A great majority of gym rats (guys who go the gym everyday to ‘stay in shape’) say they have a healthy diet.
I don’t know why I’m fat/skinny, I exercise and eat an healthy diet! When someone says that to me, they don’t need to say anything else. 9 times out of 10, their ‘healthy diet’ includes one or more of the following:
• Low fat dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt)
• Wholemeal bread
• Wholegrain cereal
• Vegetable spread
• Fruit juice
• and the obvious treats like low fat cookies and diet sodas
And obviously, all this usually allied to a low amount of calories and a great amount of cardio.
I too have been guilty of eating a not-so-clean diet, but no, I didn’t mistake it for healthy. You see, even for the somewhat dedicated gym goer, who have eliminated all the crap food for their diets such as fast food, sweets, sodas, etc., these so called ‘healthy foods’ are nothing more than less shitty options within the bad foods spectrum. These impact on insulin resistance and are major contributors to bloating, celiac disease, compulsive eating and overall levels of inflammation in your body.
When a guy asks me: How do I start eating properly to get bigger/stronger/loose fat? The fist thing I ask is for him to give me an example of their diet in a normal day, just one day. The response I usually get is: I don’t know what I eat, it depends, I don’t track it all. Which is fair enough, if you are an experienced lifter and know your body well, because you will roughly know the amount of food, the calories and the macros you are eating every day. And, truth be said, you end up eating a lot of the same stuff every single day. This might work for the overweight middle-aged-man who wants to loose a few pounds, but for the fit wannabe, sometimes a ‘healthy diet’ just doesn’t cut it.
What’s the alternative?
I’m all for a simple approach to dieting. Firstly, make sure that you are consuming enough calories to gain mass or lose fat, namely caloric deficit or surplus – calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate and roughly your energy expenditure. If your aim is to lose fat, I strongly recommend you to get the caloric deficit through more exercise, rather than reducing the calories in your diet. Secondly, make sure that you are ingesting the right amount of protein (i.e. 1g of protein per 1lb of body mass). After these two steps, it gets easier.
After you have determined the above, the first step is cut out all the crap food. Second step is to cut out all the ‘healthy stuff'; and the third step is to fine tune calories and macros, if needed. I say if needed because most guys are able to get a much better physique by just doing step 1 and 2.
So, what should I eat?
Real foods; that grown in the land, in the water, animals, fruits, vegetables, anything that is not processed.
Cut out all ‘healthy foods’ mentioned above from you diet. In addition, cut out pasta and all forms of wheat and sugar (honey is fine). Do not fear fat, red meat, butter or eggs.
Why does this work?
It will fuel your body with proper nutrients, which will leave you satiated and will drastically improve you hormonal balance (insulin response, testosterone production, etc.). This will mean that your body will become much more efficient burning off fat and building up lean muscle mass.
Before you go on to try the next diet you’ve read on a fitness magazine, try this: calculate your caloric needs, adjust protein intake and clean up your diet. Give it a few weeks and adjust from there. Depending on your objectives, there are many options after you have done all this, but until then, there is no point in applying them.
Sounds easy? Go ahead and try it.