In the First installment of this series, I discussed optimal protein dosage, understanding the role of carbohydrates/insulin in your plan, and making sure your diet is sustainable. So, let’s get back to fixing your shitty diet.
1. Your Body Doesn’t Lie
With the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) rage and the many calories in/out articles piling up, I think that it’s important to remember one thing: Your Body, Your Results, and How You Respond Don’t Lie. And yes, I agree—there are no technically “good” or “bad” foods. However, I do believe that some choices are more nutritious than others.
Body sculpting is about more than just calories, but for most people, calories are the main culprit. People just eat too damn much and do too little. Create a deficit and lose weight, but building an incredibly lean and muscular physique is more complex than this and will require some other measures.
Again, your body is the judge. If dairy causes you gastrointestinal distress, then you should avoid it. That doesn’t make dairy “bad” in general. It just means that it is not an optimal choice for you. If you are someone who prefers to avoid what most consider junk food, and this helps you adhere to your diet, then that’s great. You have to find what works for you.
Some people get a taste of a few french fries and lose all control, others don’t. The problem with IIFYM is the elitist attitude that seems to go along with it. I love eating pizza and wings, but some people just want to stick with lean meats and veggies. That’s their prerogative. Why are you so pissed that they prefer to eat whatever they deem as clean foods? Not everyone has the same goals or discipline.
Bodybuilders can do well with IIFYM because they often know their body and how they respond to nutrients, hunger, and dieting. This is where experimenting is key. Start to be more cognizant of how certain foods make you feel, when you tend to overeat, what you can get away with, and what you can’t. Dieting is highly individual and there are many ways to achieve your goal. I personally feel better fasting, eating low-moderate carb, and higher protein/fat. Does that make it right? No, it’s just right for me. (I have begun writing an eBook on how to use fasting to change your body, and I go much more in-depth on IIFYM and the calories in/out debate).
2. Ditch the Cheat Meals
Now, before you punch your computer screen and go all Office Space on it, hear me out. I use cheat meals and refeeds with bodybuilding/figure competitors; however, for simple, effective, and lifelong health/fat loss for your everyday person, they may be detrimental. If you are just looking to maintain your physique or find a diet that you can follow for life, then your plan must be sustainable.
A 12-week bodybuilding diet isn’t and doesn’t need to be sustainable; it’s a diet with a goal and an end in sight. Most people aren’t looking to hit four-percent body fat. So, they need more than a diet—what they truly need is a lifestyle change. If you are a trainer/coach and you give all clients a six to eight small-meal bodybuilding type diet, then you’re a moron and you should not be giving out advice.
Cheat meals often lead to binge eating (I am guilty of this too), and sometimes this can spill over into the next few days. If your diet is overly restrictive, you will eventually cave and over-indulge. So let’s say you completely cut out carbs. In your diet, you have defined what’s good or bad—in this case carbohydrates are bad. So, like everything else in life, you will want what you can’t have. Then when you do eat some carbohydrates, you feel guilty. If you feel guilty, you may feel hopeless or powerless, and then you might just kick the diet all together. It becomes a rollercoaster of emotions and you build an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s easy to say, “eat lean meats, fruits, and veggies—and that’s all.” And yes, while a healthy ratio of those foods will make it easier to eat less, just eating those foods alone doesn’t ensure fat or weight loss.
At some point you are always going to have to eat less. For most people, however, the first thing they need to learn is moderation and portion control. Then, once progress begins to stall, you can start to focus on food selection a bit more by worrying about your protein, fats, etc. Still, if you can learn to eat foods moderately and don’t eat when you’re full, you can still work towards your physique goals without the need for massive binges.
3. Diet During Your Diet?
Confusing headline, right? Well, let’s think about your training. Some of you probably use deloads or block your training between periods of strength, hypertrophy, etc. You can and should apply this same rationale to dieting. Whether you are trying to gain weight or drop body fat, some periods where you get away from your current routine will provide some benefits.
- It will break the monotony of your current diet. The less bored you are, the more likely you are to be consistent. At the end of the day, a diet is only as good as your ability to follow it.
- If body fat is getting too high, you will want to stop and re-prime your body. I’ve discussed some of the negative hormonal responses that occur when adding too much body fat in my previous article. I believe it’s beneficial to give your body a break. If “bulking,” stop overwhelming your body with a surplus of calories day-in and day-out for a few weeks, whether you use this time to restore insulin sensitivity by going carbless for a few days/weeks or just to stabilize and maintain your current weight.
Think of it like this:
You go lift some heavy shit —>Your workout sends a message to your body—->If this exercise is challenging, it places proper mechanical tension and loading upon the body/muscles. If it happens regularly —>Your body adapts —->But you aren’t always immediately better after what you do, and the progress isn’t linear—->Your body must now stabilize to fully realize and actualize these gains.
Your diet (deficit or surplus) sends a message to your body —->Energy status being high will prime us for storage—–>Energy status being low will prime us for weight loss—>Regardless, your body will aim for homeostasis—-> Too much of a surplus or deficit will yield negative results, either too much fat gained or too much tissue lost—>Breaks will allow the body to get away from either low/high energy states and balance out—>This allows you to work WITH your body, not against it all the time.
Whether you give yourself two weeks to ease off a bit and enjoy life or you use a few weeks to try to scale back body fat, it’s useful to include periods like this.
4. Use Some Low Intensity Cardio
I know that I’ve been rather hard on cardio in some previous articles, but it definitely has a time and a place. I think it’s the perfect activity to do on off days because of its circulatory/restorative nature, assuming that its low/moderate intensity. I do think a blend of HIIT and low intensity steady state is the best for fast fat loss, but that’s for a different article. It’s a really easy way to increase your overall “work” and allows you to sneak in some more calories, too. Everyone loves eating, and nobody dieting will ever turn down some extra food. I know that it’s popular at the moment to not want to do any cardio while dieting, and if that works for you, then stick with it. But it really doesn’t hurt to have a strong(er) aerobic base.
Throwing in some cardio can help you recover in between grueling training sessions and improve cardiovascular efficiency (a healthy efficient heart is cool). And I know you feel really hardcore because you just lift and don’t do cardio, but your health is important too, right? It’s also a nice way to switch over from being sympathetic-dominant (fight or flight) all the time to parasympathetic (rest and digest). By activating the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, you may just notice that you are more relaxed and feel better overall.
Now back to your shitty diet, until next time.