Wow. Wow. Wow! There are A LOT of diet and fitness trends out there. I am going to give you the lowdown on a few of my personal thoughts on some trending things in the health and fitness world, and I welcome any of your own opinions on these ideas as well!
*note* I am stating some thoughts and opinions on these trends based off of my personal goals of having energy, vitality, and good health, as well as being able to maintain my ideal weight and perform well in all of my activities of daily living.
(Atkins, Low carb, Paleo, Ketogenic Diet)
Before I dig in, please know that carbs are not “bad” and your body definitely needs them to function and perform optimally. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy! That’s a great reason to eat complex carbs in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. But that’s also why some of those popular low-carb/high-fat diets are on trend. They state that by allowing your body little to no carbs, you will go into a ketogenic state and start burning body fat for fuel instead of the oats you had for breakfast. As a trainer, I like to try things to be able to speak from a place of experience. I have experimented with a low carb/higher fat diet and saw results on the scale. However, I couldn’t maintain the eating style for longer than 2 months. I became burnt out on the food choices, and it didn’t line up with what is really important to me when it comes to how I eat. Do your research here, but if you do enjoy a low carb lifestyle, have at it! It’s a great tool to have. And a final note on this; be a detective! You may find that you do really well with a certain number of carbs in your diet. However, under or over that number may make you feel sluggish, low energy in your workouts, or hold onto weight you’d like to lose. You have to trial and error to really find that sweet spot!Carb Cycling:
Now, this I am a fan of! Carb cycling is a way to tailor your diet and not exclude any food groups! There is a ton of information out there about carb cycling, but a quick rule of thumb to get you started is to eat your complex carbs on your heavier training days, (but you will want to lower your fat intake!) The same is true for your lower carb days; go ahead and increase your protein and fat. So maybe it would look like this:
2 days lower carb, higher fat and protein, followed by 2 days of higher carbs and lower fat and protein.
I believe that Chris and Heidi Powell have some top-notch information out there on this topic! I have done this for a couple of months more recently, but honestly, I used to do it all of the time, and everything worked itself out without really counting or giving up anything. Hunger, energy, and cravings were all in check, I felt good, and my weight was easily maintained. It’s easy to get in an eating rut, but changing things up and tricking your body a little can be really beneficial for fat loss, strength gains, and just a great overall feeling of well-being!Intermittent Fasting (IF):
Fasting?? Like not eating?!!
If you participate in IF, it doesn’t mean you are consuming fewer calories. It just means that you will eat your daily calories within a specific time window. Many people in the IF community will fast for 12-14 hours before they have their first meal of the day. (Basically, it could look like no more food intake after dinnertime at 7:00 pm, and than not eating again until 9:00 am the next day. That would be a 14 hour fast.) I have tried IF and personally, think it’s a great tool, but wouldn’t adopt it as a lifestyle. (You will see IF used with many Low Carb/High Fat diets and Paleo diets, though anyone with any lifestyle can and may be using it.)
Here are a few examples of how I have been using it:
1. Two-three days a week I have been doing fasted cardio. I never in a million years thought that I could go to the gym without breakfast in my belly! As a creature of habit, I would get up, have my bottle of water, then coffee, then FOOOOOD, then head to the gym. Now, on my fasted days I get up, drink my water and coffee, and then actually feel pretty good! (There was an adjustment period, as with any change like this!) So a few days a week, I won’t eat my first meal until I get home from my workout, and I try to focus on a meal made up of lean protein and complex carbs. If you feel woozy or light-headed, or even weak during your fasted workout, don’t do it! This isn’t right for everyone. Again, being a detective is key here. Maybe you can feel very energized and strong with just a half of a banana and nut butter, or maybe you need 2 eggs and toast in your belly so you don’t pass out! Whatever works for you is the best protocol!
2. The other night my husband and I went out to a fancy dinner to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. We didn’t even eat until after 9:00 p.m. and when we did, we indulged in some pretty fantastic food. When we woke up the next morning, we still felt full. So, instead of heading off to breakfast, we skipped and went for a walk to start helping the digestion process! We didn’t eat food until much later that morning (11:00 a.m.) It felt counterintuitive to put more food into our bodies just because it was “time” when we weren’t hungry in the least.
