What Sustainable Dieting Really Looks Like: The 80/20 Rule
There is absolutely no shortage of diets available to us. It seems we are constantly bombarded with what is the ‘best’ diet these days from the vegan ‘Gamechanger’ diet, to the high fat ketogenic diet, and intermittent fasting. It can be difficult, and confusing when deciding which one to commit to, and why.
The best eating strategy is going to vary from one person to another and there is no one diet that works for every individual.
LEARNING ABOUT FOOD ALL OVER AGAIN
From my personal experience of yo-yo dieting, preparing for a bodybuilding bikini show, tracking all calories and macronutrients I was consuming, as well as attempting aggressive caloric deficits and surpluses – it’s taken some time for me to find a regime that worked for my lifestyle.
When I first began to lean out for a bodybuilding competition back in 2018, I had 16-weeks to prepare. It felt like I was learning everything about food all over again. Shopping for groceries, planning all my meals, keeping up with training to maintain as much muscle (at a caloric deficit) as I could, all while working in an office job, was no easy task. There were good days and there were really bad days where I felt giving up would be a lot easier. I relied on the routine I created for myself to support my goal in competing. Creating structure, staying disciplined, and making small changes really helped me push through those tough days and keep moving forward. Structure and routine became a part of my lifestyle that I currently maintain today.
Off of the back of this competition, I moved toward a maintenance and slightly surplus phase which meant that I lost the body fat composition and image I had worked so hard for during prep – this proved a real challenge for me mentally. I reminded myself that this level of conditioning really is not sustainable, nor healthy on a year basis. This is especially unrealistic for women as it causes hormone imbalances, inconsistent menstrual cycles, and being fatigued all the time. But rather than focusing on how I look, I focus on what it can do. Eating at maintenance or a slight surplus while training hard will create a sufficient anabolic environment to promote muscle growth and strength gains.
FLEXIBILITY TO ENJOY FOOD YOU LOVE
Currently, I use a combination of dieting strategies which gives me the flexibility to enjoy foods I love while training hard at the gym. No foods need to be totally off limits and no food is inherently bad or good for that matter. Most of my calories (approximately 80%) come from nutrient dense sources, such as lean meats, whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats. They give us the vitamins, minerals and fibre we need to stay healthy and functioning. They provide the nutrients we need to build muscle and recover from training. These food groups also have a higher satiety level which keep us full for longer periods.
The remainder of the 20% of my calories come from foods which I enjoy that might not be as “healthy”. I for one know that my life is better because of chocolate and gooey chocolate chip cookies. These fun foods might not provide much in the way of nutrition but they provide a lot in terms of quality of life and the balance I need.
Your body will see physical change with a dedicated training and nutrition plan and optimised body composition with time.. Re-comping is a process of maintaining your current body weight while simultaneously losing fat and building muscle. The more muscle you have, the more you need to eat to keep those muscles happy. It will also result in your body burning fat for fuel.
IT COMES DOWN TO WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FOR YOU
At the end of the day, it all comes down to sustainability and balance. When you allow for flexibility in your diet, you can maintain your diet in the long run and keep your results for life. It is better to be consistent for 12 weeks than it is to be perfect for 1 week. A slice of pizza won’t ruin your progress overnight as a plate of chicken breast with rice and broccoli won’t magically lose you any weight. Focus on foods that are nutritionally dense 80% of the time and allow the other 20% of your diet to be made up of the fun foods (like pizza, ice cream, chocolate, etc) that you enjoy eating.
The best diet for you now may not be the same best diet for you a year from now. Your eating strategy is going to change and adapt over time based on your lifestyle. Choose a diet you can imagine yourself eating for more than four weeks and give your body time for it to adjust to the changes you make.
Article by: Tiffany Lam, Hybrid Personal Training, MMA & Fitness