Whether that’s by increasing certain fat loss hormones, reducing fat storing hormones, controlling insulin, or whatever else it might be.
So the main idea behind one particular weight loss diet might be to restrict certain macronutrients like with a low carb diet or a ketogenic dietor a low-fat diet or fasting for a specific portion of the day and eating all of your calories within a shorter feeding window like people do with intermittent fasting.
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It could be spacing your carbohydrate intake out in a certain way like with carb cycling or with carb backloading or removing certain types of foods and focusing on others like with a Paleo diet or certain variations of different gluten-free diets.
And then because of that, they will just swear by that specific way of eating and pretty much argue to the death that carbs make you fat or that eating earlier or later on in the day prevents fat loss, or that sugars or grains or animal products are the sole cause of obesity.
They’ll hone in on the specific macronutrient the specific food group that was removed, or the specific meal spacing or a meal frequency guideline and point to that as being the reason for their success without realizing one very crucial thing.
And that is that virtually all of these different diets have one major thing in common and that’s that in one way or another they’re all forms of caloric control.
In other words, they all contain a different strategy that potentially allows the dieter to more easily maintain a calorie deficit which is the ultimate bottom line when it comes to losing body fat.
And everyone is a bit different in terms of their food preferences and their macronutrient preferences and in how they like to lay up their meals for the day, and the effect that that has on their energy levels and their appetite, and so each of these different diets might work better or worse depending on the person.
For example, if you eat a low-carb diet and you lose fat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that carbohydrates themselves were the problem.
Take a person who regularly consumes moderate to high amounts of calorie dense, refined carbs sources, like muffins and bagels and pastries and granola bars and sugary juices and things like that, and then replaces those with protein shakes and vegetables, and it’s no surprise that the weight is going to start falling off.
People who swear by low carb diets are usually confusing correlation with causation. Meaning, they lost fat because they decrease their overall calories and were able to better control their appetite.
Not because carbs are inherently fat storing in and of themselves. Another example would be if you’re following something like intermittent fasting. Where you don’t eat any food for the first sixteen hours of the day and then you can dense all of your calories down into a shorter eight-hour feeding window.
That type of approach can work really well for some people when it comes to preventing overeating since they’re not regularly snacking throughout the day and they can probably only eat so much within that eight-hour feeding window to begin with since it usually just involves two larger meals.
And so if you’re able to tolerate that sixteen-hour fasting window and your appetite adapts to it there’s a good chance that you’ll end up eating fewer calories for the day in total.
Again, it’s probably not because intermittent fasting has some huge positive effect on growth hormone levels or insulin levels like a lot of people will talk about.
But for some people, it’s just a more effective way of adhering to their diet and not going overboard on total calories in the big picture. And these are just a couple examples of many.
You could say the same thing about a Paleo diet where certain food groups are restricted, or a carb cycling or carb backloading where carbohydrates and total calories are more concentrated during certain periods of the day, or you could even say about something like a vegan diet that focuses on less calorie dense, plant-based sources.
It’s possible that some of these different approaches to eating might have a slightly better fat-burning effect when individual differences are taken into account. I mean, we can’t completely remove that possibility.
We obviously don’t know everything about nutrition, and it is a very complicated topic with new research coming out all the time. But there’s just no way around the simple fact that losing fat and getting lean primarily comes down to maintaining a calorie deficit over time by burning more calories than you consume.
And there are an endless number of different ways that people can go about this successfully. But the calorie deficit is always the one common denominator in the overall picture.
You can cut out certain foods, you can space your calories and your macronutrients out in whatever way you want, you can eat as healthy as you want, but if you aren’t being mindful of your total net energy in take versus your total net energy expenditure then none of that is really going to make any difference at all.
And a lot of people will insist that, no, it’s not about the calories because my calorie intake on this diet is the same as it was on that diet.
But in over a decade of fitness coaching and personal experience, and in looking at the research on the subject of dietary adherence, I’ll link a few studies in the description box if you want to check that out, the reality is that the average dieter is notoriously bad at accurately reporting their calorie intake.
And very often they are off by a pretty big margin. And this happens either because they’re not really tracking their food intake that closely to begin with, even though they might say they are.
Maybe they have like a rough eating plan in place and they’re just estimating it throughout the day, or they are tracking their diet but they’re just making errors with their measurements.
Which is actually a really easy thing to do, especially if you’re on the go and you’re having to estimate certain things throughout the day.
Or, the other possibility, is that they’re not taking into account all of the extra little snacks and cheat meals that get added in throughout the week and month.
Because keep in mind that it’s not about your specific calorie intake from day to day necessarily but more so about your average calorie in take for the week as a whole.
So I’m not saying that any of these individual fat loss diets are necessarily bad. That’s not the point here. If you’ve been using, let’s say intermittent fasting, and you enjoy it and you’re getting results then you should by all means continue.
Or if you’re eating a lower carb approach and you feel fine with that sort of macro breakdown and that’s working for you. Or, let’s say, you’re cycling your calories and the results are coming and you feel good both physical activity levels and mentally and your workouts are going well then by all means, again, keep doing it.
But what I am saying is that it’s probably not because that diet has some special inherent fat-burning benefit and that you couldn’t lose fats by using a different method, but it’s probably just because that specific diet is helping you control your appetite more effectively.
And so you’re maintaining a calorie deficit more effectively as a result of that.
Because the truth is that, it really doesn’t take much in terms of margin for error for you to go from maintaining your weight each week and not getting any results whatsoever to losing fat consistently every single week.
A typical calorie deficit for fat loss is going to be usually somewhere between about three hundred and fifty to five hundred calories below maintenance, and so all it takes is a couple small portions here and therefor your deficit to be either significantly minimized or even erased altogether.
And so that brings me to the main point, which is something I’ve discussed many times before in previous videos, but that is that there is no single definitive best fat loss diet.
Now, the best fat loss diet plan for you is likely just going to be whatever structure of eating allows you to maintain a net calorie deficit over time while meeting your macronutrient and your micronutrient needs.
So that means three square meals a day then that’s fine. Six small meals a day fine. If you want to use intermittent fasting or Paleo or some other method of calorie cycling, or even a vegan diet, that’s fine.
Just know what your calories per day needs are for fatloss and then lay out your foods and your meals in whatever way is most enjoyable for you and in whatever way lets you hit that calorie target in the most accurate and the most effortless way possible.
If you’re weight training consistently and you’re eating enough protein sources and you’re remaining in a moderate sized calorie deficit that isn’t too large then you will lose fat and you will maintain or possibly even gain muscle at the same time regardless of what specific type of diet you’re following.
There’s no single macronutrient or single food group that’s going to just cause you to magically pile on a bunch of fat as long as the total calories are being accounted for.
And even if some highly specific way of eating did give you a small direct improvement in fatloss because it did have some inherent fat-burning benefit, it’s likely going to be minor anyway.
And it doesn’t even necessarily mean that way of eating is going to be more successful for you in the long term. Because if that diet is more restrictive and you really don’t enjoy it you’ll probably end up burning out and quitting anyway.
So, an alternative diet, even if it was slightly less effective in terms of pure fat burning diet plan, would still likely be a better option simply because you’re going to be more likely to stick to it.
Remember that getting lean and being in great shape isn’t a temporary fix. It’s an ongoing way of life.
And so if the diet that you’re following right now isn’t something that you’d reasonably want to continue on for the long term and you couldn’t see yourself eating that way for months or even years on end and be totally fine with it then something is eventually going to have to change anyway.