By Kevin Rail
Are you ready to have some fun? Good, you’ve come to the right place! But before you dig any deeper, you need to realize something. The word “diet” in the title “Most Effective Diet Programs” is often falsely represented.
You don’t have to travel very far to hear someone say, “Yikes! My pants are fitting a lot tighter than normal. I need to go on a diet.” Sound familiar? You, yourself might have said this phrase as well. It’s ok. It happens to a lot of people.
The reality is, you already ARE on a diet. What you choose to eat and drink on a daily basis IS your diet. So, if you are trying to lose weight, you don’t need to go on a diet. You need to CHANGE your diet.
That being said, your motives might not even be pointed toward weight loss. Perhaps you are in fact just looking to spice things up or make healthier choices. This is such good news because you are about learn about three current, popular diet trends that we believe are also the most effective diet programs out there for general fitness, getting lean, and overall health and performance.
Once you get to the end, you can then make an informed decision if any of these plans are a good fit for you. One thing is for definite sure though. Any time you go from garbage to glory with your food, your body will respond well and fast!
If you failed acronym class in school, it’s time to get enlightened as to just what is going on here. Time-restricted Feeding and Intermittent Fasting, also known as TRF and IF for short, are two popular diet trends that are quickly sweeping the nation like a giant broom – and for good reason.
First things first, you need to know a little more about how these diets work. Although they are often referred to synonymously, they are slightly different.
As the name implies, time-restricted feeding involves restricting the hours that you eat every day. You will often here the word “window” used in relation to TRF. The windows are windows of time that you eat or don’t eat.
For example, an 8 or 9-hour eating window is quite popular. In this case, you would eat between, say 9 am and 5 pm or 9 am and 6 pm, respectively. Then you’d be fasting for 16 or 15 hours.
The goal here is to fast for longer than 12 hours. That’s when the actual benefits start to begin. Here’s the lowdown… It takes approximately 8 hours just for food to digest in your belly. Then it takes a few more hours to get to a point where “programs” start running in your system.
You will sometimes hear this referred to as homeostasis where things recalibrate and come back to balance. Think of it like this. Do you know when you’re working on your computer and all of a sudden you get a notification that updates need to run?
You are instructed that your computer will be shutting down momentarily to finalize this process. Then after it’s over and your computer reboots, it runs faster and better than before.
Well, the body is similar. Once you get past that 12-hour mark, the programs start running and you create a more efficient machine all around.
The sweet spot is 15 to 16 hours done for five days a week. But, if you get into a groove, you can totally do this every day.
Then once you have adapted, you can start dipping your toe into the waters of intermittent fasting. This is more associated with refraining from eating in 24-hour periods every week.
For some, once a week is optimal and others do it multiple days a week. This approach takes a bit more work to get used to, but it can be equally rewarding.
And as far as the food goes, it is always best to choose options that are high in nutrient content. With TRF and IF, there are some who follow more of a high-protein/low-carb diet and there are others who aim for balance.
There really is no right or wrong here, as long as it works for your body.
Although you’ve been farmed to believe all these years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that’s not entirely true. Unless you stop eating really early in the evening, you may end up having your first meal at 10 or 11 o’clock. Or, if you’re doing 24-hours, you may not eat until 6 pm at night.
Sure, you can still have breakfast-like food for any meal, but that’s not the take-home message here. What is of importance is the fact that if you don’t eat first thing in the morning, you won’t be exhausted and sleepy and all the other things you’ve been told.
In fact, the complete opposite is more likely. Just think about this for a second. You just got done sleeping, so you should be well-rested. You then drink some water to hydrate your body and skip out the door.
If you do not eat anything, you will be pleasantly surprised at how high your energy levels are and how well your brain is functioning. This is because your hormones are still in balance.
Now, if you crush a big old honkin’ bagel with a shmere of blueberry-flavored cream cheese, you can send your blood sugar levels through the roof. In turn, you’ll get a metric boost in energy.
But you’ll also suffer an equally impressive crash, not but minutes later. Then you’ll be back to exhausted and your brain clarity will be out the window.
The best-case scenario here is you’re not spotted at your work desk with your head down, lying in a pool of drool. And that’s not a very good best-case scenario, mind you.
The bottom line is this. When you sit in the pocket first thing in the morning, and pause before you eat, you will have more brain function and physical energy.
Also, your hunger hormones will eventually balance out and your overall appetite will come down on a daily basis. This, in conjunction with the fact that you are eating in a compressed window of time, can lead to weight loss. That is golden information to have if weight loss does happen to be your end goal.
People have also experienced healthier skin, clearer vision, better flexibility and more stabilized moods. At the end of the day, it’s all about balancing your hormones for optimal function, and that’s what fasting can do for you too.
