Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Monday, 3 May 2010

What diet should I use?

Having studied diets in quite some detail with particular relevance to weight loss I am quite often asked the question by athletes, and ‘regular’ people – which diet should they eat? And they then seem to put forward various diet ‘products’ for discussion, so I’ll quickly run over some thoughts on them.

A common diet I come across, and a popular one amongst the less informed is the Supplement Diet, where real foods seem to be set aside as secondary to the supplements. Whilst these people still eat some regular meals they put supplements down their throats like there is no tomorrow, often getting quite anxious that they need the right amount at the right time of the day. These people seem to believe the advertising, which (and trust me on this) is worded and associated to seem like success is a given.

It is my observation that there is often an image created around supplements by the people using these, like they are a prop, an extension of their personalities, that they are getting somewhere by using supplements.

Supplements are just that – supplementary to diet. They should not be relied upon instead of food. It is possible to get everything you need from your food – if you plan accordingly. Now, it might be that you aren’t eating the right amounts of the right foods, or need a meal and didn’t have time to prepare – and this is where supplements are of use.

Though too many people I talk to rely on supplements of the be-all and end-all of diets. These people could save their money, work less hours as a result, and spend that time planning and preparing real food which will be far better for them. And don’t get me started on the people who take supplements but still eat rubbish at the same time!

Then there are things like Weight-watchers, Slimfast, and other such diets. These aren’t what I would term a healthy lifestyle diet, but instead a way of teaching Calorie control. They also get you to buy into a product, and the marketing is set up for you to rely on that product in order to get the results you want. Now, don’t get me wrong, many people have great success on these diets, and they do work well. These companies have a good product and use it well. Though if you remove the prop of the product, and let these people stand on their own, I wonder how many maintain the condition they’ve worked hard for. Not many I think.

Athletes are a funny bunch, we always are looking at what is new to give us the ‘edge’ and often run from one theory to another without studying it, often following peer pressure or through role models. It is in this bracket that I think we can put diets like the Warrior Diet, Paleo, Metabolic Typing, Intermittent Fasting, Eat for your Blood Type, the Zone Diet and so on.

Now, these all have some evidence in science. But, why are they all so different? They all claim to be the ‘right’ way for eating. And yet at the same time tell us we should all be eating different foods, different quantities, and different times of the day and so on. They can’t all be right. Can they?

The science principles behind them all stand up at first, but when you look into them in more depth; there are just too many variables that haven’t been accounted for. They all have good basis, but none of them stand up as being truly right over all the others.

But there is one thing that I like about this last list of diets. And that is they get you eating a healthy, clean, natural mix of foods. They shy away from processed foods, chemicals, and stick with healthy foods that give the right nutrients. Now, I may not be a believer in the vehicle of the diets themselves, but their content of eating healthily I totally subscribe to. So if you don’t know what to do with a diet, I would suggest that you could follow the Warrior, Paleo, or the others on the list. Find the one that fits your lifestyle best, and then let it teach you how to eat healthily.

Alternatively, listen to your body, and just eat healthily. Look for natural foods, stay away from processing and additives. Learn to cook food properly for the optimum nutritional intake. (For example, you get more goodness from lightly cooked carrots than raw carrots – the cooking breaks down the enzymes in order for us to absorb all of the nutrition.) Eat a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Don’t shy away from saturated fat either – it’s not the beast that many think. Eat a good variety of foods, different colour vegetables, a variety of fruits and berries. And drink lots of water.

And listen to your body – it has evolved at being very adept at telling you what you need and when to eat it. So start to pay attention and you will find it knows exactly what nutrients it requires. It will tell you when you are actually hungry and when to eat. It will tell you what and how much too. You just have to start listening.

So what diet is right? I would say the healthy diet that gives you the right nutrients. And with every person being an individual, looking at different goals, the only diet to have is the right one for you.

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