One of the biggest doubts that come to mind for people who follow a particular type of diet to lose fat or gain muscle mass is to know if their dietary approach is the best one based on their goals. Regardless of the level of rigor put into their diets, there is still some doubt among the greatest athletes. Which is normal.
We all want to optimize our efforts and if there is a chance to speed up the process, why not take advantage of something better. The problem is that there as many effective food approaches as there are people to apply them to. What I mean by that is that just because a typical approach works for someone, it is not a guarantee that it is the best one for another person.
And I’m not talking about the effectiveness of the diet itself. Ultimately, any diet that provides a calorie deficit will lead to weight loss if properly applied. Conversely, all diets that create a caloric surplus will create a weight gain. Now the amount of weight lost or gained depends largely on certain characteristics of your diet.
Let’s summarize in a few lines the 3 main variations of diets:
This is the measure of energy brought to your body. Basically, a calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. In food, the calorie is used as a unit of measurement to quantify foods, therefore the quantity of heat produced by what we ingest, which allows to give the “combustible” material to our organism.
This is the main unit of measure by which we can consider a gain of weight or a loss of weight. The calorie itself does not dictate the nature of this loss or gain.
They are the nutritional composition of your food and are divided into three large families: protein, carbohydrates and lipids. Each of these three families has specific functions in the body and greatly influences the type of weight that you will lose or gain. Depending on how they are balanced in your diet, they will also be the source of your fuel both at rest and training.
Here, the debate is spectacular regarding the ideal balance adopted in a diet. It is on this balance that the majority of ”concept” diets are based (low fat, low carbs, keto, zone, Atkins, etc. …).
Micronutrients – also called vitamins and minerals – are essential components of a quality diet and have profound effects on health. Micronutrient deficiencies are often referred to as “invisible hunger” because they develop gradually over time. Micro nutrition will influence the “health” factor of your weight loss or gain. Some dietary approaches will require you to pay more attention to your balance in vitamins and minerals.
It is also an aspect that many people neglect and end up with very little results from their efforts or do not feel the benefits. This is the factor by which you give the raw material to build hormones, enzymes and different factors related to food processing.
Now that our base in food biology is well revised, we know that these 3 main variables will be responsible for the physical process related to the choice of the nutritional protocol. But there is much more to consider if we want to make a choice that suits you. When a client comes to me for a nutrition consultation, I always analyze several variables.
What I mean is that it is not only the objectives that must be considered but also the factors that surround the possibility of respecting the protocol and sticking to it without it being hell to live daily. It does not take away the discipline and the effort that must be put in, but if you swim against the current from the start, it’s unlikely to endure over time.
If you try to adhere to a typical bodybuilding diet approach asking that you eat 6 to 7 times a day but your schedule only allows you to sit down to eat 3 times, there is a good chance it will create an unnecessary extra stress to your life.
Many times, you will have to skip a meal, stick 2 meals simultaneously for lack of time, eat fast, etc., which will cause you to not respect the plan and also creates digestive disorders. Be realistic in the number of meals you can consume per day, evaluate your daily schedule and divide your food needs according to this schedule.
With all the existing dietary patterns and concepts, it’s not uncommon to see people sticking to a type of diet just because Bob or Jack has had good results. It is not uncommon to see people persevere while several internal discomforts are present (digestive discomfort, constipation, diarrhea, etc.). The food approach chosen should optimize the digestive functions at all times.
You benefit from what you absorb. If the digestive system is not optimized, it is only a matter of time before you feel the negative effects on other adjacent factors (performance, energy, sleep, concentration, etc.).
One of the strengths is the optimization of nutrition according to the Neuro profile. Just as the type of training based on your Neuro profile will help you to perform at your best and appreciate and progress your training, the nutritional approach based on the Neuro profile will allow you to persist in time and to optimize your focus, energy, stress and sleep management, as well as recovery.
Based on your dominance in neurotransmitters, we approach nutrition from the external (time, your rhythm of life) and internal (digestion) point of view, as well as from the neurological point of view (Neuro profile).
Another factor to consider is the quality of the food you consume in your diet. Nutrition is not just about caloric ratio and protein / carbohydrate / lipid balance. The quality of the foods you ingest, their glycemic index, sugar, saturated and trans fat content and the food additives will have an impact on the overall results and health.
It is not uncommon to see certain dietary approaches being demonized under the pretext that you are getting fat or are at risk of creating health problems. The low-fat approach based on proteins and carbohydrates mostly seldom see themselves as an ideal approach for fat loss. Go talk to all those bodybuilders who consume a majority of carbs in large quantities and carry fat levels close to 3 to 4%.
And please, do not play the anabolic aid card, it is no longer applicable in today’s era and all sports and categories have access to ergogenic help in one form or another. Many people see the keto approach as ideal for weight loss, but many are critical of it’s cardiovascular risk. Yet I have several clients who have sorted out their cholesterol problem and greatly improved their pancreatic function with this approach.
