I don’t feel like I need to write this article since you should know the answer to the question in the title by now. However, since this is a meticulously comprehensive diet designing course, I must address this question to help make your diet plan perfect. In the previous article we covered why nutrient timing and meal frequency can help optimize your diet plan. Now it’s time to see where to get your calories and macronutrients from. Does clean eating yield more muscle mass and more fat loss?
As I keep saying, changing your body composition is a lifelong lifestyle. Thus, it’s all about following enjoyable and sustainable dietary guidelines. NO ONE can continue to eat broccoli every day for the rest of their life even if they want to.
Life happens. So, learning how to look good, be healthy and enjoy your diet should all go hand in hand. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that. When addressing diet, we have two main groups: dirty diet advocates and clean eating advocates. Who is right and who is wrong? The simplest answer is: taking extreme measures in either direction is wrong and neither is sustainable in the long term.
For a very interesting research review on this whole subject, feel free to check out this amazing piece by nutritionist Alan Aragon: The dirt on clean eating.
Now, advocates of “clean” eating claim that if your diet consists of SOLELY super clean foods, you will supposedly build tons of muscle mass, get shredded and get the immune system of superman. While this sounds wonderful in theory, it simply isn’t true. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t base your diet on real food, you should. But just like stimulating muscle growth as we addressed in the previous article, there is a limit/threshold for everything.
Meaning that after a certain point, eating quality foods won’t improve your health or body composition any further. There is a limit! So, should you base your diet on real food as opposed to junk food? Absolutely! You will enjoy the benefit of improved health and body composition. However, don’t torture yourself to eat this way 100% of the time. But for many reasons that we’ve discussed and will discuss in the future, 70-90% of what you eat should come from high quality real food, not junk or processed crap.
Additionally, even if you eat clean and you eat too much of a caloric surplus, guess what you will gain? Not extra muscle! You will gain FAT! Once again, there is a limit of how much muscle we can build naturally and eating too much over that limit will only yield more fat gain.
In the opposing corner we have advocates of dirty foods. Those peoples’ main argument is that calories are calories regardless of the source of those calories. Once again, we would all love to build muscle and lose fat while eating cookies and brownies, but sorry to burst your bubble, it won’t happen!
If your diet is solely composed of junk and processed foods, your health won’t be as good as it should be and your muscle building or fat loss endeavors will be met with sub-optimal results. However, you still have a bit of leeway in your diet where you can fit in some less than perfect food choices and get the benefits of “clean eating”. In other words, eating a brownie every once in a while won’t hurt you and can actually help you stay on track by keeping you sane and thus committed. Consistency is key.
As a rule of thumb, if most of your diet consists of high quality food sources, you can still enjoy a bit of junk every once in a while without sabotaging your progress or health. For those whole like exact numbers, 75-90% of your diet should come from real food if you want optimal results.
This is especially true if you are not a professional model, bodybuilder or athlete where you have to be 100% consistent to make a living. Only then you should be 100% consistent. Although I would still say that even those individuals will be fine eating a “cheat meal” every once in a while, don’t worry.
If you’ve been reading the guide from the beginning, you should have an idea of what are some foods to eat, but since it’s also relevant to this article, here are some lists to refresh your memory:
High quality protein sources
- Egg whites
- Whey protein
- Cottage cheese
- Cheese in general
- Casein protein
High quality carbohydrates sources
- Rice (preferably brown)
- Pasta (preferably whole grain)
- Whole wheat flour / bread
- Sprouted bread products
- Legumes / beans
High quality dietary fat sources
- Coconut (actual coconuts or unrefined extra virgin coconut oil)
- Avocado (oil is good too)
- Fatty Fish (Don’t forget your omega-3’s)
- Full fat cheese
- Whole milk
- Full fat dairy products (quark, yogurt, kefir…etc.)
- Nut butters
NOTE: Those lists are not definitive lists of those macronutrients. Thus, I am sure there are many more that I can’t think of at the moment.
We are technically done with your diet plan! You can start following your diet plan if you may. However, in the next article, I shall discuss a few different dietary strategies you can utilize in your journey and that will conclude (well, we still have one more article that addresses dietary fiber) this chapter and we will move onto another chapter that I am sure many of you will be excited about: pre, intra and post workout nutrition!