PAUL RIMMER ON…What is the best diet for fat loss?

Ok, so I’ll admit this post isn’t actually about ‘the best diet’, but I hope this may help you think about the diet strategies you employ either for yourself or as a trainer your clients. To discuss the ‘best’ we often refer to the ‘optimal diet’, that would require discussions about nutrient timing, macronutrient amounts and ratios, the potential inclusion of numerous different supplements that do numerous different things, the goals of the person, timeframes and of course a big fat dose of talk about individualisation.


I could talk in a more broad way of the pros and cons of high fat low carb, high carb low fat, IIFYM, flexible dieting, paleo, carb cycling, carb back loading, intermittent fasting and about a million other wild and whacky diets that are touted around the worlds of health and fitness at the present time.


So what is the best diet?

When I think about this in the broader sense I always remember a quote I heard somewhere, I’m sincerely sorry for not remembering who said this…. But the quote goes a little something like this…


‘Every diet ever written has worked for someone, for some time’


I think this raises a few points that are worth discussing. Firstly the notion of ‘someone’. I get sick of listening to people argue about the best diets. They always seem to think the ‘best’ diet is either what works for them or what some fitness model/guru they follow touts. The first part of the quote I have less of an issue with than the second. It is a fact that we are all going to have our own individual responses to different foods, this can be obvious things such as allergens or less obvious things such as the psychological associations with some foods, their cultural significance and of course our own physiology and genetics.

For the individual

For many of you who are trainers or coaches I will leave you with this thought related to the second part of the quote: ‘for some time’. The nature of the diet you structure for your clients should always be individualized, now that doesn’t mean just from a calorie or macro perspective. It means ensuring that the diet fits with their lifestyle, culture, past experience with foods and their starting point and previous eating habits and of course their goals (if they want to step on stage of course things are going to have to look a lot different than someone who is trying to lose a few lbs for a holiday!).


What I am getting at here is that for a large number of fat loss clients trainers fail them because the diet cannot be adhered to. What I mean by adhered to is that the diet is too much of a shift from previous habits that in the long run, for most people it becomes unsustainable. Yes, this type of ‘compromised’ diet might not be optimal for fat loss, yes it may take longer to get results, but maybe fat loss needs to come second to education and a gradual shift towards a healthier lifestyle in some cases. On the other hand, you might have someone who can go cold turkey on the bad diet and immediately change their exercise and eating habits without any trouble, but that’s the skill of a trainer to identify where somebody is at, not just physically but mentally.


The Blame Game

You may disagree with me and play the blame game; I too used to think that if someone had made bad eating choices in the past it was their fault and that they needed a restricted diet to keep them on the straight and narrow. Yes, of course, this will work for a few weeks, but at the first sign of trouble it becomes easy to revert back to their old friend, which is often food. Of course sacrifices need to be made, but in my opinion these can be graded over time.


The best trainers and coaches I know can do two things very well. Firstly they build a relationship with their clients so they can trust the process implicitly and understand it is not (always) going to be a quick fix. Secondly, they give people the tools both nutritionally and psychologically to cope with a diet and stay on track when things get hard… and that in my opinion is the only way we can illicit long term health changes and sustained fat loss and changing ‘for some time’ into the rest of their lives.


Paul Rimmer
MASS Head of Fitness Education
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cheat meals

PAUL RIMMER ON… The Joy of Cheat Meals

The cheat meal appears to be becoming a staple of the weekly diet of gym goers all over the globe. However, when to have a cheat meal and the benefits they may (or may not) have are often misunderstood.




Well this is different things to different people, but for the sake of this post, for me it is a scheduled increase in calories that are not counted within the diet. There’s a few key words in there we need to pay attention to and the first is scheduled.


Scheduled means that there is a time and place for this increase in calories, not just on a whim when you decide (that’s just cheating on your diet!). So why would you schedule an increase in calories that are not within your normal diet plan? Well, there are a few reasons.




Firstly, if you are on an offseason/weight gain diet then this might purely be for psychological or social reasons. The likelihood in this situation, is that you are eating enough calories on a day to day basis that cheat meals are not required from a muscle growth point of view, however they can be a good way to increase calories in those who struggle to put on muscle, due to the typically energy-dense foods that are included in a cheat meal. So why have them? Well, since people are social animals who have friends, families, and jobs, elements of these parts of our lives involve social eating. Bodybuilding at the highest levels is, of course, a year-round demanding sport, however with the rigors of having a strict diet for most of the year, in my opinion, there needs to be a balance for most people to take care of their mental and social well-being; social eating is a great tool to help provide this balance.


This is probably the reason why diet strategies like IIFYM/Flexible dieting and carb cycling have become so popular. Because they allow you to have foods that would be typically seen as cheat foods, but are instead included in a person’s daily or weekly intake, they are, in effect, never eating off-plan. However, this can pose issues with having to plan every meal way in advance, not that this is always a problem, but it is far from a relaxed, normal view of food that some people need to have to find balance in their lives.




On a fat loss or contest prep diet, cheat meals can be used for the same psychological and social reasons, but in my opinion, should only be used if a person reached their weekly goals. Otherwise, if your weekly deficit is not enough to create fat loss or positive physical changes then this unscheduled increase in calories is only going to hinder progress. As a person becomes leaner they often need cheat meals more frequently. Why? Well, as calories in the diet are reduced and/or exercise output is increased then the body will be depleted of energy more quickly and therefore this can impact glycogen levels (appearing more flat), thus impacting on training during the diet and the potential for initiating muscle loss. Obviously, this is not something we want!


As we get leaner, levels of hormones such as leptin get lower, which causes a reduction in our metabolic rate. Periods of higher calorie intake (especially higher carb days) may help restore leptin levels, and thus our metabolism. However, the impacts of this on metabolism are not yet fully described. Whatever the exact physiological effects, they do serve a useful purpose when dieting, but remember if you’re not losing weight at the rate you want then adding in these extra calories comes in at a cost you might not be able to afford.


Paul Rimmer
MASS Head of Fitness Education

Dr Paul Rimmer - Head of Fitness Education


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