Ask the Coaches: Best Diet?
We’re starting up a new monthly segment where you’ll get to pick the brains of the Cróga Coaches. If you have a question you’d like the coaches to answer, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: Out of all the crazy diets out there, which one did you like the most? And why? (Submitted by Kassi)
And now the Coaches Answers, in alphabetical order…
Truthfully, I haven’t tried too many diets. I have tried a Paleo Diet and just a basic Zone Diet. I have to try really hard to gain weight and keep it on. I am someone that has trouble eating enough food to fuel my everyday exercise demand. I know that when I tried the Paleo diet I didn’t do it correctly. I was always hungry and just stuff almonds and dried fruit in my mouth all day. For me, the Zone Diet worked well. Just making sure my Macros were on point and making sure I ate all of my Blocks recommended per day. In the very beginning I found out I don’t eat nearly enough food and that when I made sure that I was eating good foods (Meats and Vegetable) my body was loving it. I would eat until I felt like a couldn’t eat one more bite but then I would be ready again to eat in 3 or so hours. I had much more energy throughout the day and felt much better during my workouts. I don’t follow it strictly like I did in the beginning but I can now eyeball my portions pretty well. I feel like Measuring your food and just focusing on not eating anything that comes out of a box is a good way to get you on a good diet and give you the skills to sustain good eating habits.
Truthfully, different Diets work for just about everyone. The right thing to do is experiment a little bit with some foods and see how your body reacts to them. I had to give up drinking a lot of milk every day because it would make me feel groggy and I could feel it inflaming my body. I think people should try to be aware of how they feel after eating different foods. In terms of eating “bad foods”, if I know that I will be eating something not as good for me or drinking alcohol, I just try to make sure that the first thing I put in my stomach is healthy and then I’ll binge a little bit. Seems to work alright for me plus it fills me up so I can’t even eat as much of the “bad stuff” as I could have.
Overall, I think measuring your food is the best way to go, making sure that you hit a certain amount of Blocks (1 Macro of Protein, Fat, Carb) per day which will depend on what your goal is.
First of all, before I get started, there are 2 things I want everyone to keep in mind.
1. The most effective diet for any given person is most often the one they like and will be most diligent about maintaining. Consistency is the most important piece to achieving your goals.
2. There are different diets that have their strengths in different situations or goals. So, just because we all have our “favorite”, being versed in multiple and being open to experimentation is better than being close-minded and not willing to try something you haven’t before.\
I have tried a bunch of different diets over the years, not necessarily because I needed to lose a ton of weight, but mostly because I wanted to learn and give them a try to see how I liked them and how they went. I’ve done Zone, IIFYM, RP Strength, Paleo, Whole30, and the most epic of them all, The Viking Diet.
My favorite diet of all time was definitely the Viking Diet. As many of you know, this was just a diet that I made up that consisted of me eating anything and everything I could find or that was put in front of me each night in an effort to gain as much weight as possible to get as strong as possible. This “diet” was more like a full blown attack on my pancreas, as I was consuming 400-500 grams of Carbs, about 250 grams of Protein and about 100 grams of Fat each day. I often ate two to three servings at dinner and then a full pint of ice cream or maybe 8-10 cookies for dessert. I would NOT recommend this diet to anyone looking to get in shape, but it will definitely make you bigger and stronger.
My favorite diet that is actually healthy and could be used for a lifetime would probably be IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). This basically means you can eat anything you’d like as long as you eat the exact prescribed quantities of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at the end of the day. While finding the right numbers to target can be a little tricky, there are a bunch of books, apps and websites that can help you come up with a starting point based on your height, weight, activity level and goals (lose or gain weight). My trick for this diet is to restrict my carb and fat intake during my breakfast, mid-morning snack and lunch so that I have a lot of room for flexibility during dinner and dessert time. I don’t like to have a lot of food in my stomach throughout the day anyway because it makes me feel like crap when I workout, so this works well for me.
Ketogenic Diet. I loved using this to lose some weight and even out my energy during the day. It is tough, and it does take a few weeks to kick in, but once you’re on board, you feel great and the weight comes off pretty easy. A big caveat though: since your carb intake will be so low, your performance in the WOD is likely to drop. Try to save your carb intake to be 1 hour before your workout and directly after.
I haven’t really tried many diets due to the fact I am trying to either maintain or gain weight. But I do believe in clean eating (go to Lean Feast), and everything in moderation (talking about sweets and candies). This year I want to focus more on my nutrition and figure out what foods work well in my system and what foods don’t. I believe if you eat cleanly and everything in moderation you will perform better and will be a happier and healthier person.
