So, what do I actually do?
Atkins, Paleo, Dukan, Cambridge, high carb, low fat, high fat, no carb, the list goes on. No wonder no one has a clue how to eat. We are literally swamped with different opinions on how to eat, and, more confusingly, there is always someone who is utterly ripped recommending their particular method. I'm going to try to shed some light on eating properly, and from this you can decide what is best for you.
The main issue is that most people don't know what they're trying to achieve let alone how to eat. Eating for fat loss is different to eating for health. You may think getting ripped and lean is healthy but I can assure you when taken to extreme levels it is anything but. Eating for fat loss is very different to eating for performance or growth, again, taking performance or size to extreme levels is also not healthy. Lastly eating for health and balance may not get you the body transformation you desire. So, what is the difference?
For fat loss, you have to create an energy imbalance. This way you store less and you burn more. Generally, this means you must control your energy input. As carbs are a primary fuel source, it usually means you should reduce complex carbs. In this instance, you'd have moderate protein to maintain muscle mass and control fats to a maintenance level. You then need to train to reduce body fat. This means putting in the hours, getting your body to adapt to using fats as a fuel and not overeating so you can't put too much back in to your system. This means that you'll be using your stores to fill the deficit. Eating and training this way will not give you personal bests, you won't get more muscular and you will inevitably lose some muscle mass. There are methods to mitigate muscle loss, but this is essentially all that you need to do to lose fat. The only issue with the energy imbalance part of this is metabolism. This it is where it goes a little fuzzy. If you don't eat or move enough, your metabolism slows, therefore, creating an energy deficit when your body is only having 1000 calories makes it very uncomfortable and slow in making an energy imbalance. Fat loss in this scenario is extremely tough.
This leads onto eating for athletic performance or muscular size. This is all about a positive energy imbalance. You want your body to store more than you burn. The training needs to be sports specific with appropriate recovery. If you do endurance based work you have to fuel it. Simple. High carbohydrate with moderate fats and proteins. This keeps you fully fuelled and able to recover. It allows you to push hard in events and keep focus. If your weight effects your performance, then, learning your body's limits of consumption before you begin to add excess fat is paramount. There will be a tipping point. It is down to you to find it. Generally, it'll come down to how much carb you can consume.
If you're trying to add muscle mass, then it's all about excess. You have to eat to get bigger, you need to be in excess of protein so that you deposit more in the form of muscle. The larger you are the more protein you need. Also, training intensely for size or performance needs carbs. You only run on carbs when you interval or weight train. If you deplete your carbs your body attacks muscle tissue, so being fully carbed up is essential. Therefore, if you train with high carb, need high protein, and you want to avoid excess body fat gains, then you should limit fats. It seems quite trendy at the moment to eat high protein and high fat for lean muscle and conditioning. However, your training performance will suffer and your body will use protein instead, which means your body will burn muscle and you'll get weaker and less muscled. Therefore, this method is not ideal for muscle mass and athletic performance.
Lastly, we can eat for general health. This is eating a balance of moderate proteins, carbs, and fats. Depending on how active you are will depend on how much carb you should have. This will control fat Levels. This way is great for general life maintenance and recreational sports; however, you will struggle to change achieve a body transformation. If you're already in decent shape and you want to stay as you are this is perfect. If you're under-muscled or overweight, then this method won't elicit the physiological adaptations needed to significantly change your body. Don't get me wrong, there's no adverse reason to eating this way, I'm just saying that without eating with a little more direction you won't hit peak condition.
As you can see, if you know what you're trying to achieve then it is easy to eat in a way that supports that goal. If you choose to train one way and eat in another then trust me, you will just go in circles and get nowhere. Eat smart, train hard, and consistency wins the race.
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