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Let’s Talk About Diets
In the following article, I’m going to go over what the term “diet” actually means, the basics of maintaining your diet, the popular different types of diets and also provide some personal and anecdotal tips and advice that I hope might help you. So without further ado, what is a diet? Well, technically your diet is literally everything you eat or consume, regardless of your reasoning/goals. Of course, when people say they’re dieting or on a diet they’re more often than not referring to trying to lose weight, but you need to make adjustments in your diet depending on any goal, whether that is to lose, gain or maintain your weight. So from here, I’m going to talk about what the science says when it comes to dieting and the overall scientific conclusions and consensus on weight loss, weight gain or maintenance. Moving on from what is essentially the underlying fundamentals of dieting I’ll be listing a few various examples of popular dieting strategies and comparing their practices to the basic scientific principles. So what does the science say? How do I lose, gain or maintain weight? Ultimately, calories are king. They dictate any form of significant and long-term weight manipulation we might try to achieve and in the simplest of terms if you eat less or take in less energy than you expend then you will lose weight, if you consume more energy than you expend you will gain weight and if the amount of energy you consume and expend is equal then you will maintain your weight. This is the basic principles behind calories in vs. calories out and the first law of thermodynamics in biological terms. So the first and one of the most accurate ways of dieting is to use calorie counting. My personal preferred way of using calorie counting is to first find out your maintenance calories and either add or subtract 10% depending on your goal. Using this strategy to figure out your maintenance calories can be done by weighing and measuring all your food/calories daily over the week (aiming for the same number or very similar every day) and weighing yourself every day at the same time (preferably in the morning on an empty stomach for accuracy). If your weight remains more or less constant (some minor fluctuations are acceptable) then you’re eating at maintenance. If you’ve gained or lost weight you’re eating in either a surplus or deficit, meaning that depending on your goals you may have to readjust how much you eat. Breaking this method down further you move into macronutrient tracking which just means you need to have a little understanding of energy density, but fear not if you don’t, for I’m about to explain it! The macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats contain 4,4 and 9 calories per gram. So taking this into account we know that 10 grams of carbs will contain 40 calories (the same with protein) and 10 grams of fat will contain 90 calories. So you can see that fats possess over double the amount of calories as both carbohydrates and protein. This is the basis of why “low fat” diets can work for weight loss. It isn’t to say fats make you fat (far from it), but clearly, we can see how by reducing your fat intake slightly can have a significant effect on reducing your overall calorie consumption. Similarly though, “low carb” diets work in exactly the same way, by reducing total calorie/energy intake. Choosing low fat or low carb options will depend on either individual preference and/or their type of activity. So how do you set up your calories and macronutrients? Well, let me use some random stats as an example. Let’s take a guy who weighs around 90kg or 200lbs whose maintenance calories are set at 2500 and his goal is to lose weight (fat) while maintaining strength and size. So what I’d do initially is drop his calories by 10% (250), so his new calorie target would be 2250 (2500 – 250). What I would then do (and this can be heavily debated) is to set his protein around 1.5-2g protein per kg of bodyweight, so in this case, let’s use the high end of 180g (90 x 2). 180g of protein equates to 720 calories (180 x 4), so with that said we now have 1780 calories to fill with carbs and fats (2500 – 720). However you decide to allocate your calories from here is entirely up to you but I’m assuming this guy trains quite regularly and does some sort of athletic style of training, therefore I want to keep his carbs as high as possible (emphasis on “as possible”). For that reason, I’m going to use 2.5g carbs per kg bodyweight, which in this case will be 225g, which further equates to 900 calories (225 x 4). So now in total, he’s consuming 180g of protein, 225g carbs and a total of 1620 calories (720 + 900). This means he now has 630 calories left (2500 – 1620) to get from fats. To get his fat intake I’ll just divide 630 by 9 because as we learned before each gram of fat contains 9 calories. This ends up being 70g of fat. So his overall macronutrient and calorie breakdown would look like this: Calories: 2250 Protein: 180g Carbohydrates: 225g Fats: 70g I mentioned earlier that this is one of the best and most accurate ways of measuring and manipulating your energy intake, however, it isn’t perfect and does have its drawbacks. As a Coach, I’ve noticed this method really isn’t that viable for students, people who don’t do their own shopping and/or cooking or families. Sure all of these people can use calorie and macro tracking, but I’ve noticed they tend to have a lot more barriers. For example, I currently have a client who is a partner and a mother of 3 and who is also the main member of the family who prepares meals. …