New theories about how to lose weight are thrown at you on a daily basis. But which diet is best for weight loss? Let's look at two of the most popular and answer that question.
There are two main diet approaches that have amassed popularity in the fitness industry in recent years. And unless you're completely new to fitness, I'm guessing you've heard of them. IIFYM or If It Fits Your Macros to give it its full name, is one, and Clean Eating is the other. But which diet is best for weight loss?
IIFYM and Clean Eating have been doing the rounds heavily over the last few years. And if you don't believe me or aren't sure what I'm talking about, do one thing for me.
First off, load up your Instagram feed right now. Because I'm willing to bet you won't find it too hard to find pictures guys singing the praises of IIFYM. They're easy to spot. You know the ones. Ripped guys nailing 12 doughnuts at a time while simultaneously mainlining Big Macs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Likewise, you'll also find pictures of leafy green salads, seeds, and boiled chicken. And the text accompanying those pictures will tell you that all junk food is bad. And unless a food is 100% natural then it's a poison that's going to destroy your body.
So that might be a bit of an exaggeration on both fronts, but it's representative of the hyperbole that surrounds this whole debate.
And it seems to be that you're either in one camp, or the other. There's no allowance for a grey area.
So where does that leave you?
I'm guessing the word confused sums things up, am I right? Because you're left wondering which camp is right, and which is wrong. Is it the doughnut loving jacked dude, or the veggie loving anti-KFC guy? Ultimately, you want to know which diet is best for weight loss and achieving your goals. But you're not getting the answer to that question.
Well this week's article is going to give you the answer once and for all. So read on and find out which diet is best for weight loss.
Diet Approaches - Do We Even Need Them?
Over the years a variety of dieting approaches have washed through the fitness industry. For example, I can remember back 10-15 years ago when Atkins was all the rage. And that had people eating steaks lathered in butter all day. Unfortunately, if you were around someone on the diet, you were never more than a few seconds away from a stray gust of foul-smelling wind wafting into your nostrils.
And all that meat seemed to lead to the worst cases of face melting bad breath. For me, it was a bit like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the bad guy's face melts away.
And here's a few other diet approaches that make it on to a Google search.
The Diet Approach Minefield
- Morning Banana Diet
- Raw Foodism
- Juice Fasting
- Dash Diet
- Ovo-lacto Vegetarianism
Unfortunately, whatever type of diet you look into it often gets overblown. More often than not the excessive marketing isn't based on much science.
It seems to be that with any diet approach there's a core principle that is taken to excess. Seemingly in an effort to make it more 'sexy' for the wider public.
Because, it's a much easier marketing 'sell' to tell someone to eat steaks, bacon, eggs, butter, and cream all day.
Conversely, a balanced, high protein diet with fresh vegetables and an abundance of micro nutrient dense foods to boost your overall health isn't as attention grabbing.
In my opinion, you actually don't need a diet approach to achieve your goals. Because a fancy strap line and a catchy name doesn't make a diet 'good'. In fact, calling something a diet, immediately raises the alarm bells for me.
And that's because diet has a connotation of being short-term. A quick fix to get you from one weight to another. And the mainstream concept of a diet is something designed to end at a particular point in the future. But what happens when that point comes around?
Eventually, you reach the point where you don't want to 'diet' anymore. So you abandon the eating approach that got you there. And typically old habits come back to haunt you. Subsequently, the weight piles back on.
Are IIFYM and Clean Eating any different?
By now you may be wondering if IIFYM and Clean Eating are just overblown fad diets themselves. Is one of these diets going to give you the results you always wanted? Or will you big back in that same old loop again.
It's time to break down both approaches and delve into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let's find out which diet is best for weight loss.
Which Diet Is Best For Weight Loss: Clean Eating
Clean Eating - What is it?
Clean Eating is a concept whereby you consume perceived to be highly nutritious and guilt-free, ie clean. This includes fresh meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. You get the picture.
What it also means is that all junk food is out. So there's no late night trips to McDonald's or any cheeky Nandos allowed with this approach. These foods are well and truly in the 'unclean' category. And they are off the menu for the foreseeable future.
