Diet Types And Why They All Work

diets diets type flexible dieting food nutrition Sep 15, 2020

Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram you’ll be bombarded with different diets as the new and best thing for fat loss. Media stories reporting scientific articles talking about the new way that scientists have decreed a diet should be constructed around, or your favourite celebrity and their secret to melting fat, a weird trick that they have been doing to get ripped.  

I figured since we get asked about them enough, that we should have a little post on the breakdown of them so that you guys can refer to it as much as you like over the future.  

I will preempt this with you should know your calories so that you can then place your diet style within the confines of that calorie amount. I don’t care what you think, what you have tried, what you have seen happen, if you are in a calorie deficit you will lose weight, if you are in a calorie surplus you will gain. No matter what you think about sugar and insulin, or fat and its impact on hormones, or your chakras, it's not the overarching principle that is your calorie intake.     

Flexible Dieting  

I wanted to separate and introduce this type of dieting separately to If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM). For many people who have been in and around the fitness industry will be quick to point out that IIFYM is a Flexible Dieting strategy. Whilst it started out as that, it is definitely not that now.  

Flexible Dieting is the concept in which we know the calories of our daily needs, and within that our macronutrient targets are determined through our lifestyle and training goals. We can use a ‘flexible’ approach to change food sources one day to the next, having a minimal impact on rate of fat loss as long as the macro- and calorie amounts are adhered to. A good example is knowing that you could choose to eat 200 calories from an Apple today and then a Banana tomorrow. The amount will change but as long as the macros, and by default the calories will align, it won't matter that you changed your food to replace another.    

A great ratio of ‘junk food’ that we suggest people refrain from over eating is the 80:20 rule. 80% of your diet should come from low to minimally processed foods, lean protein sources and plenty of fruits and vegetables. The 20% of junk food can be from whatever sources you like as long as your daily macronutrient targets are met.  

This actually is just how people should eat and when needed diet.  

If It Fit’s Your Macros (IIFYM)

IIFYM started out pretty much the same as Flexible Dieting, except has slowly changed into fitting more and more junk food into these daily macro targets and quickly lost sight over the years of being a useful method of dietary intake to nothing more than a trendy hashtag on IG. Generally, you will find people more accepting of junk food in this approach and okay for a few protein shakes to be thrown in. I think this misses the picture of Flexible Dieting, and instead is more of a distorted eating behaviour being rationalised by people that haven’t developed a better method. 

The focus here is also more so on the daily caloric intake than the overall macronutrient targets. Personally, I see this have an inferior result than optimised eating macronutrient targets that Flexible Dieting brings.  

Clean Eating Diet

Before the 2000’s and the popularisation of Flexible Dieting, Clean Eating was the bodybuilding way. It still kind of is. There is very much a championed movement for this diet type as being hardcore because those that follow it are willing to suffer through eating weeks of the same non-substituted foods daily so that they could eventually have a cheat meal for their reward. These range from 1 cheat meal every few weeks to the more extreme (and idiotic in my eyes) weekly cheat meal.  

I mean it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these guys and girls are severely underfeeding themselves during the week(s) which puts most people at a higher chance of losing muscle mass which is never the aim of a diet. Restricting so heavily impairs training, it impairs sleep, impairs recovery. Why would that be the goal if you wish to build muscle just to throw it away doing some approach like this. Sure, the longer this goes on the more fat you lose, but you also increase the chances of lean mass loss as well.  

Their cheat meal would then generally become an all-out gorge on ‘junk food’. Essentially lots of fats, carbs and sodium, with very little protein. 

This also didn’t make sense to me as we have limited capacity to store carbohydrates which you would need to restore to increase performance back. After you reach this amount you’re just storing fat, which isn’t the aim of a diet. This can quite easily undo the hard work of a diet as it is far easier to store 3000 calories worth of fat than it is to burn that off.

Mediterranean Diet  

Scientists are responsible for the increased celebrity status of this diet. When observational studies conducted reviewed trends of different populations, the Mediterranean area showed to be far healthier than typical European, American and even Australian with their food intakes or healthy behaviours.  

It is typically a diet that includes lean protein and low processed protein sources such as chicken and fish (typically red meat is consumed less), they get plenty of monounsaturated fats from Olive oils, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes with moderate consumption of alcohol and typically coupled with food as opposed to isolated drinking.  


Paleo Diets

This diet first was developed to replicate what some believe the Palaeolithic man ate back 1000’s of years ago. Before all these lifestyle diseases were our main affliction. One of the flaws of this thinking is that what was done back then is optimal for health. It is with near certainty that what was eaten back then may have resulted in less disease but there is definitely more food poisoning due to food spoilage without refrigeration or preservatives we use today to aid in keeping food safe, that whatever food was being eaten was due to what was available and that there wasn’t 1 type of Paleo Diet but 100’s.  

