Today I was asked a question on twitter by one of my followers:
@CaffeineFitness do you follow some kind of diet plan like paleo, pn, if etc. ?
— xdreamchaserx (@xdreamchaser82x) August 6, 2013
I thought about how to compress it down to 160 characters, then decided to just do a blog post on it here instead.
How I started
Like most guys, I started off believing that if I wanted to grow any muscle I had to consume lots of protein every few hours. The end result of that was I got fat due to all the added calories I thought I needed.
I then tried a low carb diet to lose the fat. This did work a bit, but I also really really missed those tasty carbs. Rice, bread, candy, beer etc are things I love, so low carb was never going to work long term.
I then stumbled upon intermittent fasting, and leangains in particular. I followed leangains for a couple of years and got into really good shape. I had muscle and abs, which is what the aim always was. But I found leangains a bit too restrictive to be something I could follow for the rest of my life.
Watching my partner eating a tasty breakfast or late night snack sometimes had me jealous, since I could only eat between noon and 8pm.
After leangains I decided to just relax a little. If I wanted breakfast I’d have something, if I wasn’t hungry I’d just skip it. I could eat late at night again which was great. The one issue was that I found it easier to eat more calories, so I started adding a little fat again. The solution to this was just to keep a tighter control of portion sizes. From many years of various diet styles I knew when I was eating way too much, so I just had to be sensible about amounts.
My current diet style
Recently I’ve been using intermittent fasting again, but this time using The Fast Diet style of having 1-2 days a week eating low calorie. For me that means eating a moderate sized dinner and not much else. If I want to lose a little fat I do this twice a week, otherwise just the once. This allows me the freedom to eat as I like (within reason) the rest of the week.
I haven’t thought about calories for nearly a year now. I just let my body let me know if I’m hungry or full. This is really refreshing after counting calories on notebooks and later on the myfitnesspal app. You don’t want to have to check the calorie content before you eat anything for the rest of your life. That’s bordering on OCD.
If I gorge on food one day I know I need to balance that out by being a bit hungry on another day, else I’ll put on fat. It’s all about balance.
I would recommend counting calories initially though. Spending a month getting used to “normal” portion sizes is something everyone should do. But once you know what a normal portion size looks like you shouldn’t need to bother with calories again.
What I eat
I don’t really give carbs, fat or protein much thought any more. Some days I eat very low protein, other days are higher, it just depends what food sounds good to me that day. I eat bread, pasta, rice, meat, veg, candy & drink some alcohol. Life is too short to deprive yourself from your cravings, you just have to be sensible with them. If I’m craving chocolate I’ll have some, I’ll just try not to eat a family sized bag. If I do eat way too much then I know I’ll have to pay for it later with an extra fast day.
Since worrying less about what I eat I’ve noticed no negative effects. I’m still progressing in the gym and I am able to keep my abs visible.
One bonus is that I don’t spend money on supplements any more. Since ditching the protein powders I’ve noticed no difference. Muscle is so slow to grow you really don’t need that much. Unless you are a vegetarian you probably don’t even need to give it much thought.
Your body is good at guiding you to eat what it needs, you just need to learn to listen to it.
For example, after hitting a new personal best on deadlifts I know I’ll be hungrier than usual. That’s my body telling me to eat more so it can repair any damage and build a bit more muscle.
But paleo says no gluten!
I’ve spent some time looking into paleo diets, like I’m sure many people have just now, since paleo seems to be the diet of the day.
But for me the paleo diet is flawed.
The reason for the current obesity epidemic isn’t grains – it’s eating too much and moving too little.
People were healthy decades ago eating rice and cereals. They just didn’t eat mountains of it. They also didn’t spend all day sitting at a desk or TV.
If you genuinely have a gluten allergy then of course avoid it. Just don’t avoid grains because you think they have suddenly become evil.
Move more, eat less & listen to your body – a great moto to live by. Leave all the minor details to others to worry about.