What needs to be understood is that the foods themselves will play a much bigger role than the amount of carbohydrates or lipids present. If you eat mostly bacon and cheese on a keto, I bet you won’t get as healthy as promised. Same thing for carbs, if your carbs contain a high level of sugar, expect to see the same bad things happen on health.
I must admit that I am not a fan of closed food concepts, but I understand that people need to adhere to a formula because often it makes the design or understanding of the system easier. So, in order to help you choose a direction that will benefit you, I explore and extend the features as well as the key points to remember about 4 popular nutritional approaches.
Usually, the macro used for the low-fat approach is moderate to high in protein and moderate to high in carbohydrates while fat is minimized. Depending on your goal (fat loss or muscle gain), the amount of carbohydrates can be modulated or cycled to produce the desired effects.
This approach is quite versatile and is used well in a context of both muscle gain and fat loss. Using carbohydrates in the diet helps to maintain some of the insulin and it’s anabolic benefits for muscle mass gain. The majority of athletes will also support a greater volume of training in the presence of constant muscle glycogen synthesis.
For fitness athletes, it is very popular due to the fact that the feeling of flattening muscle is much less felt. The idea of filling your glycogen reserves regularly keeps you fuller and rounder during the dieting phase.
This approach also helps to maintain greater conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to T3. This would allow a healthy weight loss in the longer term and sustainable results more easily.
This approach may require you to eat several times a day due to the low-fat content. Carbohydrate is digested much faster, leaving more fluctuation in blood sugar. From a health point of view, nothing serious since the goal is to use low glycemic index to decrease the production of insulin in large quantities unnecessarily.
On the other hand, from an appetite management point of view, it is not uncommon for people to eat every 2-3 hours to maintain their energy and concentration (glycemic swing). A higher amount of protein and low glycemic carbs will help manage appetite and fill hunger longer.
The low-fat approach is very effective in lowering blood cholesterol among other LDL, but inefficient to optimize HDL. Remember to use fish oil 2 to 3 times a day to maintain a good level of HDL.
Berberine is the ideal ally to help store muscle glycogen. Ideally consume the first weeks by increasing carbohydrate carriers gradually or after long periods of high carbs intake. Between 1000 and 2000mg per day to consume at meal. Note that a constant use of 6 to 8 weeks is ideal to benefit fully.
The plant is used to make certain antidiabetic drugs such as metformin. By pushing blood glucose into muscle cells, it helps maintain insulin sensitivity during periods of higher carbohydrate consumption. It is just as useful to use in times of fat loss as it will require much less insulin for glucose transport in the cells leaving a lower blood glucose level and lower insulin levels which allows the release of AMPk and facilitates the fat burning.
Opt for high-fiber, low-glycemic foods such as oatmeal, integral flours, potatoes and sweet potatoes, rice and high-fiber fruit. Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, lean fish will help you minimize the amount of fat in your diet. Minimize sugar consumption, you will see a larger window to consume carbohydrates.
The low carbs approach has been very popular since the 1990s. The idea that limiting carbohydrate intake would reduce insulin levels circulating in the blood and promote greater fat loss, which is not wrong, is in fact an approach proven especially for quick weight loss.
Reducing carbs consumption quickly removes water retention from the individual and therefore creates rapid weight loss through loss of water and muscle glycogen (be careful, the fat loss is not that fast). Generally, this approach can provide severe calorie deficit if the amount of protein is not increased in the diet.
It’s an approach that delivers quick and convincing results. Ideal for a quick fix. The loss of water can give you the illusion of having lost fat and could allow you to wear that fabulous dress or to present yourself on the beach in a better day than at the exit of the East Side Mario’s.
If you learn to cycle calories and carbohydrates regularly so as to support long-term deficit without also creating a negative metabolic fit over time, this approach may be effective for those who have tried other methods without success.
Not ideal for muscle mass gain. Being limited not only in energy nutrients can make the training more difficult in a state of depletion but also the absence of carbohydrates minimizing the production of insulin depriving us of the anabolic advantage of this hormone. Poorly managed and applied too harshly in the long run, it loses its effectiveness over time and you end up trapped. You end up painting yourself in a corner.
That is, your maintenance calories alone may become too low and when you cannot lose weight anymore, your only option is to go even lower, which leads to an extremely negative metabolic adaptation. When the diet is no longer sustainable, your only option is to increase the calories which in this position, will cause you to gain back weight.
As this approach is ideal for fat loss, antioxidant and AMPK-boosting supplements will accelerate the results and help you limit time in zones of severe deficiency.
Here is a list of AMPK activators
Green tea extract
ALA (alpha lipoic acid)
In this approach, I strongly suggest the addition of a fiber supplement. Also, the fact of having to increase your animal protein intake due to the caloric restriction caused by low levels of carbohydrates and fat may require adding digestive enzymes and HCL for complete protein digestion.
