"What is the best diet?" I can't count how many times my clients or people in general have asked me this question. With all of the trends, fads, misinformation, and constant barrage of the latest greatest celebrity diets out there, it's a very valid question. After all, how is someone outside of the fitness industry supposed to know? How do they know what is fact and what is fiction? How do they know who to trust? How do they know what to believe when even the mainstream media spreads misinformation faster than your facebook friend spreads essential oil testimonials? That's where I come in. I'm here to help clear up some of the confusion and sift through all the rubbish to bring you the truth.
The answer to this question, just like so many others dealing with fitness, is that it depends. Like so many other things, it's all about context. The best diet to gain lean muscle may not be the best diet to lose body fat. The best diet to lose body fat may not be the best diet to perform at a high level. The best diet to perform at a high level may not be the best diet for long term sustainability. Hopefully you see what I'm getting at here. But to boil it all down, the best diet is the one that you can stick to. Again...
THE BEST DIET IS THE ONE THAT YOU CAN STICK TO.
That sentence is in all caps, all by itself in one line, because it's so important that we need to break the rules of proper grammar. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be that sentence. Tattoo it on yourself if you have to. I promise it's more valuable and more important than the Chinese lettering tattoo around your bicep or the butterfly tattoo on the back of your shoulder. The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a universal, one-size-fits-all diet that works best for everyone. And even if there was, not everyone could follow it due to the fact that humans are so unique and individual. Some couldn't follow it due to food intolerances or allergies. Some couldn't follow it due to medical conditions. Some couldn't follow it due to the fact that they just don't like the taste of the foods on that particular diet.
The types of diets for you to choose from are nearly endless. Keto, low carb, low fat, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, paleo, etc. The list goes on and on. Depending on your goals, some of these diets are better than others, and some are worse. Take the presently popular Keto diet for example. In regards to athletic performance, studies have shown that the Keto diet is inferior to a diet higher in carbs. Sorry not sorry to the Keto people out there, facts are facts. So the reason you're dieting becomes really important in determining what type of diet you choose. For the sake of simplicity, we're going to keep the context in terms of looking at the best diet for long term health and weight/fat loss. In those terms, the most important question to ask yourself before beginning any diet is "Can I eat this way and follow this diet indefinitely?" If the answer is no, then save yourself some time and money and don't even start the diet. You've got to pick a diet that you can stick to in the long run, not some 21 day fix from (insert favorite MLM company here) that social media Sally who knows next to nothing about the subject is trying to sell you.
By now you're probably thinking, "OK Andy, there's no best diet, I get it. So what do I do then?" Another valid question. What we do know about diets and the studies performed on them seem to point us in the direction of some simple trends that nearly anyone can follow and improve their health. Your diet should mainly consist of whole, nutrient dense foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Apply this concept with the 80/20 rule, meaning you eat healthy, whole foods AT LEAST 80% of the time and you will be able to indulge in some of your favorite junk foods the other 20% of the time. Like most things in life, it's about balance and moderation. Do this consistently (see my last blog about consistency) and you will be setting yourself up for success. It's probably safe to say that over 90% of your improved health markers and benefits are going to be from losing the excess body fat, so how you get there isn't nearly as important. This is why it's paramount to ignore all the noise from the media, social media, and one-size-fits-all programs and just choose a diet you can stick to. The diet that works for you, is the best diet for you.
- Andy Chapman