What is the best diet?

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There are 1001 methods to lose weight. But which one is the best?

The simple answer: the best diet is the one you can follow best. So you choose the diet that feels easiest for you .

CALORIE DEFICIT

The essence of a fat loss diet is that you create a calorie deficit. There is a long list of scientific studies that show that a calorie deficit leads to fat loss. And as far as we know, there are exactly zero studies showing the opposite.

Mind you, a calorie deficit does not always lead to weight loss: there’s body recomposition and there are medical conditions where this happens, but you lose fat anyway. Are you not losing fat? Then you obviously don’t have a calorie deficit. You may have overestimated your maintenancce level.

The primary way to create a calorie deficit is to eat less. You can supplement this with some more exercise (cardio).

WEIGHT LOSS AND MUSCLE RETENTION

As a natural bodybuilder you have a bit more on your mind than just losing fat: you have to maintain your hard-earned muscle mass at the same time. We also call it cutting: losing fat while retaining muscle mass, so that you get more muscle definition. This as opposed to bulking, where you use a (small) calorie surplus to build muscle mass.

When cutting, you have to deal with some extra restrictions in your diet compared to ‘normal’ weight loss.

TRAINING

For example, you should also continue to do strength training during the cut, with roughly two thirds of the training volume that you used in bulk.

Prioritize your strength training; don’t do excessive cardio.

SIZE OF THE ENERGY DEFICIT

In addition, your diet must meet some additional conditions.

Relatively slow weight loss is good for muscle maintenance  Therefore ensure a medium energy deficit: 20-25% of your maintenance level, as we argue in another article.

PROTEIN INTAKE

You should also keep your protein intake high, so around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This way you keep muscle protein synthesis high in order to prevent muscle breakdown as a result of a calorie deficit.

CARBOHYDRATES VS FATS

And what about carbohydrates versus fats? As a bodybuilder, should you go high-carb or low-fat ? Scientists are not yet in agreement on this. Coach and author Mike Israetel mentions the importance of carbohydrates for muscle growth, but his colleague Menno Henselmans contributed to a voluminous meta-analysis that shows that the amount of carbohydrates and fats does not matter much for fat loss.

Our preference is for high-carb, where we use a minimum of 0.7 g of fat per kilogram per day. But again, it probably won’t hurt if you go a little higher in the fats, so it’s a matter of preference.

MEAL FREQUENCY AND TIMING

Also the amount of meals and the distribution thereof is mainly a matter of preference. Research does show that it is best to spread your proteins over three to six meals, with 20-40 grams of protein in each meal. Ideally, you place your training between two meals, so that you are assured of sufficient protein in the first hours of the anabolic window.

Intermittent fasting does nothing miraculous for your health, nor for muscle growth/maintenance, but if it fits into your lifestyle, it can be a useful way to create a calorie deficit. So again a matter of preference.

FOOD QUALITY

Losing weight is basically about the numbers, especially the amount of calorie deficit and amount of protein. In principle, what you eat doesn’t matter, as long as you stick to those numbers with a calorie app.

However, there are arguments in favor of mainly choosing healthy food (that is, unprocessed food) with a high degree of saturation. But here again personal preference applies, as well as for specific diets, such as plant-based food, and whether or not to include cheat meals.

FINALLY

Dieting (cutting) can be done in many ways and it is best to choose a diet that is easy for you to maintain in the longer term. And what is easy for you may not be for someone else.

However, as a bodybuilder you have to take into account a few guidelines that are important for muscle maintenance:

  • do sufficient strength training (~2/3 of your bulk volume);
  • create a moderate calorie deficit (20-25%), especially through a calorie-restricted diet, not too much cardio;
  • eat enough protein (~2 g/kg/d);
  • spread proteins over at least 3 meals.

The other possible restrictions are mainly up to personal preference.

REFERENCES

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