I promised a more comprehensive diet and nutrition guide when I last posted about the topic a few months ago. Specifically, I hoped to give a brief overview of the diets I’ve tried and had the best luck with.
Do dads need to follow a diet? Modern fatherhood–replete with the often competing demands of family, friends, work, and health–makes it harder than ever to eat consistently well. When I find I’ve come to rely too much on service station snacks and drive thru “cuisine” I try to re-calibrate my food intake. This often follows particularly stressful periods when I tend to revert to the “see-food” diet.
Here’s a set of down and dirty a reviews and evaluations of the diets I’ve tried, and some insider tips on how to make them work for you.
The Slow Carb Diet
This diet has been popularized by author and lifehacker extraordinaire, Timothy Ferriss. If you’ve read his books and tried any of his methods, you know he’s a master of achieving maximum gains through minimal effort. The Slow Carb Diet is no exception. Here are the basic rules:
1. Avoid “white” foods. – This includes ALL processed carbohydrates, whole grain or not. Dairy is also to be avoided as it can spike insulin and thus increase body fat.
2. Eat the same meals over and over again. – Not a problem for anyone strapped for time. My experience is that it helps your body know when to expect calories and nutrients every day, and it helps to regulate energy levels.
3. Don’t drink calories. – This is a no-brainer for most of us, but do you count your sports drinks or the milk in your coffee?
4. Don’t eat fruit. – Ferriss treats fruit like candy, as it is comprised of fructose sugar and may spike insulin levels like its less healthy counterpart, sucrose. [I never followed this one rule. While I limited my portions of fruit when trying this diet, it is just too beneficial overall to go without. I don't drink juice, however, as it delivers all the sugar from the fruit with fewer nutrients and none of the fiber.]
5. Take one day off per week and go nuts. – This could easily be the main appeal to this diet. Ferriss advocates breaking all the rules once a week. According to his research, this actually regulates hormone levels, boosts metabolism, and increases fat loss. Plus you get to pig out!
Jacked Dad Tip: I’m still hung up on the no fruit thing. When Ferriss disses fruit, he explains that he tested his blood sugar levels after drinking two glasses orange juice. That’s like eating 50 oranges, sans the fiber to curb an insulin response. Really, fruit is like medicine. You don’t want to eat it all day long, sure, but the benefits really do outweigh the detriments.
The Thrive Diet
Want to live a healthier life while reducing your carbon footprint? The Thrive Diet can teach you how to achieve both goals by avoiding meat and processed foods. There are three key rules to this diet as explained by creator and vegan triathlete, Brendan Brazier:
1. Eliminate any unnecessary stress. Sources of stress reside in three main domains: physical, emotional, and nutritional. To reduce nutritional stress avoiding foods that tax your metabolism (meats, processed food, refined sugars) will help alleviate stress-related symptoms in the mind and body.
2. Eat high net-gain foods. This rule parallels #1. Foods take little effort to digest will provide your body with increased energy and vitality. Eating light–i.e., mostly fruits, vegetables, and legumes–helps your body perform at its best.
3. Follow one-step nutrition. Foods should be easy to break down in the body. Eating complex carbohydrates, protein, and saturated fats are metabolically inefficient. One-step nutrition encourages eating simple carbohydrates, amino acids, and fatty acids in their rawest form. These foods have high bioavailability, meaning they can be converted to energy and nourishment as quickly as possible.
Jacked Dad Tip: Brazier sells his own line of vegan meal replacements and athletic performance supplements. They’re pretty good, but they can’t wholly replace the proteins you receive from nuts, seeds, beans, and other plants. Don’t skimp on these when following a heavy training schedule, or you will have difficulty with recovery. Also, don’t fall for the promises of vegan junk food. Pasta and bagels are still bad for you whether you eat them with meat or cream cheese.
The Paleo Diet
This is basically The Thrive Diet except meat becomes one of your main source of calories. Dr. Loren Cordain pioneered this way of eating in his eponymous book and Robb Wolfe furthers the cause in The Paleo Diet Solution. Like Brazier, these writers frown upon wheat and dairy as dietary staples; however, they push the envelop further, explaining that legumes contain anti-nutrients that hamper digestion and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The essential theory is simple to follow:
1. Eliminate all grains, sugars, and most starches. Tubers are okay once in awhile, but, overall, this diet is modeled after how we ate prior to the agricultural revolution, so the basic tenant is to avoid crops like wheat, corn, and soy. Instead, eat organic and grass fed beef, pork, and poultry. Spending the extra cash is worth the flavor and improved health.
2. Eat more healthy fats. Coconut, avocado, seafood, and almonds are examples of fatty foods you should indulge in, as they are good source of fuel and have other healthful effects on the body. But combining fats with refined carbohydrates is never a good idea, hence the perils of the SAD diet (standard American diet).
3. Don’t count calories. It’s pretty much impossible to overeat these foods. Twinkies and Ben and Jerry’s are a different story. We’re hardwired to suck down as many easy calories as we can, but the foods commonly found today didn’t exist when humans first evolved. We haven’t caught up with these new flavors yet, and it’s obvious that our bodies don’t know how to handle them. ADHD, obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Need I say more?
Jacked Dad Tip: I like the Paleo Diet a lot. I have always been allergic to dairy, so I mostly avoided it, but when I cut soy and gluten from my diet I notice my stomach feels better overall. I never realized I may be sensitive to these foods as well. Beware one thing about this diet, though. If you train a lot and increase your protein intake as prescribed, you WILL gain weight. Mind you, it will mostly be muscle–I’ve gained close to a solid 20lbs since making the switch–but if you compete in a sport governed by weight classes or you just don’t want to buy all new clothes, watch out! Also, as you wean yourself from most carbs, you will become very sensitive to them when you do eat them. A cheat day can easily throw you off course if you’re not careful.
The Warrior Diet
Ori Hofmefler, creator of the Warrior Diet, claims that under eating during the day, followed by overeating at night, is the way our ancestors often got through the day and that it’s an excellent dietary cycle to follow today. In short, his diet is similar to those explained above, but his main focus is on detoxification and gaining energy through controlled fasting. The principles include:
1. Under eat during the daytime. Eat small portions of raw fruits and vegetables while you go about your daily activities. This ensures your body will detoxify and improve overall digestion of what you eat by allowing enzymes to do their work. You’ll feel more energetic too because you won’t be bogged down by heavy meals that sap your energy by activating your parasympathetic nervous system; the “rest and digest” signals won’t kick in until you want them to.
2. Eat a big meal when you’re done for the day. This is when you compensate your body for its hard work and focus at work, in the gym, and while chasing your kids. You know how sleepy and content you feel after Thanksgiving dinner? You can feel that good every day! Just skip the pumpkin pie, but eat all the lean meat and cooked veggies you want. That way, you won’t gain weight and you’ll avoid what I get now that I’m in my thirties–the next-day “food hangover”.
Jacked Dad Tip: When I first tried this diet, my fasting was a little too much like starvation. Ignore the mini protein meals Hofmekler recommends at your own peril. I was so sore from training after the first week of this diet that I could barely move, and no amount of protein during the nightly feasts could save me. Remember to have a protein shake or a handful of nuts during the daytime, or you’ll be sorry.
I typically cycle from one of these diets to others depending on my mood, my needs, and my goals. Do you have a favorite diet you’d like to share? Questions or comments about those described in this article? Let us know, dads!