Dieting can be a tricky topic to wrap your head around, especially for people trying to make a change for the first time.
There is a lot of information out there! Some good, some bad, some just weird.
So where do we start?
To start any diet and more importantly be successful with our ‘diet’ we must understand the following factors.
- Who are you? Not in the philosophical sense, although this may help ultimately around your dieting habits, but who are you in regards to the habits you keep, what behaviours do you regularly engage in, how do you speak to yourself, what is your past history with dieting, what are your pitfalls – cravings, sweet teeth and the like.
- What is our goal? This is a crucial step in understanding what approach we need to take. If we have a clear goal, and an actionable plan, we have direction and a way to get to our destination!
- What is our why? Everyone has different reasons for starting a diet, what is yours? Understanding this can be the difference between adhering to your diet or going off the band wagon. Having a solid why behind your actions can keep you moving in the right direction even when motivation ceases. Don’t know how to find yours? Check out our blog here.
- What makes a diet?– This involves our understanding of the variables of dieting – calories, protein, carbs and fats as well as strategies to enable us to be successful. So let’s break these down!
Calories are made up of the proceeding macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Calories are a form of energy.
To calculate how many calories, we must understand the following:
- Protein – has 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates – has 4 calories per gram
- Fat – has 9 calories per gram
That means if we had.
100g of protein (400 calories), 120g of carbohydrates (480 calories), and 40g of fat (360 calories) – the total calories across out day would equal
400 + 480 + 360 = 1240 calories for the day.
Now this is low in my eyes but this is the topic of a blog for another day.
Protein is essential for a large proportion of the everyday chemical reactions that keep us ticking. Outside of just the well-known muscle building properties protein can also assist us in
- Cell development
- Improved bone health
- Immune system booster
- Metabolism booster
- Injury healer
- + more!
Protein is essential in our lives, every day.
Depending on your goal will influence how much protein you have. Ranges between 1.4g to even 3g per kilogram. This means if your 100kg you can have between 140 to 300g per day. This may also look like 30-40% of the dietary intake.
Carbohydrates come in the form of mouth-watering foods such as pizza and potatoes, however much healthier alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains also contain a high amount of carbohydrates.
Within the human body carbohydrates are broken down to simple molecules called glucose. Glucose is a substrate we can store in our muscles and livers to again supply us with readily available energy and hormone secretion. Hormones such as insulin, are useful for transporting glucose out of our blood stream and into and our muscles and liver for energy.
Carbohydrates are not inherently bad; it is the quantity rather that can be damaging. Much like any macronutrient in this, or any venture we take in life, there is a line between not enough, enough and too much.
For most people carbohydrates will constitute the bulk of the diet ranging from 40-50% or 2-6g per kg.
Fat is a powerful energy source particularly for aerobic based activities. Within the context of fats there are many different types, these range from saturated, unsaturated and transfats to keep this blog simple to understand we want to have a lot of unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado), moderate the amount of saturated fats (red meat, bacon, cheese) and aim to avoid transfats (vegetable oils, frozen pizzas).
A healthy recommendation of fat is between 25-40% of your total calorie intake. Keep in mind that fat is higher in calories per gram of fat. The benefit of fat is that it is highly satiating meaning it will fil you up!
Now remember how we set a goal above? Well now we have a novel understanding of calories and macronutrients, we now must apply them to our goal.
For weight loss and weight gain – that is to change our body composition by losing kilograms or gaining them on our body we must change how much we eat!
- For weight loss – we must abide by a calorie deficit
- For weight gain – we must abide by a calorie surplus
Two different strategies, yielding different results.
As a general rule of thumb before and during any endeavour we must track. This may be in the form of body weight, body measurements (girth, skin folds), photos of your body, measuring skin clothes e.t.c.. This allows us to put data our chosen goal.
If we take tracking body weight, I would propose you do this at least 4-5x per week to take an average of your weekly weight. From here we can assess how our dieting intervention is working, if we are gaining, maintaining or losing weight. This then allows us to make informed decisions regarding our diet as to if we need to change or remain the same.
At the end of the day, the success of a diet depends on how adherent you are. If you stick to your chosen diet one day out of the week, how successful do you think you will be?
Correct answer = not very
We must choose diets that are appropriate for our lifestyles, that we can envision sustaining long term and incorporating what we have learned so we may keep our desired bodily changes. Otherwise, what is the point?
Health is not a fixed point, rather it is a continuum, once we view it as such, we can start making habits, putting in place long term strategies to enable us the best change at a healthy lifestyle.
The answer to your question “Which diet is best” is simply – it depends on the person.
Understand yourself – who you are dictates what you will likely be successful with in terms of dieting. Then it is about building a diet that is sustainable around you!
If you want to know more or still don’t know how to apply this to you specifically, feel free to reach out!
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