The craziest and my favorite and the one I found most effective for losing weight was Intermittent Fasting. There are a few variations but my rules were: I can only eat during one five-hour window each day but during that window, I can eat almost whatever I want but should prioritize vegetables and protein. I liked it because it taught me a lot about how to manage energy levels and that when I think “I’m totally starving,” I’m really just food-porning for a burrito. This helped me adapt from thinking that food is a reward to understanding that food is simply fuel and, therefore, less desirable to the part of the brain that thinks pizza is more important than my dreams. While it was effective and not as torturous as I expected, it was super inconvenient and hard to sustain with a family and with varying training times. Also, the world we live in isn’t designed to support it unless you are a meal prep champion and/or are prepared to wheel around a Yeti cooler all day. It was fun though! I lost 25 pounds in 50 days. (I had been gaining a lot of sympathy weight as a new dad but just kept telling myself I was on my way to becoming a powerlifter.) I’ll still use it once or twice a year for a month if I need to recalibrate things or drop a couple pounds quickly prior to training for a race.
Keto was easily the worst. But I made the mistake of starting it as I began training for a triathlon and I couldn’t get through the adaptation phase and it all came to a catastrophic and glorious end at Blue Line Pizza.
My day-to-day diet is, for 6 days a week, eat meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and drink water or coffee. Don’t eat carbs (bread, spuds, rice) or sugar. Then, 1 day per week: cheat like a mother******! Beer and ice cream for breakfast. I’ve found I can’t eat clean over the long term without cheating. I’ve also found the longer I stick to this diet, the less I’ll “cheat” on my cheat days, and the more cheating will hurt me. But the mechanism for release is still there.
I’ve spent 12 years experimenting with everything (paleo, keto, zone, zoned paleo, Whole30, Michael Phelps calories, only peaches for a month, the Tom Brady Method, and the Beauty Detox Solution) and at different times during training cycles so if you have questions about pairing a diet with a specific fitness goal, let me know because I’ve tried it all!
I’ve tried several different diets, but Flexible Dieting has been far in away the most effective for me. I measured and weighed pretty much all of my food when I first started, which was helpful in learning to estimate. I’ve done paleo, Keto, and intermittent fasting, all would lead to binge/purge cycles. One of the most common mistakes people make is eating too little when they start a diet, making the diet unsustainable longer term and a greater proportion of the weight loss to be muscle. Flexible dieting allowed me to actually have a number to hit. I know every day how much to eat to achieve my weight loss goals, a good estimate of how long it will take (setting realistic expectations is huge), and I eat enough without having the feeling of starving, which would lead to further binging.
When I’m not dieting, I do my best to practice portion control when eating out and still eat 70-80% of the same things I do when I’m dieting. I always know, to an extent, my consumption for a day while not measuring, which also helps me not to just eat uncontrollably. One of the best parts of flexible dieting is I don’t feel super deprived of anything specific because if I want it, I’ll fit it in. The misconception is that flexible dieting means all you’re eating is protein and junk food. While you could try this and still see really good results, you will find quick, this is also unsustainable as junk food is much less satiating than whole foods. I would say on a typical day for me 0-300 cals would come from “junk food” and the rest from whole foods. I do still incorporate intermittent fasting, especially on weekends, as I just find I’m not as hungry in the morning.
I don’t think flexible dieting is the end all be all. I think most people would find a lot of benefit from measuring their food consumption in some way for at least a short period of time to really know how much they should be eating and the caloric and macronutrient loads of foods they choose to eat. I think that there is no one best diet and you should find what works for you. I do think that for the majority, depriving yourself from one macronutrient (like the Keto diet) or from many of the foods you love (yes I still get my oreos in while dieting, but maybe only 1 to 2 at a time) is unsustainable. There are some that do find longer-term success with more restrictive diets such as Keto (like Jose), but for many people, it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. My best advice when starting a diet is to choose a diet where the mechanism of how you’re losing weight is sustainable for your lifestyle and preferences, during and after the diet. Also, incorporate new habits that you plan on keeping after the diet. If you start a diet and see success, but just get rid of the habits that helped you lose the weight (eating low carb, calorie control, portion control, meal prepping, eating protein at every meal, limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 times a week, etc.) you are more likely than not to regain the weight. Feel free to contact me with any questions!