Hmmm…in general. No.
BUT, hear me out…
A 1-3 day cleanse could be a very powerful tool used for a very specific purpose (with they OK from your Doc). One big time pro to a cleanse is discovering some emotional reasons you might be reaching for food that you never even knew were there. Cleanses can help you dig around if you are having food sensitivities or reactions and aren’t sure what is causing them. They can also help you hit the reset button so you can pick up some healthier habits after the cleanse is complete. There are tons of cleanses out there for you to research if this spikes your interest. If you are pregnant or nursing or have ever suffered from an eating disorder, you need to stay away from this idea. And most importantly, I would never recommend doing one without your doctor being on board!!
A more common cleanse-ish thing you can do that allows you to EAT is The Whole 30. This is centered around the idea of taking everything out of your diet that isn’t real food. You will eat lean meats, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. That’s all, for 30 days! Talk about a reset!Organic:
If I had a money tree in the backyard, I think I would just use it to go to the grocery store (the fancy grocery stores, like Whole Foods), and buy all beautiful, organic, healthy foods! But organic foods are expensive, and honestly, I am not 100% convinced it’s all it’s cracked up to be. It’s hard to know what I am really buying and the process it actually went through (labeling is deceptive and tricky to dissect), without standing at a Famer’s market and talking to the actual farmer.
Here is a great article by the Huffington Post that goes into much more detail!
In the meantime, I do the best I can and buy organic products that are the most important to me. (Heard of the Dirty Dozen?) I have also found that buying generic organic saves money too! (Meijer brand Organic Milk? Sure!)
So, if you’re looking to try something new, improve your health, decrease the signs of aging, improve digestion, lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, have increased energy, and the list goes on…what would I recommend?
Well, you’ll have to figure that out! Why do most people fail at a new way of eating? They quit after just 3 days!!! The first 3 days are always the hardest. Whatever you choose to do, I suggest trying it for at least 2 weeks to see how you feel. Then make adjustments after that. I hope that if you try a new eating method it is done with a clear and holistic goal in mind: having energy, vitality, and good health, as well as being able to maintain an ideal weight and perform well in all of your activities of daily living. If you try to cut back on carbs and don’t meet the mark on each of these things, I would think about adding a few carbs back in and seeing what happens! Be a detective and be patient! The very best way to eat is what is healthy and works well for YOU!
Can I be honest with you? (You’re my fitness family, sure I can, right!:) I have tried many of these things over the last 2 years because I was desperate to shed the weight I gained while pregnant/nursing. (Which I wish I wouldn’t have done!) With every new way of eating I felt stressed, consumed, and out of alignment with my beliefs and convictions. What I personally believe and strive to live by is eating a healthy and balanced diet, focusing on:
-lots of colors and good nutrients
-not over eating meat, but ensuring it has the proper place in my diet (I say this because any low carb diet needs higher amounts of protein and that means meat sources for several meals and snacks a day, which I just felt was too much for me!)
-not counting calories or macros and listening to my body, being in tune and feeding it when and what it needs (and hear me out, these things are good, healthy and useful!! And if you have specific training goals, you need these tools! I am just saying, for me, they drive me crazy and cause me to focus too much on these things and less on more important things in my life).
-the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time my diet is lean, clean, and green, while 20% I indulge without guilt in the treats of life-like wine, chocolate, and pizza!!:)
-setting a good example for my daughter centered around health and NOT about looks.
-being ok with being a little hungry. When so much of the world is living in poverty and literally starving, and here I am buying another diet book…what?! Just because food is readily available all of the time doesn’t mean I need to tend to each and every hunger pang I have!
When I live in this reality, rather than the newest diet trend (and I fall for those trends!), it never fails…the weight, the energy, the health…it all takes care of itself and falls into place.
So feel free to try new things, but please don’t use the scale as the only tool to measure whether or not this is the right lifestyle for you. My best diet advice can be found in one of my favorite posts: The Habitude Fitness Way to Diet and Exercise!
Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your comments!