There are so many different approaches to nutrition nowadays. You’ve got paleo, IIFYM, clean eating, ketogenic dieting, and many others. But which of these is best for my overall health and perhaps even my body composition? The answer is that it depends! To understand what may be right for you, let’s observe some of these approaches to a healthy diet.
The paleo diet is rapidly gaining popularity across the world. Paleo is most common in the CrossFit group of fitness, however other people are also switching to paleo. The basis of the paleo diet is that you are to only consume whole nutritious foods. That means absolutely no processed or refined junk. On paleo it is acceptable to consume foods like grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies (providing lots of color), eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils and fats (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut).
It is not acceptable to consume foods like dairy, refined sugar, potatoes (or high starch foods), processed food, refined vegetable oils, legumes, and even salt. One ingredient foods is what we are looking for in this diet. Following paleo can be a challenge, but in doing so you are going to be eating healthy nutritious foods. The downfall to paleo, is that foods are limited and your diet can become dull. Plus there are limits on sodium on the paleo diet and that can be detrimental to your performance if you were to reduce your sodium intake significantly, due to sodium being an electrolyte used for hydration and muscle contractions.
Paleo is a good diet that encourages whole nutritious foods for bettering your health, but it may become dull and/or a way of life that doesn’t stick.
IIFYM is short for “if it fits your macros”. This approach to nutrition has caught the eye of several lately. The main thing to note about IIFYM is that you are given an amount of protein, carbs, and fats to consume every day. You’ll set these amount based on your caloric goal to either aid in weight loss or build muscle. If you’re off by a few grams on a couple macros, it’s not the end of the world. Just be as consistent as possible. As long as you hit the appropriate amount of protein, carbs, and fats that you set as a goal for that day, you’re fine.
What kind of foods can you eat that fall within the IIFYM guidelines? The answer…is ANYTHING. IIFYMers are notorious for enjoying all kinds of junk food and posting it to social media and to display that you can in fact lose weight or build muscle while consuming foods like poptarts, pizza, and donuts as long as your macros are hit at the end of the day.
A concern many have with this diet is that many IIFYMers neglect fiber. If you neglect fiber, things like irregularity, improper food absorption, and higher blood glucose levels can occur. Some IIFYM’ers track fiber and those who do will see better health benefits and better body composition results. Also, if you are to include less micronutrient dense foods, like many IIFYMers, certain functions of the body might not be running as smoothly as possible. IIFYM is great for getting good body composition results while also giving you the flexibility to branch out and consume some “unhealthy” foods.
As far as health, IIFYM can easily be used in a way to improve health as long as you don’t over consume “unhealthy” foods.
The term “clean” is hard to understand for many. “Clean” usually refers to foods that are known for being healthy nutritious foods that provide good energy and an array of micronutrients. People that follow the clean eating lifestyle often emphasize quality over quantity. While the quality of food is an important aspect of nutrition, it isn’t everything. In terms of overall health, quality will trump quantity in most cases.
However, when your goal is to improve your body composition, the quantity of food starts to play a bigger role. “Clean” eating is a great way to improve some possible health imbalances and improve performance in the gym. If you’re wanting to optimize your body composition, the quantity of your food will need to be something you’re observing.
Ketogenic dieting is a way of eating that was developed in the 1920s used in treatment for epilepsy. Because of today’s medicinal development and the medications that they now have, ketogenic dieting has lost its purpose in the treatment of epilepsy. Ketogenic dieting is much different than the previously discussed approaches to nutrition. This approach is similar to a low-carb approach except taking it to another level.
In ketogenic dieting, your goal is to limit carbohydrate consumption as much as possible. Your macronutrient goals should be very low-carb (5% of total calories), moderate protein (20% of total calories), and very high fat (75% of total calories). This can be counter-intuitive to many people. In a high fat diet like ketogenic dieting, your body is changing from its normal contributing energy source being glucose from carbohydrates to ketones from fat. The transition from using glucose as fuel to ketones as fuel is called ketosis.
Ketogenic dieting shows promise for anyone wanting to lose weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and help reduce the effects of diabetes or certain metabolic syndromes.
There are so many different approaches to nutrition and dieting out there. Determining which is best for you can be difficult. The best diet for ANYONE is a diet that someone can adhere to. Picking a diet that you can stick to for the long run is going to be most important. Consistency and quantity of food is going to be the main factor in terms of reaching your body composition goals.
If your goal is to improve overall health, the types of foods you decide to eat start to take on a bigger role. Whatever your goal is, be consistent and have balance in your diet. Do what works for you!