There is no such thing as the perfect or “right” diet for a large population
Follow a diet for 30 days with at least 80% compliance
Don’t be afraid to try multiple diets, just make sure you are adhering to its guidelines
Every diet must be made specifically to the person and their goals
Time restricted eating and a modified diet have been highly effective for my clients
Time restricted eating improves body composition by regulating the circadian rhythm and reducing hunger
In my five years as a personal trainer, I am often asked, Erik, what is the best way to lose weight?
When I first started training clients my response was a low carb paleo modification due to my own success and research on it. The research convinced me that insulin was the culprit and that if you kept insulin low you would burn more fat and lose weight faster. Now this did work for some, but some didn’t do that well either. I followed this approach for the first four years of my career. But if you asked me that question now, I would give you an answer that you would hate, and that answer is: It depends. It is an interesting question, one that doesn’t have a correct one because there are multiple answers to it. For instance, if this was a question on a test, it would look like the following:
So what was your answer?
The point of the question is to show you that there are multiple paths to weight loss. Each eating behavior has its own unique benefit which benefits a specific population while it could hinder other populations. You may thrive on the paleo diet while your friend suffers. This doesn't mean the diet doesn't work nor does it mean it does works. The diet is an “N” equals one experiment, it is you versus your past self and that is it. The success of the experiment is dependent upon yourself and how well you adhere to its guidelines. As fitness professionals we must realize the importance of specificity and treat each client as a new unique case study so that we don't become biased stuck prescribing the same diet over and over again. Remember, we only know what we know now. We are only aware of the present idea, but that doesn't mean there can't be new ones in the future. Let us not forget that twenty years ago the “experts” in nutrition were screaming about the dangers of saturated fat and benefits of sugar. We now know how wrong they were and how biased they were. We must never doubt the fickle mind of humans and how easily the ego can be persuaded. The only way to fight against this is to see yourself as your own unique experiment.
Granted, you share similarities with other humans which makes sense since we are all the same race. Nevertheless, there are still differences that have major implications when it comes to health and nutrition. Our current society with food available 24/7 greatly increases the danger of these differences. Therefore, when it comes to weight loss do not get discouraged if you fail with a particular diet, but I do recommend looking over your performance and being honest with yourself by asking the following questions:
Did you follow the diet 100% of the time or were you closer to 70 % ?
Did you follow the diet for more than or less than 30 days?
Yes, I believe you should stick to each diet for at least one month. It is challenging, but regardless if you lose the weight or miss your goal, it will be a success because you had the discipline to follow it. Now take that same discipline and try another diet. Eventually you will find one that works. However, if you weren’t in the 90 to 100% group then I recommend you try it again with a goal of better adherence. If unfortunately you fail again then it is time to move on to something else. I have dealt with multiple clients who struggled with a high carb diet, but once they went low carb their cravings went away and vice versa.
You now know there is no perfect diet, and that specificity is critical for success. But which diet is the best to start with? After all, summer is right around the corner and we don’t want to waste anymore time. In my experience as a personal trainer I have found time restricted eating to be the most successful diet followed by a modified paleo diet (no grains and no dairy) to work best. For time restricted eating you should follow either a 9,10,11, or 12 hour eating schedule followed by 15,14,13, or 12 hour fasting window. In essence, if you wanted to obtain a 15 hour fast then you would eat from 9am to 6pm, which would be 9 hours of consumption versus 15 hours of fasting. This diet is efficient for three reasons: you make less decisions, consume less calories and improve your circadian rhythm (We will cover more next week). For most cases if you reduce your calorie intake and increase your exercise you will lose weight, but there are cases where that might not be the case. For the sake of the article, we will save that topic for a later discussion. For now, I want to focus on the benefits of calorie restriction through time restricted eating. But before going any further, you must learn the difference between calorie restriction and time restricted calorie restriction. As I stated above, with time restricted eating you set an eating and a fasting window. The benefit of this is an improved body composition through the regulation of the circadian rhythm. When this “biological clock” is disrupted it puts you at a greater risk for obesity due to increased hunger hormones (1) . And there is much more to this story, but we'll save that science for another time.
This doesn’t mean that calorie restriction can’t work, it is just harder to follow. Let’s face it, our new food environment is designed to get us to eat as much as possible and fulfill every craving. Think about that for a second. We live in an instant gratification based world and since humans adapt to their environment, we have adapted this behavior pattern that food companies thrive on. Food companies know that we can only say no so many times before caving in. And it might not even be that company it could be its competitor. But that is my point, we have so many people persuading us to eat 24/7 and that is not an easy feat to overcome. Nevertheless, this is not a pity party for the human race, we live in the greatest time ever where food is readily available and we don’t have to suffer from hunger. But yes, there is the other side of the coin where food availability has lead to an obesity epidemic. Regardless, we can not use this as an excuse, but t it is the main reason why I recommend following a time restricted eating schedule.
As I stated before, humans adapt to their environment and forget about their past one. Thus, you will adapt to your new eating schedule and thrive on it. However, I am not sure how long it will take, that is for you to test and to find out. The only way to know is through experimentation, testing, possibly failing, and re-testing. Follow this process until you reach your goal and then set a new goal. You must never give up until you achieve the goal you set. If you have failed on diets in the past or are looking to change things up then time restricted eating is the right path to start with.
Stay tuned for next week where we are going to get real nerdy and go over the three benefits of time restricted eating: less decisions made, less calories consumed and improved circadian rhythm.