The basic principle is that you can each as much of these foods as you like. There's no calorie counting. Just don't stray into the 'unclean' list.
Clean Eating - What's good about it?
The foods that are classed as clean are highly nutritious. They're packed with micronutrients, fibre, and antioxidants that are genuinely good for you. They will do wonders for your overall health. And you should also have zero problems in hitting your recommended 5 a day.
As I mentioned before, there is no calorie and macro tracking with this diet. So if you have an aversion to counting calories you can put the scales away. Because this seems like the perfect diet for you.
But it may not all be upside and no downside...
Clean Eating - What's the downside?
One of Clean Eating's biggest plus points can also be its biggest negative. The idea that you can eat as much as you like just because a group of foods is classed as 'clean' is flawed.
Calories still matter if you have a goal of losing weight. Energy balance, ie calories in vs calories is still the most effective way to lose weight.
Although healthy and nutritious, clean foods can still pack a bunch of calories. And if not controlled, they can send you careering over your required calories for the day. They will no doubt do wonders for your health, but for pure weight loss, it's a point you can't ignore.
For example, foods like salmon avocado, and nuts have a high fat content. So many people think that by eating lots of these foods they're doing themselves good (which they are in a way). But when the fat loss doesn't materialise they wonder why. Often it's because of high calorie consumption from foods such as these.
Essentially, the point here is that you can gain weight from ANY food, clean or otherwise.
There's also a psychological downside to clean eating. Most of you out there will not naturally be eating a 100% clean diet already. I'm sure you're partial to a few of life's treats here and there.
The restrictive nature of the clean eating diet means that binge eating is not uncommon. The will to stick to those clean foods only seems to last so long. And while the odd regression on the diet isn't a catastrophe, do it often enough and you can really go off track.
Clean Eating - Is it for you?
In my view Clean Eating isn't a strategy that is ideal for the vast majority of people out there. There are clear health benefits to eating nutrient packed foods. But from a pure weight loss perspective it lacks the focus of overall calorie intake. And unless you happen to be able to judge your calorie intake effectively through intuition, you are leaving your progress to an element of chance.
The only time I recommend a clean eating approach is for people that are very overweight and the jump to judging and measuring calorie intake seems too great of a leap. In this scenario, Clean Eating offers a transitional approach that can help switch from very bad habits to a much more targeted nutritional strategy.
Which Diet Is Best For Weight Loss: IIFYM
IIFYM - What is it?
IIFYM (also sometimes referred to as Flexible Dieting) has garnered a sizeable following in the fitness industry in recent years. Its basic concept is centred on calorie counting and more specifically the macro breakdown of those calories.
Let me walk you through what all that means.
The start point would be to calculate your calorie requirements based on your weight, body fat percentage, and activity level. This data is then put into a pretty basic calculation that spits out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). And that's the number of calories you need to consume each day to stick at your current weight.
Then, based on your goal, you either cut calories to lose weight or increase calories to gain weight.
Once you have this overall number, you then apportion those calories across your macros, ie protein, fat, and carbs. As a basic example for a losing fat, 40% of calories would go to protein, 40% would go to carbs, and 20% to fat. Although, there is always a degree of flexibility to suit individual tastes and food preferences.
If you want more detail on how this calculation works, then I recommend you download my Free eBook here, which will guide you through the process from start to finish.
With these numbers established, the core principle behind IIFYM is that you can eat whatever foods you like as long as you hit those numbers on a daily / weekly basis.
So you can eat pizza, ice cream, chips, milkshakes, etc just as long as you track those macros and come in on those numbers.
IIFYM - What's good about it?
Well you get to eat pizza and ice cream and lose weight for a start, so there's one huge benefit right there.
In all seriousness, the fact that IIFYM allows you to eat the foods you enjoy and have become accustomed to over the years, means that you are far more likely to stick to the diet in the long run.
You feel that you don't have to stop eating the foods you love and replace them with those you dread.
This study conducted in 1999 at the Louisiana State University, looked at the flexible and rigid dieting methods and assessed which was better in limiting overeating and reducing weight. The study concluded that there was a strong link between flexible dieting and the absence of overeating, lower body mass and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The other interesting finding was the strong correlation between the restricted diet and binge eating. Flexible dieting overwhelmingly won out on this one I think you'll agree!
