What is the best diet for weight loss?
Low-carb, ketogenic, vegetarian, paleo, intermittent fasting, and the list goes on and on. There is an almost endless number of different ways to eat.
With so many different diets to choose from and so much contradictory nutritional information out there on the internet, it can be rather difficult to distinguish exactly what “healthy eating” is and which diet is the best for losing weight.
Every dietary method comes with a unique definition as to what it means to eat healthy and to achieve weight loss, and therefore, each comes with a different set of nutritional rules. For low-carb and keto diets, the rule is to restrict carbohydrates. If you submit to intermittent fasting, you are only able to eat during certain times of day.
The problem with these diets, and most of mainstream nutrition for that matter, is that they are based on ideologies, as opposed to scientific principles. This helps to explain why mainstream nutrition information tends to be so misleading, confusing, and contradictory, especially to those who aren't professionals in the health and fitness feild.
Are carbohydrates bad or good? Well how can you be expected to know when everyone is preaching something different?!
The only nutrition information that most of us are exposed to comes from the media, which tends to be ideologically and not based on scientific fact. Each diet ideology comes with nutritional gurus who claim to have that one special “secret” to weight loss. Well let me clue you in on the real secret,
ALL THESE DIETS WORK!
Most importantly, they work for the same reason, whether the guru knows it or not. Quite simply, each diet is using some form of dietary restriction in order to indirectly reduce caloric intake. They restrict various foods, certain macronutrients such as carbs or fat, or they restrict the amount of time that you have to eat, in the case for intermittent fasting.
To further explain that drives the success of these diets, here's a quick review of how energy balance and weight loss works.
Energy balance is the relationship between the number of calories that are taken into the body via food and drink versus the number of calories that are used up within the body for basic energy requirements. Simply put, energy balance is the comparison of energy consumption, “calories in”, versus energy expenditure, “calories out”.
A Negative energy balance, also referred to as a caloric deficit or a hypocaloric diet, occurs when energy expenditure exceeds energy consumption. In this scenario, food intake does not supply all the necessary energy that is required for the body’s mandatory functions. Therefore, calories must be supplied via energy stores found within the body, leading to a decrease in bodyweight.
With the energy balance equation in mind, lets consider some of the popular fad diets out there.
The iconic graphic below is brought to you by MyoLean Fitness. The table does a fantastic job of demonstrating how these popular diets work. Thank you myoleanfitness.com for putting our minds at ease.
Okay, in summary, what does this teach us about dieting?
First off, it tells us that any diet can lead to weight loss.
Secondly, it reveals to us that a universally BEST diet probably doesn’t exist.
Thirdly, we should focus on principals and not ideologies.
The key to successful dieting is finding an individualized approach that fits you. The approach must be somewhat flexible, realistic, and tailored to fit your food preferences and lifestyle. The goal is to create a “way of eating” and not just a temporary short-term “diet”. Adherence and sustainability is the key. If you can’t stick to a diet then what good is it?
When you start a diet, ask yourself this question, “Do I see myself eating this way one year from now?”. If not, then you may want to consider trying out another approach.
It’s important to look at nutrition from a much broader perspective than what the mainstream media tends to rope us into. We get exposed to methods and not the larger principals that drive them. Don’t submit to an ideology or fall too in love with any one method. Try to recognize the driving principles behind what makes your diet healthy and effective for supporting your performance and physique goals. Once you understand the overarching principals, such as energy balance, you can begin to customize your diet in a manner that enforces the principals while catering to your individual needs.