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Nutritional Strategies That work!

Mike Lipowski

Everyone wants to know the secret nutrition strategy that will lead to a lean physique and good health. The secret is...there is no secret strategy. There is however an endless vast of strategies and diets that bombard our Facebook and Instagram feeds each day, as well as pop-up ads on the websites we visit, and of course the news delivers a ‘latest and greatest’ every week. So, what to do? What strategy should YOU follow?

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Let me begin by saying...

There is no one strategy that's best; except the one that best fits your lifestyle.

Over the next two newsletters I’m going to outline 6 nutritional strategies that work and give you a brief synopsis of their history, what they look like, and the pros and cons. Some strategies bare similarities and others sit on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Proponents of these strategies often point to studies and research showcasing theirs as being superior to the others. The fact is, it’s easy to find studies that support and debunk almost every position. However in head-to-head studies and meta-analysis’ (a study that quantifies the data from a pool of studies) of the strategies I’ll discuss, the results are largely similar. The differences are so inconsequential that the more important question for you becomes, which would I prefer to follow? Or maybe, what can I use from some or all of them?

So let's get on with it.

Ketogenic

HISTORY: Ketogenic diets were first introduced in the 1920’s as a therapy treatment for epilepsy. Around 1992 it gained mainstream popularity as an approach to weight-loss thanks to the late Dr. Atkins who had first written about it in his 1972 book, The Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution. Atkins’ recommendations were simple; eliminate all but 20 grams of carbohydrates a day (mainly from vegetables and the occasional fruit) and consume the rest of your calories from protein and fat.

Of course people took this to mean eat all the protein and fat you want and the diet produced as many failures as it had successes. However this reignited an interest in ketogenic diet research which has led to the emergence of numerous ketogenic diet variations. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Approximate calorie distribution = 5% Carbohydrates / 20% Protein / 75% Fat

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If you were to consume 1,800 calories a day 1,350 would come from fat. This breaks down to 22 grams of carbohydrates, 90 grams of protein, and 150 grams of fat.

PROS: Proves effective in controlling blood sugar and insulin which results in improved mental focus and normalizes hunger. Once fat-adapted it works great for fat-loss and increased energy.

CONS: Some people find long-term adherence difficult due to limited carbohydrate options/consumption. Glycogen is still king when it comes to immediately impacting exercise performance and expediting recovery. Those training 3 times a week or more on Keto diet may experience an initial drop in performance, strength and muscle (particularly if not getting enough protein). However this could be remedied by following a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet or Anabolic Diet in which high-quality carbs are introduced in choice amounts every few days or weeks.

IIFYM / Flexible Dieting

HISTORY: IIFYM is an acronym for If It Fits Your Macros. There doesn’t seem to be any one individual responsible for IIFYM but we do know it was born out of the bodybuilding community. The traditional bodybuilding diet, though highly effective is equally bland. Boiled chicken, boiled broccoli, brown rice and sweet potatoes has always been the norm.

For many competitors (including yours truly) eating this way for 3-10 months straight would reek mental havoc. The result would be months of binges and astronomical weight gain following competition. Only to start over and do it again next year. Enter IIFYM.

Why wait until the off-season to have your pizza, ice cream, burger and everything else you “give up” for the sake of a six-pack? This strategy has you INCLUDE these foods and other indulgences as part of your weekly/daily meals so that you never feel deprived. The result was competitors getting more shredded than ever because they could maintain their diet plan more successfully and longer since they never felt deprived.

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WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: After establishing your allotted calories, it’s time to divvy up your macronutrients. First, protein is set at approximately 1 gram/ pound of lean body weight (every gram of protein = 4 calories). Next, 15-30% of your allotted calories will come from fat (1 gram of fat = 9 calories). After the calories from protein and fat are added the remaining calories in your diet will come from carbohydrates (every 4 calories = 1 gram of carbohydrate).

Typically the distribution of calories will be approximately 50% carbohydrates / 30% protein / 20% fat. If you were to consume 1,800 calories a day this breaks down to 40 grams of fat, 225 grams of carbohydrates, and 135 grams of protein.


PROS: Psychologically it makes long-term adherence to lower calorie eating very easy. And as long as you get the proper amount of protein and stay within your allotted calories it is inconsequential if some days are high carb / low fat days and others are low carb / high fat. This especially makes dieting more flexible and allows you to adapt your eating to your environment (i.e. dinners out, holidays, parties, etc).

CONS: Some people take the “ flexible” aspect of IIFYM too far and consume too much non-nutritious junk food regularly. This could lead to an unbalanced, unhealthy diet that lacks essential nutrients. Also, the overall volume of food you consume may be very little if including too much calorically dense junk-food. This of course could lead to feeling hungry more often. Low-fat Diets HISTORY: We really don’t need a history lesson when it comes to Low-fat diets since most of us have lived their history. They reached their height of popularity in 1980's (remeber Snackwells?).

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In the race to have the lowest fat food products they started dumping sugar haphazardly into every product that touched the supermarket shelves. No need to explain what happened to people’s waistlines and health as a result. However, it's not all bad. Whenever low-fat diets gave been used in a clinical setting (where people only eat what they are given) the results from both a health and fat-loss POV have been outstanding.

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: In a nutshell, it looks low in fat, duh. All kidding aside it’s less about eliminating high-fat foods and more about eating nutritious, fibrous, low-glycemic carbohydrates and lean proteins.

PROS: We are born to burn glucose for energy. Unlike diets in which your body has to adapt to using fat for energy, we are naturally inclined to use glycogen. (Please note: just because someone is a “fat-burner” does not mean they will burn more bodyfat than a “glycogen burner”. Body-fat, the type you want off your midsection, is only used when in an energy deficit, which is achievable with a low-fat or low-carb diet.) For those who exercise frequently, partake in endurance activities and/or have extremely active jobs a high-carb diet will provide substantial energy to keep up with your demands while still allowing you to burn fat.

CONS: Tends to be more effective for individuals whose bodyfat percentage is already in a normal range compared to those outside the norm. Going too low in fat means you may be missing out on the essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, unless you use a supplement (which you should be doing anyway).

Staying low in fat for too long could prime the body for fat storage if you go too far off your regular plan. For this reason I recommend a Cyclical Carb Diet in which higher fat is introduced periodically while lowering carbs (see Cyclical Ketogenic Diet from earlier).

As mentioned at the start, ALL of these strategies work. They might work for a variety of different reasons but that’s the beauty. You can choose the one that meets you where you are and best fits your lifestyle. You can use different ones at different times depending on your needs, desires, or goals. You can even borrow aspects of each to customize something that will work well for you and you can follow for a lifetime.

Stayed tuned! Next month I’ll discuss Intermittent Fasting, Paleo, and Vegan diets.

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