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Which Dietary Approach Is Best For You?

activelifestyle nutrition May 17, 2022

The nutrition industry is infamous for making things more confusing than they need to be, so with all the information readily available how do you know which dietary approach is right for you? You can read a study that makes you believe that carbs are the enemy, and then a new study comes out saying why carbs are essential. You can read about the new craze of…(insert keto, intermittent fasting, plant based, you name it) and why it is the end all be all of ‘diets’. 


At Inside Out we believe in a much simpler approach to nutrition that can fit any lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to follow strict nutrition guidelines to see great improvements in muscle mass, fat loss, and how you look or feel overall. Which is exactly what most people we work with are seeking: you don’t want your nutrition to run your life but you still want to look, feel, and perform your best without tedious details.


Regardless of where you’re at on your nutrition journey, we want to simplify your nutrition and cut through some of the ‘noise’ out there. While some of the information out there makes it seem like there’s hundreds of ways to manipulate your diet, in reality there’s only THREE. Yep, like we said we like to keep it simple.


That doesn’t mean there’s no complexity in terms of manipulating these three factors appropriately, for most people that’s just not necessary. When it comes to finding the right approach for you, it’s important to have these three variables in mind whenever you’re trying to change your nutrition:


Time Restricted (TR): Manipulating the window of time you’re eating within

Dietary Restricted (DR): Manipulating the types of foods you’re consuming

Caloric Restricted (CR): Manipulating the amount of energy you’re consuming


That’s it. Those are the three variables that any diet or way of eating will follow in some combination or another. Let’s dive into what each one means and why it’s important.


Time Restricted (TR):


TR eating involves changing the eating window that you have, which is most popularly known as intermittent fasting. This can be manipulated through something as simple as 12 hours of eating followed by 12 hours of fasting (typically done through the time spent sleeping), or what’s known as 12:12. This is the simplest starting point, and can be great for giving your digestive system a rest and minimizing things like late night snacking or eating as soon as you wake up. As you get comfortable with that you can progress to 14:10 (14 hours of fasting followed by a 10 hour eating window), 16:8, or even longer fasting windows.


These are common daily strategies that many people have seen great results with as they get acclimated to longer times without eating. Some people will implement longer fasts of 3-5 days once a month or once a quarter as well. For a deep dive on all things fasting and time restricted eating, check out this podcast for more in-depth recommendations.


Dietary Restricted (DR):


DR involves changing the types of foods you eat. This could be in the form of macronutrients (manipulating protein, fat, or carbohydrates), or in the form of food choices. A common DR approach that manipulates the macronutrients would be the keto diet. In this example, if you’re only manipulating DR, you would be able to eat whatever you want while only limiting your carbohydrate intake to a certain amount. A common DR approach that manipulates food choice would be veganism. In this example, you can eat whatever you want as long as it doesn’t involve animal products.


See below why only focusing on DR can actually be unhealthy and still leave you falling short of your health or fitness goals.


Caloric Restricted (CR):


The last form is one of the most common approaches when it comes to weight loss. CR involves controlling how much you eat, and anyone that’s tried to lose weight has manipulated this variable to one degree or another. Weight watchers (point system), If It Fits Your Macros (tracking apps), or any cleanse/diet/approach that limits overall calorie intake falls into this category.


So now that you can see that the variables being manipulated are not as complex as some things make it out to be. All of these approaches can be effective, but when trying to reach a specific health and fitness goal (whether athletic performance, body composition, or building muscle) it’s important to find which variable(s) to address work best for you.


A lot of times manipulating a single variable, whether TR, DR, or CR can be ineffective and even unhealthy. Maybe you’ve tried a low carb approach, or tried restricting calories for a period of time, only to find some early success followed by ‘falling off’ and gaining weight back. While there are several reasons why this happens, beyond the purpose of this blog article, it’s important to see that a single one of these is not magic. At the end of the day, TR and DR approaches as it relates to weight loss are really just strategies to help control CR. A low carb approach keeps people away from easy to consume carbohydrates. A low fat approach reduces the likelihood of fat calories adding up. Intermittent fasting shortens the window you have to eat, making your meals feel more satisfying while also limiting late night drinking or snacking.


Now that you have more awareness about how to address your nutrition, the next step is finding out which variable above, or combo of variables, works best for you. Some people have no problem measuring all their food and entering it into their app (CR). Some people find it easy to go 16-18 hours each day without eating (TR). And others find it no problem to cut carbs out of their diet (DR).


We recommend starting with one, but as you get comfortable consistently implementing a strategy to start combining strategies to see what works best. 

We know nutrition can be complicated, but our goal is to simplify it. Because like it or not, nutrition is a key component of what kind of results you are getting when it comes to how you look, how you feel, and how you perform. If you’re struggling to lose weight, build muscle, or get back in shape - you can’t just ignore these variables and hope more exercise will do the trick.


That’s exactly why we include nutrition coaching in our iO Athlete Program, providing more specific recommendations to help our clients see the best results in looking, feeling, and performing like an athlete. If you’re interested in hearing more about our iO Athlete Program, or our nutrition coaching services, click here to fill out a contact form and set up a free consultation with one of our coaches.

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