What’s Wrong with Fad Diets

Fad DietsIf you are reading this article there’s a huge probability that you have been on a diet at least once in your life. Some of us tried multiple ones. Low carb, low fat, raw foods, fruit diet, cabbage soup, meal replacements, fasting – name it – we’ve done it! Every ‘diet’ is based on the idea that it is a certain food or food group that is to blame. Headlines read: sugar kills you, carbs make you fat, fat causes obesity and heart disease!  Long story short – all that is simply not true! The reason why people get hung up on such reasoning is because it’s easier to believe in a miracle diet  which will solve all your worries than to realize it is hard work and balanced eating that will get you to your goal.  Secondly – marketing. Companies selling miracle diet books, meal replacements such as bars shakes and soups and other gimmicks want you to believe them!

According to Alan Aragon, a hugely experienced nutrition and fitness expert:

‘You should completely ignore fad diets. All of them falsely scapegoat a single nutrient or food group. This is missing the forest for the trees.’

He goes on to explain that by demonizing a single food we give it too much power over our emotions, we crave it even more and we ignore the main problem which is the lack of balance. Nobody is overweight because of sugar or fat. People are obese because they adapt a certain lifestyle. In the western society people have minimum physical activity, they consume huge portions of calorie dense foods and they eat too much sugar and fats. All that, combined with jobs becoming more and more sedentary (technology now enables you to work from your couch – you don’t even have to get out of you pajamas) is what makes us fat and sick.

Alan discredits fads such as keto or paleo by pointing out that cutting out a food group simply tricks you into reducing calories – hence they produce results.  It is important to see that many followers of such diets, which frankly often remind cults, base their convictions on limited and biased evidence. For example, there is no evidence that the Paleo diet is anything but a fad. Firstly, how can we put all our ancestors into one bag? As Alan points out their diet depended on where they lived and what they had available.

We all know it is hard to accept the thought that in weight loss, cancer and other disease prevention there is no miracle cure! No secret. No hidden answer. You have to make a conscious effort to learn about healthy nutrition and then implement small but sustainable changes. Exercise regularly (no, I don’t mean a walk in the park on a Saturday) and eat 80-90% whole, unprocessed healthy foods (yes, have that donut once in a while) and you will, truly, see improvements.

Remember, fads are dangerous and research shows that in the long term they lead to obesity, health and psychological issues such as eating disorders. Just a reminder: check our Rule 1 Proteins fad diets

Flexible Dieting-You can have your cake and eat it

flexible dietingYou may have come across the term IIFYM or Flexible Dieting but yes, we agree, it sounds a bit cryptic to say the least. So what would you say if we told you that you can eat everything you like in moderation and still lose weight, build muscle and achieve all your fitness goals? Crazy, right? Yet, there is a whole community of fitness people who do just that to stay in shape or even compete in international bodybuilding competitions. Yes, you heard that right, they eat donuts too!

What is IIFYM?

IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. The term ‘macros’ refers to macronutrients you consume daily – protein, fats and carbohydrates. The diet approach is based on a calculation – the amount of calories you need daily to lose weight safely (small deficit compared to the maintenance number) made up of the right proportion of carbs, fats and protein. Usually you will consume 35-40% carbs 35-40% protein and the rest will be fats (20-30%). There are multiple calculators online that will help you estimate your numbers based on age, weight and activity rate. It will also vary depending on your target – weight loss, gain, muscle bulk or maintenance. Then, all you have to do is track all your meals so they add up to your daily macro and calorie targets. If you want to eat a donut and it fits into your daily plan – go for it! It is very important to stick to healthy, whole unprocessed foods 80-90% of the time, though to ensure you are healthy and losing weight consistently.

Why it Works

You may say – ‘so IIFYM is simply reasonable, healthy eating.’ Exactly – no rocket science here! You can eat lots of nutritious foods with occasional treats and get in the best shape of your life. Unnecessary restrictions or excluding food groups will only lead to emotional eating and binging in time. Foods should not be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or dirty’. According to a nutrition expert Alan Aragon blaming or excluding single foods gives them power and can lead to further problem such as eating disorders. We should look at the issue of nutrition from a wider perspective – there are many elements that make up a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. You shouldn’t shame yourself for eating anything. Just make it fit in with your goals and keep a balanced approach.

There is a bit of a debate recently on Flexible Dieters promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Some of them may share more junk food photos than seems reasonable but that’s ok. If they feel like it fits in with their goals and lifestyle, who are we to judge. However, we strongly recommend a 90% healthy foods approach which will ensure you stay not only slim but healthy and energized! Here is a tip as well to help you if you are finding it hard to get in all your protein.  Why not try a Protein shake.  Optimums Nutrition has a delicious whey protein gold standard that comes in a large variety of flavors so you don’t get bored!

The Cardio Truth

cardioThe belief that cardio is the most efficient way to lose weight and stay fit was and still is popular in the fitness world. People who don’t exercise also believe that only hours spend on the treadmill can make them look better and they never dare try. But is this true and where does this stereotype spur from?

Myth #1 – You need to do at least an hour of cardio to burn fat.

Of course, many bodybuilders do cardio daily, sometimes for extended periods but remember they usually eat a lot and they prepare for competitions where single digit body fat percentages are a must. Even then, many of them only do cardio a few times a week for half an hour at a time.

