Which Diet Is The Best For Losing Weight & Feeling Great?
VEGAN? KETO? PALEO? WHICH DIET IS THE BEST?🤔🤔🤔
I’m sure at some point you’ve heard that at least one of the above will get you sexy, cure your nearsightedness and all while making you feel like a million bucks.
Oh, and you can also eat as much as you want on that diet and still lose weight…
So which one is really the best?
According to research: none of them. Or, all of them. It depends on how you want to look at it. Some research gives a slight edge to vegan, other research gives a slight edge to keto. Even more research shows they’re all about the same. It depends on which markers of health you want to look at.
I’m going to lay it all out for you: the five secrets you need to know if you want to finally lose weight and feel great. They’re organized, starting with the most fundamental at the base (every house is built on a good foundation), and working up to less important in the image below, which I like to call the “hierarchy of nutrition”.
Here’s the rub: none of these “secrets” are actually secrets. They’re not sexy, and you’ve probably heard all or most of them before.
When it comes to getting (or staying) lean, strong and healthy, one “ring” rules them all:
When you look at the research as a whole, the message seems to be pretty clear; at the end of the day, calories are king. However you want to manage them, as long as you’re eating at a deficit (eating less energy, or calories, than you’re burning) you’ll lose weight.
This is good news because it means you can eat whichever menu appeals to YOU most, without all the hand wringing and guilt about whether or not you’re eating carbs or animal products.
A calorie is not exactly a calorie; 100 calories of broccoli is not the same as 100 calories of sugar or steak, and age, hormonal status, and activity level will all affect how food impacts you, but as long as you’re focusing on WHOLE FOODS, you’re pretty much good to go.
A recent study showed that when people eat highly processed foods, they ate more of them each day, even when those foods were “healthy” options like yogurt or granola. Just cutting out processed foods from your diet will go a long way towards getting you back into energy balance for general health and wellness without counting calories.
If your goals are a little more ambitious, like single digit body fat, then calorie counting is going to become more of a thing, but for regular people who just want to maintain healthy body weight, practice eating whole foods, slowly and mindfully and try to stop when you feel 80% full.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of getting into energy balance, or into a deficit if weight loss is your goal, then you can look at getting your macros on point.
Start with meeting your protein goals first.
Multiple peer reviewed studies have shown that focusing on getting at least ~1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight leads to better body compositions. (i.e. more muscle, less fat).
How do you know how much 1.6g per kilo looks like? Start by using your hands: for most women eating one serving of lean protein about the size and thickness of your palm at each meal will get you in the ballpark. For men, double it (two palms). This is just a place to start. If you’re very active, or very muscular, you may need more. Very few should ever eat less.
After you’ve met your protein goal, you can look at carbs and fats. Neither one is evil, but TOO MUCH of BOTH in your system at the same time can be a problem. (Go back to energy balance, if you’re in a deficit, it’s probably not an issue, but if you’re eating at maintenance or a little above, things can start getting ugly.)
Fat is like diesel, while carbohydrate (glucose specifically) is like gasoline. The body is flexible and can run on either, but you don’t want a bunch of both types of fuel floating around in your blood together.
The body will burn glucose FIRST, so while you’re busy using up all your blood sugar, the fat (triglycerides) starts accumulating in places we don’t want.
This, by and large, is the biggest problem with processed foods; they tend to be very high in calories (energy) from both fats AND refined carbohydrates at the same time, which makes them super tasty, which makes us eat too much…
This is why, regardless of whether you prefer high carb or low carb, vegan, etc. you should focus on eating a whole food diet. Whole foods tend to generally be pretty balanced unless you’re adding a whole bunch of butter to your rice, or vice versa.
For fat loss alone, micronutrients are less of an issue. Several research studies have shown that you can lose weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure eating nothing but junk food as long as you’re in a calorie deficit (the so called 7-11 diet), but (and this is a very BIG Kardashian butt), long term it’s not a good strategy for health and wellness.
Everything (including fat loss) just works better when you’re eating a diet high in micronutrients like omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.
Once again, as long as you’re focusing on whole foods first, vegetables in particular, you should be good to go. For long term maintenance of the body, we need to get our micros in to build new cells properly and stay in good health. #focusonwholefoods
Although it’s technically optional, once your humming along nicely with regular meal prep of whole foods, pretty much everyone can benefit from SOME supplementation to optimize our nutrition.
A few words of caution here:
- supplements are not substitutes
- and do your homework!
The supplement industry is not currently regulated by the FDA (both good and bad), so many supplements are “dirty” and may be contaminated with either anabolic or banned substances, or toxic metals like lead, and have little to none of the actual ingredients you want.
With that being said, even a good whole foods diet can have some blind spots (we’re all prone to eating the same foods over and over again or avoiding foods we don’t like).
The modern food system has interrupted our ancestral eating patterns and many genetic polymorphisms exist that interfere with how we deal with micronutrients, and even the very best vegan diet will be deficient in compounds that can ONLY be found in animal products.
I will deal with a more detailed supplement strategy in a future post, but pretty much everyone can benefit from supplementing with vitamin D3, B12, and omega-3s for a good start. #supplementsarenotsubstitutes
While everyone can benefit from some period of daily fasting for at least 12 hours, if you still had coffee and a danish for breakfast, a fast food burger with fries for lunch, and a pint of ice cream after dinner, you don’t need to worry about making sure you get that protein shake after your workout. Go back and focus on the base of the pyramid.
Get your energy balance right, and take care of your macros and micros by eating a whole food diet, and supplement where needed.
Once you’ve mastered the skills of preparing nutrient dense, whole foods every day, you can start looking at meal timing to take your health and body composition a little further towards an ambitious goal.
Some research shows that eating most of your calories early in the day seems to be better for us, or targeting most of your carbohydrate intake for the day around your workout times can help edge you closer to elite levels of leanness or performance. Most people will never need to worry about this, unless your sleep is disrupted, in which case shifting to early eating might help to improve your sleep.
Many coaches might place meal timing ahead of supplementation, but in my opinion, the average person is going to get a lot more mileage out of a good fish oil/vitamin D3, or B vitamin supplement than they will time restricted eating (although many people find TRE a great option to get into energy balance without counting calories). Additionally, I find it hard to meet my protein goal if I’m reducing my eating window too much.
So that’s it, that’s everything you need to know about eating to lose weight and stay healthy. To summarize
- Calories are king. Eat slowly and stop when 80% full. You’ll eat less without counting calories.
- Prioritize protein. You’ll thank me.
- Focus on whole foods to help eat less without counting calories and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.
- Supplement wisely, but not in lieu of real food.
- Fast for at least 12 hours per day if possible and eat the bulk of your food early in the day. Avoid eating too close to bedtime.
Yes, these “secrets” are all pretty simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.
If you need help eating better, improving your health, and getting the body you really want, consider joining our coaching program and get the support, guidance, and accountability you need.