Also, since you won’t be eating as much or as often, you can save a few bones a week on food. Maybe put it toward a retirement fund or save it for a new pair of flat-soled gym shoes.
Lastly, you can theoretically get more accomplished in a day. It can take time, preparing meals. If you take this task out of your day, you just created time that may have eclipsed you before.
Really, the only con with time-restricted feeding and intermittent fasting is it takes discipline. If you do happen to get hungry at 8 am and you’re not scheduled to eat until 10, what are you going to do?
Or, if you are fasting for 24 hours and you’re hungry at 8 am, and you’re not scheduled to eat until 6 pm, what are you going to do? The right thing is to suck it up and keep fasting until you’re supposed to eat.
If you are weak, this is easier said than done. But be advised, fasting is much like working out. You start out small and gradual and work your way up as time goes on.
With practice, you’ll have no trouble following a regular daily schedule of 15 to 16 hours fasted or two or more days a week of 24 hours.
The goal is to be patient, stay the course and practice just like you would curling or surfing or playing the guitar.
Things to Consider
Regardless of the approach you take with TRF or IF, remember this take-home fact. Your body is not stupid. It has an amazing ability to adapt to the stressors you place upon it, whether it is diet, exercise or both. For a deeper dive into TRF/IF check out my article on Intermittent Fasting. https://restoreyourfitness.com/how-to-do-intermittent-fasting-correctly/
It’s time to shift gears to an effective diet program that gained some critical acclaim several years ago and is still going strong. It’s called the Paleo Diet. Or, in certain fitness circles and gym floors, it’s often mentioned by the faithful as just “Paleo.” You might hear two gents chatting and one will say, “I’m doin Paleo bro, how bout you?”
What you decide to call it is irrelevant. The main thing is that you learn more about this eating strategy to see if you might want to step into this world.
Just for the record, Paleo is short for Paleolithic. This was a timeframe many, many years ago where provisions were scarce and the natives walking the earth only had access to certain foods.
A lot of these were in the form of animals that they literally had to chase down and murder with their bare hands or implements that they made with their bare hands. Along with the animals, they would scrounge around and find other types of fare like berries, nuts, seeds and a handful of plants.
The interesting thing is, they also would go through periods of feast and famine because they couldn’t just walk on down to a health food store and buy a few pounds of ground round.
They had to earn what they ate and that’s what puts fasting into perspective. If you look back to your ancestors, you can clearly see that intermittent fasting wasn’t even really an option. It just sort of happened organically.
Fast forward to the Paleo Diet, and the rules are based off of this historical time period where you eat mainly meat, limited fruits, all the veggies you’d like, nuts, seeds and oils.
People who are looking to lose weight are often drawn to this diet for a few reasons. First of all, it’s predominately high in protein and fat, and lower in carbs.
When you eliminate or severely restrict an entire macronutrient in your diet, you also restrict calories. If you end up burning more than you consume, then weight loss is eminent.
Secondly, this dieting method in general has a negligible effect on your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is on an even keel, your energy stays stable and your body becomes more fat-adapted, where you burn more stored fat for energy. That’s reason two why it causes weight loss.
And, when the above occurs, you end up maintaining muscle mass whilst the elimination of fat, so you can develop a solid body at the same time. That is one of the reasons a lot of serious weight trainers have adapted this protocol.
Of course, nothing is ever without snags, and the Paleo Diet is no exception to this rule. In similar fashion to fasting, it takes discipline to turn your head to foods that you eat on the reg like bread, cereal, pasta, beans and dairy.
Under normal rules, foods like these are deemed as good quality and healthy for your body because of their unique nutrients and vitamins. But, the theory is that they also cause inflammation, brain fatigue, weight gain and bloating.
When starting this diet, it might be a stretch for you to toss the foods out the window that you’ve been noshing on since you were a little kid. Plus, although your body can adapt to the rigors you put it through, some people have a hard time sticking to it long-term.
If you are one of those people who have a hard time with commitment, you might see some success on the front end, but it could get too laborious a few weeks down the road.
Then, when you are invited to a birthday party for one of your co-workers and blow your diet, you run the risk of staying in the bad zone and reversing any progress you did make.
Things to Consider
Any of the problems associated with making drastic dietary changes can be rectified by allowing yourself a splurge from time to time. It’s when you go hardcore from the start and try to stay there forever that the problems tend to set in.
As long as you know you can have an occasional slice or two of pizza, you can still find success doing the Paleo Diet.
People love to get in the zone. There’s really no feeling quite like it. Football players like to get in the end zone, and the everyday layman is just happy to get in THE zone. When you are in the zone, you are happy, you are energized, you are motivated, and things move along smoothly. Sort of sounds like utopia. But wait, we are not talking about zone the way we talked about “flow states” in another stellar post on this site…..
