Photo by Alan Cleaver
What Worked and What Didn’t and My Search for a Great 2014 Diet
Can anyone in the world come up with a perfect diet? A diet that will help you lose weight, in all the right places – fat no less – gain muscle, tastes great, easy to fix, and not overly expensive?
I know I’ve tried, and have been unsuccessful. My diet in 2013 was one of my few disappointments – one I hope not to repeat with my 2014 diet. While I did lose weight, I lost too much and lost muscle. Instead of looking fit and healthy, I looked sickly. This was not what I was after.
For 2013, I reduced my weight to a low of 139 pounds (at 5’10”) and my body fat percentage was a low of 9.5%. By year-end, I was able to bring my weight up to 146 and keep my body fat around 10.5%.
My goal for a 2014 diet is to bring my weight up to 150-155 pounds and maintain my body fat % close to 10%. And I’d like most of the weight gain to be in muscle in the upper body.
Diets Tried in 2013
1. Man 2.0 by John Romaniello – This was a very good book written by one of the top trainers in the country. He is helping Arnold Schwarzenegger get back in shape too. He has formulas to calculate the number of calories to consume and breaks it down into grams of protein, fat and carbs. The science was well-researched and has been successful for John and his clients. I liked it, but it was too complicated for me to carry out. I don’t want to spend a lot of time during the week crunching numbers. What I did like was use his method of varying calories depending on whether you were working out or not. For me, my daily calories should be around 1800 on non-workout days and 2500 for workout days. Also carbs are kept low on non-workout days.
2. Zero WillPower by Mike Chang – This guy is big on YouTube and he has a great physique. I didn’t like his workouts as they were geared more towards a guy in his 20’s and 30’s (I thought) and too much risk of injury for a guy my age. I stuck with it for the twelve weeks and learned a few things but ultimately decided it was not for me. I did like some of his ideas for diet though. I tried a couple of the intermittent fasting diets (see below) that state that the ‘six small meals a day’ method is old-fashioned, and you need a period during the day to fast. This cuts calories and trains your body to burn off its fat stores by reprogramming your cortisol levels. I think for my needs and life style that the six small meals a day will work better and this is what I will try for 2014. I liked some of Mike’s recipes and his method of using the George Foreman grill (large size) to cook all of his 42 meals for the week (six per day x seven days) all at once and storing in containers that he can heat up as needed. I liked the spices he recommended, especially the McCormick Grill Mates. All of his meals were warm though and required that you have a microwave handy to cook them, or keep them warm in an insulated bag. This was impractical for me.
3. Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon – If losing weight and making it simple is your goal, this is the book to get. Brad’s method involves fasting for a period of time thereby cutting calories over the course of the week. This worked really well for me, but too well. I could not eat enough calories during the small window of time allowed each day. Surprisingly, fasting was only hard the first week or two. It might not be for everyone, as fasting can have effects on you mentally. I fasted 24 hours once per week and sixteen hours on other days. Every other week I did a cheat day and ate whatever I wanted. I also tried the Renegade diet, which is a variation of this diet. Both worked really well for losing weight and were simple to use. If you need to lose more than 20 pounds, and want an easy method to do it, and not have to cut out a lot of the foods you like, this is a great diet to try. You will need discipline and willpower, but it does get easier after one to two weeks.
4. Low Carb – I didn’t follow any one book or person’s diet for this. The theory is to cut as much carbs out of your diet as possible. For me it was cutting down to like 50 grams per day. So no cereal, pasta, rice, bread or white potatoes. Carbs from green veggies like broccoli don’t count towards your totals. Also, all simple carbs like sugar need to be avoided. This was the first diet I tried, and it worked. It is great to get rid of the spare tire, and to shed those final ten pounds of weight off your body. It was too impractical for me to follow every day for an extended period of time. I could see using this for a couple weeks before vacation, or if you were a model/actor and needed to look good for something.
5. Scooby Diet – Scooby is a guy on Youtube who does videos on fitness. His exercises and information are good – his diet, while healthy, is not (at least for me). The diet he recommends scores points for being inexpensive and easy to fix. The taste is not great and you get bored with it quickly. I am not a picky eater, and I could only last two weeks on it. He also uses a lot of beans which wreak havoc on your system. If canned salmon and beans are your all-time favorite foods, this could be the diet for you. I only lasted two weeks. I did like his recommendations for using flavorings (salsa, balsamic vinegar, dried garlic/onion, no salt seasoning), frozen veggies and dried fruits, and shopping at Costco. So it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
My 2014 Diet
I liked bits and pieces of all of the above. So for my 2014 diet I am going to create my own borrowing from all of the above. Here’s my rules:
1. Effective – must allow me to gain muscle and maintain my bodyfat of 10%
2. Easy – I don’t have the time to weigh foods, chop vegetables, cook six meals. My wife and daughter don’t want to follow my diet, so I am on my own.
3. Economical – I require that the diet be easy on the checkbook. I don’t want to spend $400 per month on supplements, or $200 per week on produce and meat.
4. Edible – Life has to be enjoyed. We spend a chunk of our lives eating, and I don’t want to spend that time eating foods that make me nauseous, or give me bad side effects. I also want the flexibility to eat foods I enjoy, but are not necessarily good for me – just not that often.
MY 2014 DIET PLAN
For my 2014 diet, I am going back to six small meals per day. This works better for me. The fasting diets are great to lose weight, but I could not eat enough during my “eating window” to build muscle. I will have an occasional fasting day of 16-24 hours if I notice a gain in body fat, or if I binge the day before.
I wrote to Lean Cuisine last year about suggesting they produce a line of low carb meals. They said they would note my suggestion. A year later, and nothing new from them. However, I did see a line of low carb foods from Atkins (yes the same as the Atkins diet). These are frozen meals that consist of a protein source like chicken or beef, with veggies. These are actually quite tasty. They also make protein bars and protein shakes. All are high in protein and low in fat and carbs. I have decided to use these at work and for snacks. They will provide four of my six meals. My first meal of the day on workout days will be rolled oats with protein powder and fat-free yogurt. It takes a little to wolf this down. But it is loaded in protein and really fills you up. The second meal of the day is a new snack I tried that I like. It is a tortilla with almond butter spread on it, and then you roll it up around a banana. This tastes great and it is a healthy snack. This two options are only on workout days. Non-workout days will be protein and veggies only.
My 2014 diet will also incorporate some other recipes I use in the slow cooker, as well as, using my grill in the summer to cook meat with a side of veggies.
So six meals per day that are high in protein, low in fat and carbs and I’ll mix it up a bit now and then with a cheat day and some fasting. This combined with my total body workouts will be my 2014 diet and exercise plan – simple, safe and effective. I will give a quarterly update of how this is working.
Please share your comments for your 2014 diet and what you hope to accomplish.