DASH, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Atkins, The Zone, Jenny Craig, South Beach, Nutrisystem, Mediterranean, Beverly Hills…I mean the list of different diets out there goes on and on and on! These are just some examples of the most popular ones and absurd “fad” diets. I mean come on…the Beverly Hills diet??? Give me a break! Is that where you eat whatever you want and then get liposuction regularly? Ha! Just kidding…The point is that people will try anything to lose weight and they want to lose it quickly, which is exactly what most of these diets promise to people to get them to buy into them; however, I can promise you these “fad” diets are a mistake if you’re wanting sustainable weight loss and a body that can perform optimally.
You or someone you know may have done one of these diets and may have even had great success with it. If they were able to keep the weight off, then fantastic for them and congrats to them for figuring out how to maintain their results. The problem is that the majority of people who follow one of these diets will not keep the weight off and possibly even gain more weight on the rebound. The bottom line is the quicker you lose weight, the quicker it will come back on and trust me…it will more than likely come back on with MOST of these fad diets. So why not just skip the “fad” diets and go straight into a position where sustainable weight loss can occur?
So what is a “sustainable” diet plan for weight loss? First off, it will certainly take longer than you want it to, but the results will be much easier to maintain and the overall potential will be much greater. The best part is when on this “sustainable diet” you also get to eat plenty of food throughout the day and can even still enjoy going out to eat and splurging in moderation! Funny enough, this “sustainable diet” actually follows some of the same principles used in some of these “fad” diets mentioned above! I’ll call my new diet the “Smart Carb, Modified Paleo, Zone” diet…catchy right?
So let me break down the 3 principles in these “fad” diets that make up my new “sustainable” diet- the Smart Carb, Modified Paleo, Zone diet…man, so catchy!
- Paleo- The Paleo diet is all around not a bad diet because it eliminates all processed food items; however, it also excludes all grains and starches that require cultivation (rice, potatoes, wheat, etc…) and dairy. We have come a long way since the paleolithic era, so lets keep using these newly developed brains we have and eat the grains we now know how to grow! Grains are a great source of fiber that helps to: keep you feeling full, minimize blood sugar spikes, and keep a healthy digestive system. Grains are also a great source for numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Then the diet also doesn’t allow low/non-fat dairy, such as Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a great way to get a quick and easy balanced meal in with high quality protein. Dairy products like yogurt are also a major source for calcium and are usually fortified with vitamin D which is the leading vitamin deficiency in this country. So definitely go Paleo and cut the processed food items, but go ahead and have those filling grains and some low/non-fat dairy!
- Atkins/Extreme Low Carbohydrates- The Atkins diet is all about cutting carbohydrates out of your diet or eating very very little….hope you like to feel terrible all the time because you will on a low-carb diet! This is one of the worst ways to lose weight…almost as bad as severe calorie restriction. Carbohydrates do not make you gain weight. They can contribute to weight gain, but there are numerous other factors that influence body composition/weight gain more than the carbs you eat. You do, however, have to be smart about what types of carbs you eat, the timing of having those carbs, and the amount of carbs you eat. Some simple guidelines to follow with carbohydrates: 1. The best types of carbs to eat are always non-processed wholesome food sources, such as long-grain rice, potatoes, oats, wheat, barley, quinoa, etc…sugar and refined grains like flour are the enemy when trying to lose weight! 2. The best times to eat carbs are earlier in the day when you’re fasted (like at breakfast) and just before/after exercise. As you become less active and/or later in the day into evening you should start to taper your carbohydrate intake down. 3. The amount of carbs you should eat is determined primarily by your activity/exercise level and your current body composition (amount of muscle mass you have.) If you exercise very little and have little muscle mass, then your carbohydrate needs will be low. You do, however, ALWAYS want to stay out of ketosis and for most people that will be a minimum of roughly 60-90g of quality carbohydrates per day (this will vary greatly person to person.) So make sure you stay out of ketosis and then supplement more carbs into your diet if you’re exercising regularly or doing physically demanding work.
- Zone- The Zone diet is based on following a daily macro ratio of 40%carbohydrates, 30%protein, 30%fat (of total daily calories.) The Zone diet hit the nail on the head with setting a daily macro ratio to follow, which is crucial for obtaining a low body fat percentage; however, everyone’s body and macro needs are different. Setting a single macro ratio (40%/30%/30%) for everyone to follow is absurd! The best way to find your appropriate daily macro ratio is to use this formula: Protein (1.5g x lbs. of muscle mass)/Fat (0.5g x body weight)/Carbohydrates (60g [female], 90g [male] + (1g x lbs. of muscle mass) + another 60-90g for every 1 hour of moderate exercise.) So here is an example of my macros for a maintenance plan using this formula:
Protein (1.5g x 200lbs.) = 300g x 4Kcals/g = 1,200Kcals = 33%
Fat (0.5g x 215lbs.) = 107.5g x 9Kcals/g = 976.5Kcals = 26%
Carbohydrates (90g + 200g + 90g) = 380g x 4Kcals/g = 1,520 = 41%
As you can see, my “ideal” daily macro ratio for my current body composition is not far from the Zone diet’s recommendation; however, that may not be the case for you depending on your goals. Here’s what you can do to design your own starting “sustainable” diet. Try plugging your numbers into the formula above and then compare it to your current diet. To get the macro/calorie breakdown of your current diet, use MyFitnessPal which is an electronic food diary that will tell you your daily macro ratios/calorie intake once you complete your daily diary. It’s a great tool that’s free…I use it every day!
Just remember that everyone’s needs and body are different depending on your current body composition, activity/exercise level, and genetic predispositions. Be very careful with your carbohydrate intake if you’re trying to reduce body fat, but make sure you always stay out of ketosis to ensure you can perform optimally. Once you get a daily macro ratio figured out, go to Freedieting.com to use the calorie calculator and then plug in your daily macro ratio into the macro calculator. I suggest following your new “sustainable” eating plan for at least 3 weeks straight before you adjust things based on results and goals. If you’re not losing weight or body fat than lower your calories slightly by cutting your carb intake by 5-10%.
That was a lot of info! If you need personal help designing a sustainable diet plan, I can do all the work for you! Just email me to request a meal planning form to get started with the process!
Justin Check, NSCA-CPT, NESTA-FNC
Check Total Health