Which dietary fad is right for you?
If you’ve ever been confused about which diet is the best, I can’t hardly blame you. There is so much conflicting information out there, that if you don’t try to stay up on it all, or if you simply don’t know enough to understand what people are talking about, it can all feel like a bit of a shit show. Low carb, low sugar, low fat, high carb, high protein, high fat these are all words that I see grouped together on a daily basis so how is someone who doesn’t study this kind of thing supposed to know who or where they should be getting their dietary advice from?
Well what if you were supposed to be paying attention to all of them? What if every dietary fad that’s come in and come out again actually held some merit and was worth experimenting with after all? This book arrived in the mail last week and my curiosity of the much popular ketogenic diet is being quenched and stimulated at the same time as I educate myself on one perspective on the "right" way that people should be eating....
Moving away from the book for a second, one of my favorite health educators to listen to is Dr Andy Galpin. Andy has a PHD in Human Bioenergetics, meaning that he studies the effect of exercise and lifestyle on human performance in about as controlled of an environment as you can get. Every time I listen to him, I find that I get sucked in so deep that time just flies by. But I'm nerd and so I don't expect you to have the same reaction. I love him because he cuts through the shit. He’s got no agenda, he’s there to talk about the facts and unfortunately in the business of health and exercise, facts are all too frequently manipulated to suit the bank account of whoever is selling the book, product or latest fitness trend. I’ll admit, I have an agenda with these newsletters even. Here, if you haven’t reached out or signed up for a session with me, CLICK HERE! But in all seriousness, I completely understand why people are coming to me confused because there is just so much fucking information out there that it can get really hard to know who to listen to.
Humans are lazy. We have spent so much time developing technologies to make our lives easier that we are no longer challenging ourselves in ways that we used to. This sounds like it’s going to turn into a rant about how we should get back to living like our Paleolithic ancestors, and maybe it is (kind of) but not in the familiar way that I’m going to promote eating a shit ton of meat (and you better make sure it’s grassfed!) No, I want to summarize something that Andy talks about in this podcast, that I found so fascinating and it’s the idea that we need to challenge our bodies and force them to adapt. If you end up listening, I suggest skipping to around the 45 minute mark so that you don't get bogged down by all the body building/powerlifting talk that the podcast begins with.
Rewinding back to our Paleolithic ancestors, these old hairy humans, constantly had to adapt to their changing environments. Some days were hot (like, a lot of days) and similarly some were cold. Some days there was food and some days there wasn’t. Some days they might sleep two hours and some days 12! Do you see the pattern? Life was unpredictable and our bodies were always learning to adapt. So why shouldn’t our diet? Why should we not strive to reach some level of metabolic flexibility so that we don’t become precious pieces of chalk who can’t eat at a restaurant because everything comes with carbs?
Again, getting back to the point, we need diversity in our lives. You do one type of exercise only; you’re going to get really good at that exercise. But what about the other facets of movement that you are leaving out? Andy thinks that we need to be thinking about diet in this way and when I think about it, I do too. Why should we make peace with the fact that training needs to be varied but continue to remain dogmatic and stiff within our dietary choices? You are on a keto diet, excluding all carbs and you’ve lost all this weight but what happens when your bubble pops and you don’t have the ability to get that stick of butter and you have to eat a piece of bread! You’re fucked! You're ketone levels will decline, you're little piss strip will change color and you might even cry! You need to challenge your body to adapt. You need to create challenges so that we don't get too comfortable being comfortable.
We can't talk about adaptation though, without also talking about optimization. Optimization and adaptation are two different concepts and they cannot exist together. Do not get confused… if you are an athlete training for a competition, then adaptation should not be a priority if you are 6 weeks out. Optimizing means taking that one particular diet, training strategy, or daily routine and dialing it in specifically for your chosen event and getting very very good at it. Know what it is you are trying to achieve and conduct yourself in that way. Are you training for a triathlon? Optimize your program for that event. Do you want to live a long time? Adaptation is a must.
To bring this whole thing back around, there is nothing wrong with a ketogenic diet, unless it doesn't work for you. There is also nothing wrong with a vegan diet, if it works for you. I think one thing that I really appreciate about coming up through the CHEK system, is understanding that every human being is an individual and will react differently to everybody else given a specific dietary or exercise plan. What's important is, not what someone tells you you should eat, but instead developing a relationship with yourself and your food and taking the time to understand the subtle differences that you will feel when you begin changing things. Keep a food diary, reflect on your experiences, challenge your bodily systems and have fun getting to know yourself in a way that you never will if you rely solely on these cookie cutter dietary plans designed for the masses.