December 18, 2013 / Trial And Error Is Underrated In Diet
No one diet fits all. Experiment with what works best for you.
There are tons of "macro’s" calculators and "BMR" calculators and "calorie calculators" and what not out there. However, every individual is different. These tools are a good place to start and often great for rough generic guidelines, but an underrated and underutilized tool to really get the most out of a diet is "trial and error".
Diet is more than just macros
One major issue that many have when it comes to a diet is that they think the macros and calorie intake is all that matters. This is, for the most part, scientifically true, however, this analysis does not factor in the probability that you can actually maintain such a diet. I recall reading somewhere that the best diets are the ones you actually follow! I couldn’t have said it better myself.
To give you an example, when I cut weight, I focus entirely on calorie intake. And I mean that. I have had two Twix bars for lunch on some days because I was craving something sweet and delicious. Obviously that isn’t efficient, and I could optimize my macros much more efficiently than I do, but you know why I don’t? Because I can maintain a less optimal cutting diet for weeks if not months longer than I could maintain an highly efficient cutting diet. The end result? One approach is more efficient per day but much less efficient for ME in actually getting results, because it’s just so much easier to maintain a slightly less efficient diet. Do not underestimate the importance of this point I will repeat: the best diets are the ones you actually follow.
Your nutritional requirements can vary substantially from the "calculators"
Another important thing to remember is that even if you have the discipline, time, and energy to follow an optimal diet, you will still need to experiment with your own body to really get the best sense of your caloric and macro needs. The differences can be dramatic. When I was bulking in my late teens/early twenties, I went from 155lbs to around 170lbs but I wasted a lot of time because I assumed that 3000-3100 calories was enough of a bulk for me based on calorie calculators but I saw considerably better results upping to 3500-4000. Always pay attention to your body and your progress and always defer to actual progress over any chart, table, or internet calculator.
New Research is coming out and advice is constantly evolving
Last but not least, the truth is we still know only a modest amount about nutrition and how our metabolism works. New research is constantly coming out which often conflicts with previously held conventions. This will likely continue, and it is likely that what we believe is most efficient today may change tomorrow. For example, eating many small meals a day was considered a must but most research lately has shown that how you space out your meals hardly matters at all. (I actually noticed this years ago when job and social commitments made eating many small meals impractical yet moving to 1 or 2 meals a day hardly had an impact if at all.) I am confident that some of the guidelines we follow today (including things I have advised) will turn out to by myths with similar lack of relevance. However, if something actually works for you, then while it still might not the most efficient, you at least know it works.
Don’t be afraid to stray from rigid nutritional and exercise guidelines. At the end of the day, what matters is what works best for you, and often the only way to figure that out is by trial and error.