We are talking The Zone Diet – and the goal here is balance. Ahhh… doesn’t that feel good to say? If you reflect back on your life situation, when do you recall being at your best? It was most likely when all aspects of your daily grind were in balance.
That would include work, your home life, your personal life and your physical feeling. Some say practice makes perfect, but balance is what really makes perfect. And that is exactly what The Zone Diet is all about—balance. How much balance? Well technically 40/30/30. Forty percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, and thirty percent each from proteins and fats.
Here is the theory. Of the three macronutrients, carbs are definitely the most villainized in the public eye. But why? Because they spike blood sugar? Because they automatically cause weight gain? Because they cause water retention?
All of these myths have been brought to the table as arguments in favor of throwing carbs out the back window. The only problem is, this is nowhere near the truth.
Although you can function on a carb-restricted plan, such as Paleo, it is not mandatory to achieve good health or weight loss. What IS of major importance is striking a balance with your intake of protein, carbs and fat. You only flirt with disaster when you eat straight-up simple carbs.
That’s where The Zone diet comes full circle. It is based on the concept that if you keep your blood sugar levels stable, you can lose weight over the long-haul, and prevent and control diabetes.
The recommendation is to eat three regular meals a day and fit two snacks somewhere in between them. This is often known as grazing or eating small, frequent meals.
Another theory behind this is that, when you eat often, your metabolism will stay elevated and your energy levels will be high.
Although the meals are balanced, you are still advised to choose quality foods for them. A cheeseburger might have a portion of protein, fat and carbs, but it’s not a healthy option.
The burger is high in saturated fat while the bun is a simple carb. Combining simple carbs and saturated fat together is one of the worst things you can ever do to your body.
Instead of this approach, The Zone suggests a blissful combination of lean protein, complex carbs and a marginal amount of fat. Fruits and vegetables are the main carb sources, and they are also complex in nature.
Just for the record, a complex carbohydrate is more nutrient-dense than its simple carb counterpart. These carbs get digested at a slower rate, and are higher in fiber and contain a bouquet of nutrients.
Aside from fruits, beans, yams, sweet potatoes, whole grains, whole-grain derivatives, and dairy products can all be construed as complex carbs. Most vegetables do not have a high amount of carbs, but there are some exceptions like beets, carrots and squash.
The benefits of The Zone have already been covered for the most part. But it is also worth noting that this diet can keep your brain function on an even keel and your digestive system should “run smoothly” so to speak.
Often times, the absence of carbs equates to the absence of fiber, which can lead to constipation. That may be a little bit beyond your comfort zone to talk about, but it’s part of mother nature so you should just deal with it.
Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam for a couple hours on a hot, summer day? Do you know how you get all tense and frustrated, and maybe even grit your teeth? Well, think of constipation the same way.
When things are blocked up out there on the streets it can cause discomfort, frustration, anxiety and irritability. Well, constipation can do the same thing. AND, it can raise your risk for colon cancer. There’s nothing fun about that at all.
By following The Zone Diet and getting a good daily dose of fiber, you won’t have to worry about any of the mentioned ill effects.
Another major plus about The Zone is it’s a piece of cake to follow. You don’t have to do any major eliminations, you can eat multiple times throughout the day and you can do this all while feeling good. What more can you ask for?
You’d be hard pressed to find any major flaws with this type of diet plan. The only thing that can really hold you back is if you are a major junk food junkie.
In the beginning, when you have to shift from French fries to a baked potato at lunch, you might go through some withdrawals.
But again, this is short term. Once you log a few days under your belt, and you start to see and feel changes, you can keep the progress going with relative ease.
Lastly, there is more food prep involved with The Zone. So, if you are lazy, this might take a minute to get used to.
Final Words of Wisdom
In the big picture, the diet you choose to follow is less important than the amount of skin you’re willing to put in the game. It always boils down to your level of discipline and how bad you want good health.
Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to follow a time-restricted feeding plan? Are you willing to give up cottage cheese and whole-wheat pasta to do the Paleo Diet? Once you are able to answer questions like these, then you will be in the clear and off to the races.
But just know that your body is highly intelligent. As long as you can keep getting back up, even when you have a setback, you can adapt and achieve wonderful things by way of your dietary preferences. This is called resiliency and it’s what you need to experience monumental success.
-Kevin Rail www.restoreyourfitness.com
Kevin is featured in the new film FASTING.
Kevin Rail is an internationally known and sought after fitness coach featured in the upcoming documentary film The Motivation Factor by Doug Orchard Films. He specializes in functional training, core training, three-dimensional movement, motivation and Restorative Arts. He has a B.S. in Sport Management/Fitness &Wellness, is a StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor and is certified through ACSM, NASM and ACE.