Nutrition is one of the most important elements of your training program to ensure you can reach your peak in terms of performance. The two work in harmony with one another and so it’s vital you get the balance right. January is always a time for reflection and change, especially after what was probably an over-indulgent festive period. So, this article aims to discuss the most popular diets of 2020 – But remember, we use the term diet very loosely throughout, because what you should really be thinking about is a sustainable lifestyle change. A diet signifies a temporary period of time and isn’t necessarily maintainable. However, amending your whole lifestyle and your views on food and training is the only way to sustain this change over a long period of time. Therefore, the ‘diets’ featured are to give you an idea of how you can incorporate this as part of a long-term lifestyle change.
The Keto diet is somewhat similar to the Atkins diet whereby you eat foods low in carbohydrates, gaining all of your energy from proteins and fats. You should be eating less than 50mg of carbs per day (for someone consuming 2000 calories per day) and so your body will eventually run out of this fuel and will instead break down the protein and fat for its energy source and so you will begin to lose weight – This is called ‘Ketosis’. What’s important to note here is that this is a diet and should only be used in the short-term for its weight loss benefits as opposed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle over a long period of time, because of course, carbs hold an important role in our diets.
If you’re following the Keto diet you should balance your intake as follows: 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbs. Low-carb, high fat foods include avocados, meat, fish, cheese and nuts for example. It’s also important to note that the degree to which you need to restrict carbohydrates, does, in fact, differ from person-to-person.
The Paleolithic diet aims to resemble what human hunter gatherers ate thousands of years ago and is based upon whole foods as opposed to processed foods. Some adopters of this diet eat a high carb version, while others concentrate more on proteins and animal foods. So, eggs, meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts/seeds and healthy fats. Aim to avoid sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, trans fats and artificial sweeteners.
The thought behind this diet is to return to a way of eating that’s more in-tune with what human’s used to eat and therefore what we’re programmed to metabolise. The reasoning is that it’s believed that the genetic body can’t handle the modern diet. This is a great way of changing your lifestyle to include more natural products and can be sustained over a longer period of time than the aforementioned Keto diet for example, because of the balance of foods. However, it does lack in fiber rich grains and legumes and calcium rich dairy.
The Macrobiotic diet came into play in the 1920’s and aims to avoid foods containing toxins. It concentrates on choosing foods from an organic source which is locally grown as well as seasonal produce. It aims at getting around 40-60% of your calorie intake from wholegrains, 20-30% from fruits and vegetables and 10-25% from beans and bean produce. It also has some surrounding suggestions such as only eating when hungry as opposed to your standard three meals per day. It recommends not using microwaves or hobs, purifying water before cooking with it or drinking it and avoiding fizzy drinks, squash, caffeine and alcohol. This attempts to balance the supposed yin and yang elements of food and food preparation. Some adopters of this diet follow it to a tee making sure they prepare food only in this way, whilst others follow it more loosely, using only the basic elements.
Possibly one of the more complicated diets, carb cycling should only be used in the short-term and is often adopted by high-level athletes. It is a planned alteration of carbs to prevent a fat loss plateau and maintain metabolism in conjunction with workout performance. The restriction of carbs over a long period of time can have an adverse effect on metabolism and can have a negative impact on your weight loss/training journey.
Carb cycling enables you to have a higher carbohydrate intake at planned intervals which means your body never gets close to starvation mode. It also means those who partake are less likely to crave and therefore binge on carbs. There are different variants, but the basic thought behind it is that protein and fat consumption stays at the same level, whereas carb intake is manipulated.
Bodybuilders, athletes and strength trainers may follow a very strict carb cycling regime, however, the following is a good example of how anyone can follow this program: Essentially, on the days you’re planning to train, carbs are obviously extremely important as your body will use these as well as fat for energy, leaving the proteins alone. On the days you’re not training, unused carbs can be stored as glucose in your fat cells. And so, on training days, up your carbs and non-training days try and reduce as much as possible, but within reason.
On an average high carb day, 60% of your calorie intake should come from complex carbohydrates (900 calories if you’re consuming 1500 calories). If you have completed an intense workout then add 1-2 extra servings of this type of carbs, so legumes, wholegrains or fruits. On the days you’re not working out, swap one or two of your usual carb rich foods with protein, vegetables or healthy fats.
As mentioned at the start of this blog, the important thing with changing your eating habits is adopting a healthy and maintainable lifestyle. It could be that you combine elements of all of these diets, but please do make sure you get the balance right so you can carry this throughout the year and further. Food is a fuel, but it’s also a pleasure and so take into account your training regime and make sure you aren’t restricting yourself to such an extreme you fall off the wagon – You need to be able to maintain peak performance.