This diet focuses on eating meat, fish, poultry, eggs vegetables, roots, fruits and berries. NO grains or dairy are allowed to be consumed as well as sugar, salt and legumes (due to the agriculture introduction of this food). As you can see it has some crossover of the Mediterranean Diet but also some different foods for exclusion.

Missing out on whole grains and dairy also puts some people at risk of missing out on important nutrients which we need. Calcium is found best delivered and available from dairy sources and excluding them is unnecessary.  


Carnivore Diet

This is a very trendy diet right now. This diet essentially is the inverse of a vegetarian diet and you consume only meat sources as your source of food. This diet approaches health from the view that sugars and carbohydrates are a poor source of nutrition and can be manufactured by the body, therefore are unnecessary. Providing more protein, more fats for health this diet has been celebrated by those who have issues with including fruit and vegetables into their diet.  

The issue with this is the massive reduction of vitamins and minerals that are found in the foods that are excluded that you are more prone to health and disease risk from this type of diet without adequate supplementation to potentially mitigate some of the issues with this.

Vertical Diet  

This diet was invented to aid larger athletes who wanted to be big, get bigger. For a more in-depth breakdown head over to Flex Success Facebook page and watch the LIVE video I did of the Vertical Diet.   

Ketogenic Diets

The Ketogenic Diet started as a means for a for weight loss and then was explored for its benefits that were similar to that seen in fasting responses. This was essentially a way to mimic those benefits with food intake instead of eating nothing. There were particularly strong responses in childhood epilepsy.

Well, whether or not if it is used to treat medically, as a diet the concept is derived around if one has a high presence of ketone bodies in their blood which the body creates when there is carbohydrate restricted. Less than 100g of carbohydrates a day is generally considered Ketogenic though some fanatics will state it is 50g or less. Whatever it is, it is the combined effects of the restricted carbohydrates and the presence of ketones typically referred to as Ketosis.

Restricting carbohydrates in your diet from processed foods and sticking to vegetable sources as a means of achieving the limited carbohydrates is how most approach this diet. You can still eat a lot of vegetables with 100g of carbs a day so just making the best choices to get a range of nutrients and avoiding sticking to 1 or 2 vegetables choices will aid in keeping you healthy long term. This diet also restricted saturated fats initially though many different proponents will have their own view on these.  

Atkins Diet

Another Low-Carbohydrate similar to Ketogenic Diets, except without the importance of being in Ketosis. This diet was also more accepting of saturated fat intake as the controversy surrounding the Low Fat approach that was initiated by Ancel Keys with his 7 country study showing the observational trends of cardiovascular risk and dietary patterns of particular countries.

Restricting carbohydrates whilst promoting moderate fat consumption and by default of lowering carbohydrates and moderating fats protein tend to increase compared to typical dietary intakes of most people. 

Zone Diet  

Barry Sears PH.D. was the author and creator of this diet type. This aimed at ‘athletes’ with a dietary intake of 1000-2000 calories a day and had those athletes eat at a 40% Carbohydrates intake, 30% Protein and 30% Fat intake. The issue with this is % suck at being used for the individual. A 5ft 45kg female on 1000 calories eating 30% protein is 83.25g and a 6ft 100kg male athlete eating 2000 calories is 166g. Both of these being a crap amount of protein for some sports and too much protein for others. You can quickly see how it isn’t convenient or concise at all.  

Fasting Diets

This diet is self-explanatory, fasting means 0 food consumption and to be fasted. However, Fasting has heaps of benefits over the long term (2 – 5 days) but not necessarily do they translate with shorter Fasting diet approaches. Typically, there is 3 types of fasting diets; Intermittent Fasting which the dieter doesn’t consume food for a window of time (16 hours generally), Whole Day Fasting in which someone fasts for a minimum of 24 hours, and Alternate Day Fasting where the dieter fasts 1 day with 500 calories or less and 1 day eating normal food.

All of these require lots of mental fortitude because pushing through periods of fasting is the opposite of what the body would prefer. I love these diets as a means to re-establish hunger cues from food and timings as opposed to psychological hunger cues like behaviours or cravings.

Final thoughts...      

As a quick finishing point, a lot of these diets don’t focus on the caloric intake of the day without someone being aware of what theirs is. They focus on restricting something which in turn leads most people to restrict calories. For example, if you restrict carbohydrates and carbohydrates is a massive food intake for you you will eventually lead to being in a calorie deficit just due to food selection. This isn’t viable because after a few weeks your body will adjust to this and introduce more hunger signals to eat back what you have lost.    

As long as you eat less than your body needs there will be weight loss. This is true for every diet. If you aren’t losing weight, you are eating too much. If you don’t believe it to be true, stop eating food. If you fast for 3 days and don’t lose weight then you will be the first human to not do this.


Diet Smart. Not Hard.