You have to remember that weight and fat loss are a process that comprises of exercise and nutrition. So how much cardio you need to do will depend on your nutrition and other physical activity you perform daily. For example, if you have a sedentary job, yes, more cardio will be both healthy and optimal for weight loss. But if you spend most of the day on your feet, you may want to reduce cardio and focus on weight lifting or interval training.

Myth #2 – Fasted cardio burns fat better and faster

This is a popular one. We assume that in a fasted state our body has no choice but to turn to fat stores for energy. It turns out the opposite may be true – we will waste out muscle tissue away and end up ‘skinny fat’. A 2011 study concluded that fat burning is consistent regardless of whether or not you’ve eaten before a workout. Other research shows an increase in muscle catabolism from fasted cardio. Stick to basics – calories in vs. calories out. Perform cardio and mix it up to keep your body guessing and you are set for success. No need to be doing your cardio passing out from hunger. Eat a nice nutritious breakfast and it will enhance your muscle growth and cardio performance.

Myth #3 – You can’t lose weight without cardio

The one and only way to lose weight (and fat) is by creating a calorie deficit by diet or exercise and preferably both. The healthiest way to lose is to combine a balanced diet, cardio and resistance training. Lifting weights is important since it helps build muscle mass which increases your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This means that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn just ‘living’ and performing everyday tasks. You can create a calorie deficit by dieting and lifting but we certainly recommend adding cardio for improved effects and cardiovascular health!


To summarize, the best and healthiest approach to weight loss is balance. A healthy diet with a moderate amount of cardio, interval and resistance training will definitely show results and the variety will keep you on your toes, too!

What you need to know about Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fastingYou may have heard about it – it’s the latest diet craze in the fitness community around the world. But what does it mean and what are the benefits? Can fasting be dangerous? Here are a few basic facts that will help you understand what IF is all about.

The Concept

The basic concept of Intermittent Fasting is to fast (consume no calories) for a number of hours and consume all your daily calories within an eating window. The most popular protocols are 16:8 (16hr fast, 8 hr eat), 18:6, 20:4 and 23:1. There also exist other variations such as:
– Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

– The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.

Generally the length of your eating window should be thought through and depend on your goals and expectations.

What’s the point?

Firstly, Intermittent Fasting enables dieters to limit their number of calories consumed by having shorter eating windows. It’s important to remember the IF alone is not a weight loss tool – you can use it for that by reducing food/calorie intake. Your body learns to cope with hunger and regulates your blood sugar which helps you control cravings. More importantly, it has been proven that several things happen in the body during a fast. For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat accessible.Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes. Your body initiates these valuable processes:

  • Increased Human Growth Hormone – enables muscle growth and fat loss
  • Insulin Sensitivity Improves – leads to easier fat loss
  • Cellular repair
  • Gene expression – changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for
the health benefits of intermittent fasting

The concept is based upon the belief that our ancestors didn’t have food easily accessibleintermittent fasting and they sometimes fasted for days, maybe weeks at a time. It is believed that their bodies were able to efficiently regulate and use stored fat for energy to keep them strong and fit at all times.

Giving it a go

Fasting can be a great, cleansing experience for your body and mind. In most cases Intermittent fasting is quite safe. If you want to try it out – go easy at first. If still unsure, consult your physician.


What exactly is Carb Cycling?

carb cycling
A recently discovered phobia of carbohydrates and the belief that they make us fat in ill has boosted the popularity of low carbohydrate diets. According to the principles of low carb diets (such as ketogenic or paleo) carbohydrates are not needed at all and the less glucose we have in our bodies, the better. Even though low carb diets have been proven effective for some diseases such as epilepsy, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers, a carb free diet is not optimal for muscle building and athletic performance. Even though carb cycling may not be for everyone any healthy individual or athlete shouldn’t avoid carbs.
In sports, carbohydrates provide instant energy as well as help building muscle. In a low carb diet cortisol and glucagon are produced when we put stress on our bodies (exercise) and cause a catabolic effect on the muscles. But does that mean that athletes stuff themselves with carb rich foods and sugar daily? This is where we should introduce the concept of carb cycling.
Carb cycling is a method for achieving certain fitness goals such as lowering body fat or improving performance which includes alternating carbohydrate intake daily, throughout the week depending on training routines. For example on the first, heavy training day we ingest a high amount of carbs, on the second moderate and on the third (rest day) we will eat a low amount of carbs. Some athletes on the other hand, will consistently ‘load’ carbs for a longer period of time (bulking) and then reduce their intake the closer they get to the competition (cutting). Some even use ketogenic diets for a few weeks before competing
What this is supposed to achieve is to always surprise our bodies and trick them into an extreme reaction. Dropping carbs rapidly will put our body into a fat burning mode. This method is popular amongst bodybuilders and people with lower amount of fat to lose as it helps tackle the stubborn remains of fat. Of course, portion control should be key, we want the carbohydrates to be used in a timely manner, rather than being stored as fat. Consuming most of them around workout times will maximize energy and muscle growth and minimize the catabolic effect on the muscle tissue. For people who have quite a lot of fat to lose it’s best to stick to caloric restriction and exercise however if you have reached a plateau or are trying to get shredded for a contest carb cycling will give your metabolism a nice kick with enough energy to work but no fat storing.
But does all this imply a big ‘thumbs up’ to living off chocolate and junk foods, or worse binging and starving on alternate days? First and foremost – eat and live ‘clean’! Above all it’s important to remember that carbs or no carbs our diet should contain of whole, organic and healthy foods such as omega rich fats, lean organic meat, fish and poultry and wholegrain, and most importantly low GI, unprocessed carbohydrates.