How did the simple task of eating food, something that is so basic and essential to life, become so complicated and controversial?
The diet industry has gone from one extreme to the other – low fat – low carb – low protein – completely opposing diets that are all supposed to help you lose fat, build muscle, and improve your health and fitness.
Right now there are over 200,000+ diet books on amazon. Every other week we’re seeing a new diet documentary popping up on Netflix. We are literally bombarded with different diet strategies. And rather than helping, it’s creating more confusion and frustration then ever.
It’s gotten to the point now where a lot of people don’t know what’s considered “good” or “healthy” anymore. For example, some experts are preaching a low carb ketogenic diet, others are preaching a high carb vegan diet, and everything in between…
Have you ever stopped and wondered:
What the heck are you supposed to eat?
In this article I’m going to…
In addition to that, you’ll discover a few critical dietary components that you need to implement in order to lose that stubborn roll of blubber hanging over your waistline.
But even more importantly, you’ll learn what you need to do in order to maintain a lean physique over the long term.
So if you’re ready, let’s jump in!
First It Was LOW FAT…
When I got interested in bodybuilding back in the late 1980’s – Dietary fat was the enemy. The mainstream media said that eating fat made you fat. So the food industry went on a mission to reduce fat intake.
I’m sure you are very familiar with the “Food Guide Pyramid” that recommended for healthy eating you should base your diet around high carb, low fat foods.
Because of these suggestions, food companies started making low fat variations of all the popular foods, you couldn’t go to the grocery store without seeing “LOW FAT” labels everywhere…
Low fat ice cream, low fat cookies, low fat snack cakes, low fat deli meats, and low fat potato chips that were baked not fried…
Fat is the most calorie dense macro-nutrient, with 9 calories per gram. Whereas protein and carbohydrates both have only 4 calories per gram. So mathematically it makes sense that we should eat less fat in order to to cut calories and thus lose weight.
Now some people did lose weight by following a low fat diet, but most didn’t. In fact, the opposite happened – as low fat diets grew in popularity, the fatter we became as a nation. And the statistics show a huge spike in the rate of obesity from the late 1980’s right on through the 1990’s.
As Low Fat Diets Grew In Popularity, So Did Our Waistlines!
The problem with eating less fat, is that it leaves you feeling hungry. This is because fat is very important for controlling your appetite and giving you that satiated feeling after a meal.
Low fat dieters would try and satisfy their appetite by eating more of the other macro-nutrients, especially carbohydrates. This would spike their blood sugar levels, increase insulin production, and actually increase their appetite even more.
It’s no wonder why so many people gain weight on a low fat diet. They were feeling hungrier and eating more total food. So they ended up getting fatter even though they were eating “low fat” foods.
Then It Was LOW CARB…
Then the diet tables turned and fat was no longer considered the enemy. It wasn’t eating too much fat that made people gain weight, but rather it was eating too many carbohydrates. This caused a boom in low carb diet plans like the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and various versions of the Ketogenic Diet.
Bodybuilding fans may remember The Anabolic Diet by Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale and Dan Duchaine’s Body Opus Diet, which became very popular as pre-contest bodybuilding diets.
Health conscious dieters were now eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. A hamburger without the bun for lunch. And juicy T-bone steaks for dinner.
And these “Low-Carb” diets worked!
I’ve seen some people get absolutely shredded following a low carb diet plan.
But the problem with drastically cutting carbohydrates is that it can leave you feeling weak, flat, and low energy. Not to mention that it can cause constipation due to the lack of fiber that you’d normally get from eating high carb foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Because of these draw backs, most people can’t stick with a low carb diet over the long term, and thus the weight loss results are only temporary. As soon as you start eating “normally” again after following a low carb diet, the weight will pile back on very quickly.
Within a few months after the diet most people would be back up to their starting weight, or even heavier than when they started the low carb diet in the first place.
I’ve went through this post diet weight gain re-bound process myself several times over the years while dieting down for bodybuilding competitions. I’d muster up the will power and stick to a low carb diet for several months, depriving myself of my favorite high carb foods, in order to get into ripped contest shape…
But as soon as the contest diet was over, I’d let myself go, binge on all the high carbs foods that I was craving, and regain all the weight back again.