If you use this approach, try to use it in a period where you can determine a start and an end and thus give a maximum of effort to progress during this period. Otherwise, know how to apply regular refeed periods to keep your metabolic functions at their best and your training intensity high.
Whether it’s a fad, a religion, or whatever you think about it, the ketogenic diet has been able to build a broad base of practicing. Originally used in the 1920s to 1940s to treat epilepsy, the beginning of the 21st century increased its popularity among people who use it as a lifestyle, fat loss and even among sportsmen.
The use of a majority of fat and a moderate amount of protein by completely eliminating carbohydrates (or a very minimal consumption under the 50gr per day) would allow to release a greater quantity of ketone bodies by the use of the fatty acid stored by the body as fuel.
It goes without saying that one of the first benefits of the ketogenic diet is the improvement of the digestive process, especially in people with intolerance to gluten, celiac or IBS. Like the Low Carbohydrate Approach, reducing or even eliminating carbohydrate intake will produce a strong elimination of water and glycogen retention.
Which for many is very satisfactory from a short-term aesthetic point of view. The very weak stimulation of insulin creates a stability of the glycemia which makes it possible to avoid energy crashes. The majority of long-term practitioners keep their concentration and focus without feeling the appetite or being inconvenienced in the least.
Nothing is perfect, and the keto diet isn’t either. One of the major negative aspects is the difficulty of adaptation during the first days/weeks of this approach. If the selling element of this approach is infinite energy, it is quite the opposite during the adaptation period which for many seems endless and too heavy to continue.
One must also also consider the significant loss of electrolytes due to loss of water. The individual will normally increase their consumption of sodium, potassium, magnesium quickly in the beginning or the adverse effects of significant electrolyte losses are felt after some time. This diet can become difficult to respect during meals in public places, banquet, invitations to dinner, etc.
Many supplements can be used in every dietary concept, but usually the one that applies to the low carbs approach will also suit the keto approach. I would also suggest adding a fiber supplement.
The addition of ketone supplements can be great to accelerate the fat adaptation process, especially for beginners in this approach. Also, for fitness athletes or anyone who wish to get to a very low level of body fat. Like any diet, energy subtracts must be cut to allow for lower calories, so ketones can be of great help here to help combat fatigue and maintain focus and brain function.
As mentioned previously, the keto approach will require you to supplement with added electrolytes. For beginners, I usually suggest adding electrolytes supplements for workout to help in sodium, potassium and magnesium replenishment.
The very high consumption of fat will also require adaptation on a digestive level. Do not be surprised by alternating constipation and diarrhea in the early days. It may take a while to find the ideal balance. I strongly suggest adding a digestive enzyme complex containing lipase but also stimulate the production of bile by adding supplements such as milk thistle, dandelion and taurine amino acid.
Very popular in recent years, intermittent fasting seems to be very promising in the treatment of several metabolic syndromes. There is also an increasingly practical use among those who seek to improve their body composition by creating periods of fasting and alternating periods of caloric compensation.
This practice optimizes several functions of the body, both digestive and neurological. Macronutrition is not a factor to consider since intermittent fasting is a period of fast in itself. The choice of macros can take advantage of any other food approach during the eating period.
This approach optimizes digestion functions quickly, improves insulin sensitivity, decreases insulin circulation and can accelerate weight loss by creating more severe caloric deficits. This approach is very versatile and can be used in conjunction with any other dietary approach. Long fasting periods promote cell repair, growth hormone production and a significant reduction in blood insulin levels, which, of course, facilitates fat loss.
Contrary to popular belief, intermittent fasting stimulates metabolism and not the other way around. The survival mechanism that is activated after several hours of fasting will actually increase the production of catecholamines and allow greater mental and physical acuity that will lead to a higher metabolic rate.
Just like the keto approach, it can be difficult to adapt to the fast period if one starts with this approach. The electrolyte losses are considerable and if not supplemented, can lead to periods of fatigue and loss of strength and muscle congestion during workouts. Caloric restriction is severe in the short term and it can also have very detrimental effects on the psychological relationship with food.
Many will alternate periods of fasting and binging. What I see in some people is that the appetite is not being effectively satisfied. Although a person is full, he will be tempted to eat more. This behavior leads to over-eating, and it almost kills the underlying purpose of body composition improvement in the first place.
The use of ketones can be a considerable addition for this approach. During the fasting periods, the use of ketones will help maintain focus, energy and also control appetite. Adjust the amounts of ketone supplements consumed according to the fasting time used.
Supplements found in all other dietary approaches can be mixed according to the choice of nutritional direction undertaken during meal times.
There are many ways to start practicing intermittent fasting. I would suggest you start with short periods of 16 hours. Then work your way by increasing the duration of the fast. The fasting periods can be alternated with short meal periods every day or can also be scheduled as full days during the week, spacing well on the fasting days and days of more caloric feeding.
Take advantage of the fasting time to increase your cardiovascular activity, this is an effective time to burn fat.