Experience tells that for most, there’s an epiphany, a moment that encourages them to change dietary habits. For some, there may be a specific goal, a marathon to run or other such variations on a bucket list item. For others, it can simply be the realisation that their youthful leanness has been left at the bottom of a lager or wine glass. All of a sudden jeans get tight and dresses are discarded. T-shirts that once fitted start to resemble compression garments. You may even read the ramblings of a guy in a magazine…. Hopefully, these realisations precede the all too common negative health effects of excessive weight gain. Whatever the motivation, at some point, most people decide something has to be done.
On the path to the new, dietary-savvy you, there is a plethora of conflicting opinions and “bro science” that you’ll hear at your local gym as you begin your new regime. An article such as this simply can’t afford the word count, nor would you want to read all of the fables that exist. Instead, think of it as a series of warnings. Hopefully, and taken with an achievable goal (see Mitch Achurch’s article Why You Won’t Ever Achieve Your Goals) it may be the rudder to keep your yacht on course to the new you.
The first warning is a complex one. Hell, no one said this was easy or we’d all look like Bradley Martyn (if curious, Google the guy – he’s a freak!). Regardless, firstly, do not value anecdote over data. Down the gym, the biggest and leanest guy may well tell you X, Y and Z worked for him. It may well have done, but can he explain why? Does he have an understanding of thermodynamics and protein synthesis? I’d wager not. In addition, there’s the additions of supplements to consider, and the urban myths of personal-trainer gurus, of eating eight meals regularly to maintain high metabolism. That being said, the warning is not meant to discount those who have been there and done that. The idea is that you listen, absorb politely, criticise internally, and apply it to your own model. I’d listen to Arnold Schwarzenger all day, but I would be naïve to think I could apply his doings directly to myself. We have very divergent genetics for one, though I imagine there are also other differences between us.
In a similar vein, beware of he who cherry picks the data to counteract my point above. There are a million and one ways to eat; low carb, high carb, keto, vegan and so on. If you so wish, you can likely find ‘evidence’ that all of these are better than each other. Some recent studies criticise red meat for example, now debunked but the point remains. People will produce evidence supporting their own beliefs. Again, be discerning, try and use logic, and, if the study abusing meat is produced by a vegetarian protein producing company, they may have ulterior motives!
Superfoods and detox. This one in short; no. Just, no.
Withdrawing certain types of macronutrients has even been tried. In days gone by, fat was the devil, particularly saturated, these days it’s our ‘friend’. More recently, low carb diets have hit the headlines with their miracle of making calories not count. Yet it’s not as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Macronutrients have different levels of dietary-induced thermogenesis (the calories expended through the simple process of digestion, etc.). There’s also a host of things happening hormonally and metabolically in between, but fundamentally, they will count. The insulin hypothesis of carbs being the devil and making us fat has also been debunked by folk far more educated than me. The word moderation, although banded around all too easily, seems appropriate. If you exercise hard, you more than likely need carbs. On a similar point, it seems odd to banish food groups such as dairy, wheat, legumes, etc. The majority of westerners have adapted to eat dairy and it has many benefits. Clearly if you are truly lactose intolerant, the cost outweighs the benefit so be smart. Likewise, with genuine coeliac, but feeling bloated after a loaf of bread is no official diagnosis. The phytates (an ‘anti-nutrient’) in some foods have both positive and negative effects so why instantly avoid them simply because other folk at the gym do? One size doesn’t fit all.
Essentially there is no superior diet. Especially when preaching to a diverse group of people with equally diverse goals. Pick the diet style that suits YOU best. A couple of succinct points however. If it has been created in a factory, it’s usually wise to avoid it. If it can grow under its own accord, it’s probably okay. Find some guys who know their stuff and listen. There’s even some decent ones on social media. Just remember- nothing is gospel.