The truth is, most diets lack in the essentials. They fall short on proper nutrition, expertise, and most are completely unsustainable.
There are so many diets out there, which make it really hard to decide what works and what is truly worth your time.
Having to decipher and read through articles, diet books, and blog posts is an exhausting process. And who really has the time for this?
Next time your friend, family member, or coworker try to persuade you to follow a new diet, review this checklist before you make a decision.
If the diet doesn’t meet these 6 things on our checklist, then move on and say “No Thank You”.
Any diet you follow needs to be something you can follow for the rest of your life, and not for just some short-term window.
Your desired results will NOT be maintained and sustained within short- term windows, but can only be achieved when you focus on the long term. This means the diet plan or eating strategy you intend to follow, needs to be for the long haul. There are no expectations, and especially NOT for some 4 week transformation program.
Losing weight, getting healthy, improving your fitness and strength, and enhancing energy is a life long process. It’s like brushing your teeth. When you learned to brush your teeth, you didn’t stop 4 weeks after you learned did you? Of course not, and your health/fitness is the same way.
Here is our checklist of 6 things that every diet you follow must do
1. Balanced nutrition
This means a balanced ratio of complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat.
This does not mean drastically reducing or cutting out carbs, taking out fat, or going on an ultra high protein diet.
Nor does this mean that all of your nutrients need to be in perfect balance.
Start with a ratio of 40 % carbs, 30 % protein, and 30 % fat.
Balanced nutrition ensures you are getting all of your nutrients, keeping your energy level high, and allows you to achieve sustainable results and progress.
Most traditional diets are unsustainable, and can’t be maintained for the long term. This is because they lack the proper amount of calories, nutrients, or a combination of both.
There are some diets out there that recommend 500-800 calories, along with hormone of vitamin injections. These are very unhealthy, unsustainable, outright dangerous (even if they are “supervised” by a medical professional), and will wreck your metabolism.
Ask yourself this before you follow a diet: can I follow this diet for the next 10 years? If the answer is no, then you need to move on and find another plan.
A sustainable diet also leaves room for things like treats and flex meals. Flex meals or free meals are meals that allow you to go off your diet and each foods you enjoy and aren’t unhealthy (within moderation of course).
I prefer to use the term “flex meal”, rather than cheat meal, as there is a more neutral and positive meaning, as opposed to “cheat” meal which can imply and trigger a negative feeling for some people, because they feel they are “Cheating” themselves or the diet.
3. Optimize energy
A diet must optimize and enhance energy over the long term.
Most traditional diets reduce energy to the point you are feeling light headed, sluggish, and fatigued all day. This is almost also because of the low carb intake, low calories, and/or lack of nutritional balance.
Food and more specifically carbohydrates are fuel, and need to be treated as such.
Low fuel=low energy= low performance.
Just like your car needs enough gas to run properly, your body needs the right amount of fuel to keep your energy level up and performing at a high level.
4. Slow weight loss
If your goal is weight loss, then whatever diet you follow needs to promote “slow” weight loss.
When it comes to losing weight and body fat, slower is always better. When you lose weight slowly, you are less likely to lose muscle and will lose a higher percentage of fat, which is important for optimizing metabolism.
Secondly, the majority of research shows slow weight loss is sustainable weight loss. This means that if you lose weight slowly over time, your are more likely to keep it off over time too.
This is because you are able to develop the necessary habits to keep your results, and are able to adjust to your new body emotionally and mentally- which is always overlooked in the transformation process.
If you wish to lose weight, your diet should promote a rate of 1-2 lbs per week, or a 1% of your overall body weight on average.
You may have some weeks where that number is less, and have some weeks where that number is 0 or even a plus.
Don’t let that discourage you, because 2 things are important to remember here
- You will build muscle and lose fat some weeks, especially at the start. So inches will be lost, but scale weight may not be.
- Always remember that results over the long term are important to look at. So while weight loss may not happen every week, what matters is what happens over months and years.
5. Optimize strength and fitness
As we learned earlier food=fuel. Proper fuel allows us to have greater energy but also gives us the ability to work out and exercise at greater intensities.
One of the most important variables in your workout needs to be intensity. There are several different ways to measure intensity, but in order to work out at that optimal intensity your body needs proper fuel.
Traditional low calorie- low carb diets decrease strength and fitness, workout intensity, and overall performance.
Any diet that you choose follow needs to have the reverse effect, and enhance all of the above. And that can only be achieved with both the proper amount of calories and nutrient balance.
If your diet isn’t providing you with the ability to work out at the proper intensity, and improve strength/fitness then it needs to go.
6. Optimize metabolism
Most diets destroy metabolism, as opposed to enhance in.
Low calories, coupled with low carbohydrates is always a recipe for metabolic dysfunction and down regulation.
Numerous research studies have shown that too low calories followed for far too long can lead to a reduction of metabolic rate of at least 30%
This creates a significant impact on your ability to lose weight, both in the short and long -term. Not only will you need to work harder to lose more weight, your metabolism will decrease even more, as you lose more weight (as you lose more body weight, metabolic rate lowers as a natural consequence, but it will to unhealthy and dangerous levels if you are already starting with a 30% reduction).
Following a balanced diet, and one with a small calorie deficit (provided weight loss is your goal) works for optimizing metabolism. And as you get further into the journey, you may need to cycle calories, and alternate between lower calorie days (small deficits), and higher calorie days (small surplus) to continue losing weight and optimizing a healthy metabolism.
So remember, if you are planning to follow a diet, then it needs to follow these 6 things to enhance long term health, well being, weight loss and metabolic health.
And if it doesn’t, then not only is the diet not right for you, it won’t help you achieve the results you want.