What is the best diet?
Understanding or defining the best diet is nearby impossible. Why? Because individual differences dictate that the best diet for you is different from that of anyone else. You may have a best diet in theory, but we could only learn that after testing.
This blog will discuss a subject far simpler (and more practical). Among the many popular diet programmes available, which present the smartest choice for you? We have written this article to discuss our opinion on some of the more common recent dietary trends and how we understand they rank in terms of general health and conduciveness to optimal body composition. Consider this a quick critique of some of the more popular diet trends of 2019.
The Good, The Bad and the Well Placed
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet (MD) is so called because it attempts to mirror dietary habits from Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy. If you are a reader of nutritional journals (as those within our team are) this diet consistently appears high on lists of healthy nutrition practices recommended by Western medicine.
An example meal on the Mediterranean Diet might include: Pan-fried fish with brown rice, vegetables and olive oil.
Key components of a MD are liberal quantities of vegetables, olive oil, leaner proteins (typically fish) and nuts, with no calorie restrictions. Proponents of a MD often encourage users to reduce sugar intake, which was traditionally rare in this region.
Our Opinion: There is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that following a MD reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, several well-conducted randomised control trials (recently and historically) found that a MD was effective for weight loss. However, weight loss results were far better when the diet was combined with caloric restriction and exercise. The diet also has mounting evidence to suggest its efficiency in reducing harmful LDL cholesterol, more so than low-fat and low-carb diets.
A MD clearly satisfies long-term term health goals and can help deliver fat loss results. As with all broad-scope diets, the specifics of your approach would need to be orientated to your goals and specific needs. Eating the variety of foods suggested by a MD means you will have no reason to become bored with your food choices. This diet is easily maintained when eating in restaurants or socially, with friends and family.
The Carnivore Diet
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike… Just kidding! As the name suggests, this recent addition to the long list of popular diets is comprised almost entirely of meats and other animal products. It’s the anti-vegetarian diet, if you will.
An example meal on the Carnivore Diet might be: steak and eggs.
The popular (and controversial) Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson has helped bring this diet to its height of popularity. Peterson credited the diet for ‘curing’ several of his daughter’s ongoing health ailments, such as arthritis. However, Shawn Baker, author of the book titled ‘The Carnivore Diet’, must take the majority of the credit for its growth in popularity. Baker describes the diet as “a revolutionary, paradigm-breaking nutritional strategy that takes contemporary dietary theory and dumps it on its head’. Whether or not we agree with the diet’s efficacy (details to follow) we enjoy those who intelligently challenge conventional nutritional wisdom.
Our Opinion: The carnivore diet is unbalanced. Fruit and vegetables have a wealth of research behind their importance in building and maintaining a lean and healthy body. Furthermore, vegetables are one of the only food groups that almost all nutritionist agree are (or, should be) a staple within human nutrition. The Carnivore Diet theory raises various excellent points and challenges commonly accepted wisdom. However, with substantial evidence in support of the impact of plant-based food on improved heart health, its anti-cancer properties and digestive benefits we can not support the removal of these foods. Similarly, we can not advise such a narrowed dietary practice in the long-term.
The Carb Cycling “Diet”
Another self-explanatory title. When carb cycling, you cycle (regularly change/adapt) the amount or carbohydrate you consume from one day to the next. On days when you are to exercise intensely, you consume more carbohydrates. On days when you rest/recover (or perform low intensity exercise), you consume less carbohydrate. Carb cycling is one of various recent types of nutrient cycling: scheduling a differing intake of macronutrients around your training plan. We like this diet.
An example meal whilst carb cycling might be: On a high-carb day; chilli con carne with rice. On a low-carb day; oily fish with green vegetables.
This dietary approach essentially means moving your carbohydrate intake up and down in accordance with your activity levels. Nutrient timing in this manner has been used for many years in athletics and has now become mainstream. Clients using our Transformation Programme will often use some variation of carb cycling to achieve their leanest physique. As your body ‘works harder’ when it doesn’t have access to carbohydrate as fuel, we can use this diet to ‘learn’ to become a more efficient ‘burner’ of carbohydrates when they are available. Further, to use them well when we most need them; during out workout.
Our Opinion: Macronutrient cycling was originally designed for athletes and (more recently) bodybuilders as part of their recovery during various phases of their training and to optimise body weight. While this diet can absolutely aid fat loss, carbohydrates are an energy source for the body, and restricting them should be done using a considered approach (preferably, under supervision). You might feel and perform better finding the level of carbohydrates on which your body thrives by eating regular portion sizes and a balance of all food groups at each meal.
Remember, carb cycling is based on the principles and drivers of sports nutrition. Unless you are training often and at an intensity to warrant a meticulous approach to your nutrition, it’s is probably not for you.
Thank you for reading.
To read something similar, try Optimising Your Vegan Diet