To back that up further, this study carried out with non-obese women found the following,
"...individuals who engage in rigid dieting strategies reported symptoms of an eating disorder, mood disturbances, and excessive concern with body size/shape. In contrast, flexible dieting strategies were not highly associated with BMI, eating disorder symptoms, mood disturbances, or concerns with body size."
Another tick in the win column for flexible dieting then. It all seems like a no brainer! Eat whatever you like and lose weight.
Is this the winning strategy?
IIFYM - What's the downside?
The downside of IIFYM is essentially that it gets taken to an extreme. I've mentioned already about the 'over-glamourised' nature of the diet by certain groups of people. If this isn't balanced with a high proportion of nutrient packed food, ie clean / whole foods then you'll be missing out on a number of health benefits.
Yes, you'll lose weight and fat, but you really need to look beyond that.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, have an abundance of micronutrients that will make you feel better. And they'll provide a great boost to your overall health that will serve you well in the future.
IIFYM - Is it for you?
IIFYM can work for those people that struggle to stick to more restrictive diet approach and find the cravings for foods considered 'unhealthy' all too much.
This will help massively with adherence to your plan. And that means you're highly likely to achieve your weight and fat loss goals. The issue comes when the diet is taken to the nth degree.
Which Diet Is Best For Weight Loss? Decision Time
If you're in the Clean Eating camp then you turn your nose up at IIFYM and quote the fact that eating 'crap' all the time is doing nothing for your body. You assert that all calories aren't created equally and people are poisoning their bodies with all this junk food that are bereft of nutrients.
On the flip side, if you buy into IIFYM then you see Clean Eating as an archaic way of looking at dieting and not sustainable for the majority of people. You see it as too rigid and with a high degree of failure. Added to that, as calories are not calculated then achieving success is almost in the lap of the Gods.
Which diet is best for weight loss? Which do I recommend?
The short answer is neither. That's right, neither.
Ultimately, if your goal is weight loss, then as long as you're in a calorie deficit, you can do whatever the f**k you want. Seriously, that's what matters most.
Although, I'm more inclined to lean towards IIFYM as a preferred approach for 2 reasons:
- Calorie and macro counting are accurate ways of achieving weight loss and recomposition goals in a time efficient way.
- The vast majority of people looking to lose weight struggle to make a complete switch to Clean Eating, making long-term adherence a challenge.
However, I think that all the Instagram pics of ice cream, pizza, and chocolate have taken the approach to the extreme and created some misconceptions that clean foods aren't important.
Are these diets the only options?
So if IIFYM and Clean Eating are the best approaches, which diet IS best for weight loss? Is it back to fad diets and hoping for the best? As Yoda once said, "No...There is another."
All the talk of pizza, chips, and handfuls of Haribo Starmix sound great, but taking IIFYM to those extremes is looking past the true beauty behind the original principles of the diet.
At Iron Paradise Fitness, I take things back to the basic level and blend the two approaches together to make one methodology for nutrition that works on ALL levels.
Crashing these two diet approaches together means that you get 3 fundamental benefits:
- Your calories and macros are targeted to your goal for effective weight and fat loss.
- 'Clean' foods make up around 80% of your overall nutrition plan, providing you with all the micronutrients and health benefits that go with these foods.
- There is flexibility in the plan to incorporate those treats you enjoy, so you don't feel restricted.
What does this all mean? Essentially, it means that you can achieve your goals in the most efficient way. And you can do that by eating highly nutritious foods, whilst also enjoying foods you love without feeling guilty.
Need help getting set up?
Now, if you like the sound of my approach, but it all seems a bit overwhelming, don't panic. Because I want to help you get the perfect nutrition plan that gets you to your goals and is full of foods you love. And if that sounds good then I've got a free online nutrition workshop you can register for by clicking the image below.
In the workshop I'll walk you through the exact approach I use with all my clients to achieve great results. And it's also the approach I use to build my own physique.
By the end of the workshop, you'll have everything you need to achieve some fantastic results. And all without selling your soul to plain chicken and rice for every meal.
So if that sounds good, just click on the image below and register for free.