Now It’s LOW PROTEIN…
With both the low fat and low carb diets, there was always one constant variable – High Protein. You either followed a Low Fat, High Carb, and High Protein diet – OR – a Low Carb, High Fat, and High Protein diet.
But now we’re seeing another diet trend, and that’s a LOW PROTEIN diet with the growing popularity of Vegan Plant Based Diets.
So here we go again…
Carbohydrates are no longer the bad guy. You can eat high carb foods like; potatoes, pasta, and bread. Stuff yourself with as many fruits and veggies as you want. Even processed “junk food” like tofu ice cream, chips, cakes, and cookies are allowed – as long they are made without any animal products.
As more and more people go vegan you’re going to hear mixed reviews. Some people love it and claim that it’s the “Best Diet” ever.
While some are actually losing lean muscle, getting weaker, and developing nutritional deficiencies from the lack of protein and nutrients that are naturally found in animal foods.
My Personal Experience Following A Vegan Diet…
Like a lot of people, I’ve watched the Pro-Vegan documentaries on Netflix, which peaked my curiosity. Was the Vegan Diet really the secret to losing fat and improving health?
I read several books on vegan diets, spent countless hours online searching for info, and really tried to weigh out the PROS and CONS of going vegan.
My biggest concern about cutting out animal protein was losing muscle. Now there are some people who claim that “Vegan Bodybuilding” is possible and that you can still get big, ripped, and jacked eating a vegan diet.
I was very skeptical, but there’s only one way to find out if it’s going to work…
So, back in 2014 I decided to give it a shot. I cut out all animal protein and went vegan to see what would happen.
After the first week of going meat free, I actually started to feel pretty good. The abundance of fruits and veggies that I was consuming to satisfy my appetite really helped “clean me out” so to speak. I was having multiple bowel movements per day, my poop even turned green from all the veggies, and it was a really good detox program.
But after a few weeks I started to feel different…
When I worked out in the gym I was no longer getting a good muscle pump. Even though I was eating a lot of high carb foods, I always felt flat and depleted.
I lost body weight, but I wasn’t getting any leaner. My strength started to go down. And I just didn’t have the same level of power and drive as I did when eating a well balanced diet that included high protein animal foods.
Even though I was eating plant based protein foods like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and supplementing with hemp protein, pea protein, and spirulina – my body felt flatter and weaker.
After a couple months, I decided to switch from vegan to vegetarian and include some dairy and eggs in my diet. I ate eggs with breakfast, supplemented my diet with whey protein, and would eat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese in addition to my plant based diet. And it did help a little. My strength started to improve, but I still felt flat and depleted despite eating a lot of food.
After a couple months of eating vegetarian, I decided to see what would happen if I went pescatarian and included some fish in my diet. And just like when I added the dairy and eggs, I found that I actually felt better and stronger with the extra protein and nutrients that I was getting from eating fish on a daily basis.
Over the course of 6 months I went from vegan, to vegetarian, to pescatarian, and then finally back to eating a well balanced diet that includes meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy as well as a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Since then I’ve found that my strength, energy, and muscle fullness has improved. I’ve gained lean mass and actually lost fat since going back to a well balanced diet.
Now I’m really glad that I took the time to do this nutrition experiment on myself, because I learned A LOT about how my body reacts to different foods.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the real health benefits of a plant based diet isn’t so much from the “Lack Of Meat”, but rather from the “Abundance Of Vegetables”.
When you eat lots of vegetables you’ll feel better and healthier, even if you eat them as part of a mixed diet that includes animal protein.
We’ve Gone Full Circle…
As you’ve seen, the diet and weight loss industry has gone full circle with blaming our body fat problems on each of the 3 macro-nutrients.
And if things weren’t confusing and frustrating enough, when you look at the individuals who advocate these different diets (i.e. Low Fat, Low Carb, or Low Protein) you’re going to find exceptions to the rules. You’ll see some people getting fantastic results by following completely opposing dietary strategies.
