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.