.
Most diets just aren’t sustainable, they can’t be maintained for long periods, and theytend to eliminate whole food groups that, if properly consumed, are good for your body. Ourbodies will synthesize what is needed if we are deficient in a needed macronutrient. The body isvery resourceful and functions to survive and maintain homeostasis no matter what you’reingesting. But the all-around best diet is to just eat whole foods rich in nutrients, in moderation,every day. There’s nothing wrong with a cheat meal here or there. It doesn’t have to be all ornothing; moderation is key. Living a healthy lifestyle requires dedication, self-control, consistency,and hard work.
To be a healthy human being, it is important to eat purposefully, supplement appropriatelydepending on your individual needs, exercise consistently to improve your fitness level, and getenough sleep. So, if you want to see sustainable long-term results, abandon your diet and starteating responsibly.