There are people out there who have built lean ripped physiques eating a low fat, high carb & high protein diet. Others who have gotten great results following a ketogenic diet. And there are vegans out there who are in amazing shape eating a plant based diet.
Why Certain Diets Work For Some And Not Others…
There are several reasons why one person may respond well to a particular diet and another person may not. And a lot of the time it has nothing to do with the actual diet, but rather the individual who is following the diet.
We are all different and there can be a wide range of metabolic and hormonal variations from person to person based on our genetics. Some people are just genetically superior when it comes to building muscle and burning fat than others.
Our genetic ability for building muscle and losing fat can vary from one extreme to the other.
The majority of people are going to be somewhere in the middle with “Average Genetics”.
A small number of people will be on the low end with “Poor Genetics” (i.e. physical disabilities, metabolic disorders, etc.)
And some others – the lucky few – will be on the high end with “Great Genetics”.
Why does your genetics matter when it comes to dieting? Well, for the most part someone with “Great Genetics” will see positive results, regardless of what type of diet they follow. The better your genetics, the better results you’re going to get from your diet and exercise efforts.
Most of the top level athletes, pro bodybuilders, fitness models, and popular online fitness celebrities that you see on social media – more often than not they will have “Great Genetics” for building muscle and burning fat.
Now this doesn’t mean that these people are lazy and don’t train hard. In fact, a lot of them train harder than most because when someone is naturally good at something it often motivates them to work harder and get even better results.
So when you are seeking advice about diet and exercise – realize that genetics play a huge role. When you see someone who is lean, ripped, and jacked recommending a certain diet. It’s possible that they may just have really good genetics, and could of gotten similar results by following a totally different diet instead. It’s not always the diet, sometimes it’s genetics.
Nutritional Needs Can Vary From Person To Person…
Just like how our genetics for building muscle and losing fat can vary from one extreme to the other, so can our individual nutritional requirements.
The vast majority of people are going to be somewhere in the middle and will function their best by eating a well balanced diet with 1/3 carbs, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 fat. Not only does this diet provide well balanced nutrition, but it’s usually the best way to satisfy your hunger. It can be very difficult to control your appetite eating low fat, low carb, or even low protein.
Some people will respond better with a higher carbohydrate intake. For example, elite level endurance athletes, those who work labor intensive physically demanding jobs, and people who are naturally very lean with super fast metabolisms will often benefit from eating higher carb diets.
And yet others will respond better on a lower carbohydrate diet. In addition to losing fat, certain people find that they have more energy and better mental focus when they reduce their carbohydrates. Whereas others maybe the complete opposite and find it difficult to concentrate and experience brain fog if they eat a low carb diet.
This is why you will hear mixed reviews and opinions about all the various diet and exercise programs. The extreme approach that works really well for one person, may be a total disaster for another person.
How To Find The BEST Diet For YOU…
Ok, so you’ve stuck with me this far and hopefully you have a better understanding of why certain people will respond better (or worse) to different diets. But you still have one big burning question…
What type of diet should YOU be eating to lose fat, build muscle, and feel your best?
Well, I recommend that you keep it simple and start with the basics.
Rather than worrying about what foods you need to avoid and eliminate from your diet. Focus instead on what foods you need to ADD to your diet to nourish your body.
Most successful fat loss diets are based around good old fashion whole foods.
Quality Proteins like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Quality Carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
Quality Fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, fish oil, flax oil, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Right now, do a quick evaluation of your current diet and see what areas you maybe lacking in…
Not eating enough vegetables?
Well look for ways that you can include more vegetables with your meals.
Not eating enough quality protein?
Then make it a priority to include a serving of protein with every meal, and even supplement with protein powder if necessary.
Not getting enough omega 3’s in your diet?
Start supplementing with fish oil and flax seed oil while purposely eating more foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds.
Not drinking enough water?
Well keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip on it throughout the day.
As you start to include more “good habits” in your diet, you’ll naturally start to filter out some of the “bad habits”. This is a much easier and healthier approach than just focusing on what foods you need to avoid.
