Dieting isn’t a one-size fits all approach…in fact, everyone’s nutrition should be different…individualized to them and them only.
Okay…great, but what does that mean?
Let’s say you’re setting up for a fat-loss phase. You’re planning on how you want to start the process. Based off of most of the resources out there and old-school traditional dieting, you’d likely just go into a deficit and let the weight come off as time progresses.
Most diets and cuts typically follow this approach. It’s called the “linear diet” where you simply create the deficit for all 7 days of the week and follow it for 8-12 weeks. Simple! …. Right?
What if I told you that you’re not limited to that one way…in fact, I, along with many great coaches, do this with very few clients!
Why??? Because there are SO many more effective ways to diet that are…
1. More sustainable
2. More enjoyable
For most of my clients, I use an alternative way of dieting that isn’t just putting clients in a deficit and monitoring weight-loss and removing more food as they reach inevitable plateaus (if you missed my recent post on plateaus and how to break them, check them out here)
INDIVIDUALIZING YOUR DIET
As you head into your fat loss phase, choose one of these methods below to start with. Choose the one that seems the most appropriate for YOU. Don’t worry if you’re not sure. With each approach, I’ll give you the pros and cons and who typically prefers each diet.
1. Linear Diet
This diet is the traditional diet done in the past that I was talking about above. In this diet, you simply go into a 15-20% deficit for 7 days. Remember to create this deficit, you’re cutting 15-20% of total calories and taking from a combination of both carbs and fats. You simply follow this macro/calorie prescription for 8-12 weeks.
Pros: simple and effective, guarantees a deficit, no worries about messing up timing of refeeds/diet breaks
Cons: doesn’t allow “cheats”, forced to one prescription, all-or-nothing approach, more susceptible to plateaus, hormonal and metabolic adaptations
Who this diet is for: 1st time dedicated dieters who are very adherent and don’t have binges, cravings, or splurges, last resort option at the end of a cut, mini-cuts
2. Calorie/carb cycling
In this diet, you’re cycling your calories, mainly carbs, between training and non-training days. On training days, you’re eating a higher number of calories/carbs to fuel your training. On your non-training days (rest days and active recovery days), you’re eating fewer calories/carbs. Your deficit is mainly created from your rest days. To set up this diet, I would create your high-calorie/carb days at a 5-10% deficit to ensure an adequate enough deficit to work then create a 25-35% deficit on your rest days. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you’ll want to lean on the bigger side of the deficit. If you don’t have much weight to lose, then you don’t have to create much of a deficit. Most people train ~4 days/week which gives 4 days at or right below maintenance and 3 days in a deficit. If you train 6 days/week, this diet isn’t for you to lose weight but could be used as a means of convenience.
Pros: can follow longer because deficit usually isn’t as large, convenient, easy way to create a deficit, very little risk of metabolic or hormonal adaptation
Cons: doesn’t create a huge deficit, not optimal for recovery (slowing glycogen replenishment)
Who this diet is for: individuals who don’t have much weight to lose, work out no more than 5 days (need to have a couple days to create that deficit), who have a noticeable drop in hunger on rest days, and who trains weights >60% (not just cardio)
3. 5:2 Split
This approach is one of my favorites and a starting point with most of my clients. In this diet, you’re eating in a 20-30% deficit for 5 days. After those 5 days, you take a 2-day consecutive refeed roughly at maintenance calories. You can choose your 5:2 split. My recommendation is to set your 5 days as Sunday through Thursday or Monday through Friday, then have your 2-day refeed on Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday, respectfully. My favorite thing about this approach is it creates a deficit, gives you a break on the weekends, and gives you a TON of wiggle room later in your diet phase. If your weight loss plateaus, you could simply remove a refeed day and switch to a 6:1 approach (below) or implement some cardio to create a further deficit.
Pros: protects from hormonal and metabolic damage, let’s you enjoy life a little bit, lets you enjoy weekends a bit more, leaves space to create deficit when weight-loss plateaus, restores hunger response, keeps metabolism high, easy to adhere to deficit M-F
Cons: could result in weekend “binges” ruining the deficit, hard mentally to eat “more” food in a diet and may get in your head, usually only a starting place and will need to be tweaked as you progress through the diet
Who this diet is for: social people who enjoy their weekends, families, everyday people wanting a sustainable, more enjoyable approach
4. 6:1 Split
This is similar to the diet above except you only get one refeed instead of two. The deficit doesn’t have to be as large. You would create a 6-day deficit at a 15-25% of total calories. You would then have one refeed day (whatever day of your choosing) at or above maintenance calories.
Pros: the six-day deficit doesn’t have to be as large, weight loss is a bit faster than the 5:2 approach, relatively easy to follow, refeed could be above maintenance
Cons: when weight loss plateaus, you either have to remove the refeed day, create a bigger 6-day deficit or implement some cardio, only one day and will need more social restraint on the weekends
Who this diet is for: same as above in the 5:2 split. Good for most people!
5. Matador Diet
This is a relatively different approach. The Matador diet (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) is similar to the refeed approach…but you’re spending 2 weeks in a relatively large deficit (25-35%) then a whole two weeks back at maintenance calories or a slight surplus. This diet is relatively new and surprisingly effective. The time frames for this approach could be adjusted. You could go one week on/one week off, 2 weeks on/1 week off, or 1 week on/2 weeks off. That’s the beauty of this approach. Although, I would just suggest starting with the 2 on/2 off approach because it works just as effectively.
Pros: can follow for MUCH longer (the study that introduced this diet lasted 32 weeks), very easy mentally to “grind” for two weeks, then spend two whole weeks recovering
Cons: takes longer to see results, the deficit is much bigger
Who this diet is for: anyone with metabolic or hormonal adaptation, anyone with prior disordered eating (although if you have a past eating disorder, you should be working closely with a coach/doctor/specialist to ensure healthy weight loss), anyone who struggles with binges and cravings or just sticking to one thing for two long, anyone with a significant amount of weight to lose (because you can stay in a deficit longer than the traditional 8-12 weeks).
If you want to read the study that introduced the Matador diet, check it out here.
And there you have it.
The goal for any cut is to create a deficit. Hopefully, by now I proved to you that there are many ways to create this deficit. You don’t JUST have to cut all your calories.
My last piece of advice: Be adaptable and open-minded.
You may try one of these and realize it’s not working, or you simply don’t enjoy it. Give an approach 2-3 weeks then assess its efficacy. Are you maintaining a 1-2% weight-loss rate? Are you noticing body comp changes? How is your sleep, energy, stress, recovery? If the diet is working, then let it keep working. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to adjust it by tweaking with the deficit or the diet/approach itself.
If you’re wanting to start a diet but not sure where to start, download your copy of my [free] nutrition guide that sets this whole thing up for you or apply here for a consultation call to sign up for your individualized coaching with me.