Eat More 1 Ingredient Foods…
Try to make up the majority of your diet with natural 1 ingredient foods. What’s a 1 ingredient food you ask? Well it’s food that doesn’t need a nutrition label because it’s just 1 thing. For example, apples, oranges, broccoli, potatoes, beef, chicken, eggs, and fish are all 1 ingredient foods that are natural and unprocessed.
Compare that to a frozen pizza, a container of ice cream, or a box of pop tarts. These are all packaged processed foods that have a long list of ingredients, along with a bunch of artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives that you don’t need clogging up your body.
When planning your meals, make sure to include each of the following:
By prioritizing these foods with each of your meals you’ll fill up your stomach and satisfy your appetite with quality nutrition. This will naturally decrease your desire for eating unhealthy processed foods because you won’t be as hungry. “Dieting” is a lot easier when you focus on filling up on the good stuff, rather than simply trying to cut out the bad stuff.
If you just start doing these few things, you will see noticeable improvements within a month. Chances are you’ll feel better, have more energy, and you’ll probably drop a few pounds of fat without even counting calories.
Just keep it simple and focus on being consistent with the basics. Then after you have built a solid foundation with eating a well balanced diet, you may want to experiment with varying your macro-nutrients. You could try reducing your fat, reducing carbs, or even reducing animal protein to see how your body responds. Doing so may help, or it may hinder your progress, but either way you’ll gain valuable insights into what works best for YOU – and you can use that information to make better food choices in the future.
How To Lose Fat And Keep It Off…
Very few people will need to go to the extremes with a low carb ketogenic diet, or eliminate all animal protein with a vegan diet, in order to get lean. Just making some small simple changes and improving your current diet usually works best for most people.
The “All Or Nothing” approach rarely works long term. When you get down to basics, you just need to tip the scale in favor of burning more calories than you consume, and LET your body burn stored fat for energy. Rather than trying to FORCE your body to burn fat with brute effort and extreme dietary restriction.
A great quote that I heard from Dr. John Berardi is:
“Most people over estimate how hard losing fat will be,
but they under estimate how long it’s going to take.”
These days everyone is in a hurry to lose fat. Even though it probably took months, years, or even decades to get fat in the first place – we somehow rationalize that once we start “dieting” the fat has to go within the matter of weeks.
The truth is your body can only lose weight at a certain rate before you suffer metabolic problems. For most people that’s going to be losing about 1-2 pounds of fat per week.
Now if you think you can bust your ass in the gym and follow some crazy diet for a few weeks and quickly lose all your excess body fat – forget it – that approach never produces lasting results.
If it did, then everyone who ever went on a diet would have kept the weight off and stayed lean… But we both know that’s not the case.
Anyone can starve themselves and quickly lose weight in the short term. But doing so only sets you up for disappointment later on with the re-bound weight gain from yo-yo dieting. Trust me – I’ve been there, done that, and understand the process all too well …most likely you do too.
In order to lose weight and keep it off; your diet and exercise routine has to become a part of your lifestyle. It has to be just hard enough so that you are in a slight caloric deficit. But at the same time easy enough so you can keep doing it and actually enjoy the process.
The cool thing about it is once you get the ball rolling and start seeing some positive changes – Such as feeling more energetic, getting stronger, losing weight, and getting compliments from friends and family – Your motivation is going to skyrocket!
You’ll be one of those people who loves to go to the gym, workout, and eat healthy. It will become part of your identity of who you are as a person. You’ll no longer see yourself as fat and out of shape. But rather as the lean, healthy, and active person you want to be.
Would You Like Some Help?
If you would like some help with this, then I would be more than happy to assist you. Since I started my website back in 1999 I’ve personally helped hundreds of people lose fat, build muscle, while improving their overall health & fitness. And if you want, I can help you do the same.
Just check out my customized diet and training programs. I’ll help you get on track with a personalized program that’s specifically designed with your body type, lifestyle, and fitness goals in mind.
I hope you found this article informative, and if you have any questions, please send me a message – I’d love to hear from you!
all the best,
(Your Muscle Building Coach)
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