I don’t have a label for the type of diet I like to follow. I eat Paleo meals occasionally, use Intermittent Fasting about once per week, eat Gluten Free at times, etc. If I had to come up for a term for it, I’d call it “Hybrid Dieting”. It is a loose way of eating, where I take principles from several solid diets…when it makes sense. I’ll outline some solid principles in this post for those who want to lose weight without necessarily following a rigid diet year-round.
The” Calories In/Calories Out” Strategy
I shouldn’t even call this a strategy. The idea of burning more calories than you take in, should be the #1 goal when it comes to losing body fat. Sounds obvious, right? You would think so…but I can almost guarantee you that there will be several people commenting who will dispute this strategy. There are several groups who believe that it doesn’t matter how many calories you eat…as long as you keep your insulin levels stable. These are typically the low carb groups that go by many different names. Note: There are several low carb groups who do encourage creating a deficit as well as eating low carb.
How I implement this strategy: I like to focus on a weekly calorie deficit. I figure out how many calories I can eat per week and come in at that number. I’ll eat somewhat strictly Sunday-Thursday…which gives me the ability to eat loosely on Friday night and all day Saturday.
The “Low Carb” Strategy
I believe the low carb strategy works extremely well in conjunction with creating a calorie deficit (the strategy above). So when people eat low carb (Paleo, Primal, Atkins, Slow Carb, etc)…in a calorie deficit…they will lose body fat rapidly. The main strength of eating low carb is that it keeps your insulin levels stable. Your body won’t burn fat when insulin levels are high. Low carb dieting keeps your body in fat burning mode by preventing insulin spikes.
How I implement this strategy: I love carbs, so I would be bummed if I had to eat low carb all the time. What I like to do is eat zero to low carbs throughout the day. This keeps my energy levels stable when I’m working. I like to eat most of my carbs at dinner, since this is the time I like to slow down and relax. So I’m burning fat all day…and temporarily halting the fat burning process at night.
A more effective strategy: My strategy isn’t “ideal” from a fat loss perspective, but I make it work because I wanted to structure my day like that. A better approach is to eat the majority of your carbs in the meal that follows your workout…and eat lower carb for all of your other meals. I train in the morning and I like my biggest meal to be dinner, so this won’t work for me. A better approach from a fat loss perspective would be to train after work, right before dinner (something I’m unwilling to do).
The “Intermittent Fasting” Strategy
There are several amazing benefits of intermittent fasting. Brad Pilon made a really compelling video showing how fasting has similar effects on the body as exercise: Intermittent Fasting Has Similar Effects on the Body as Intense Exercise. The nice thing about intermittent fasting is that it accomplishes both of the goals of the two methods above simultaneously. It helps create a calorie deficit and keeps insulin levels stable.
How I implement this strategy: I simply like to use intermittent fasting as a way to get my calories down a bit throughout the week. I don’t do it every week anymore, but I’ll fast until dinner on Mondays and the occasional Wednesday or Thursday. This just gives me the ability to eat loosely on Fri, Sat, and Sun…without gaining a bunch of weight.
Some Different Takes on Intermittent Fasting:
The “Small Meals Every Few Hours” Strategy
This strategy does not work for me, because I like to feast…but I think this is a strategy that can work for well for some people. I put up a poll on my Facebook Page seeing if men and women preferred to eat small meals more frequently or larger meals less frequently. A large portion of men liked large, less frequent meals…and women were about 50/50. Some people are wired to eat every few hours.
How to implement this strategy: As long as the portions are small this works well. You can create a calorie deficit and have stable insulin levels…which leads to weight loss. I’ve seen just as many people get lean eating this way as I have seen using intermittent fasting to get lean.
Some suggest women do better following this strategy: My personal experience has been that a good portion of women do best when they eat a little more frequently than men. I never knew the reason for this, until recently. Mark Sisson does a great job of explaining the concept in this post: Women and Intermittent Fasting.
The “Aggressive Low Calorie” Strategy
There are a many variations of this. Basically we are talking about a super-low calorie aggressive short-term 2-3 week diet…and possibly up to 8 weeks. Here is an outline of one I put up on my Facebook Page: Rapid Fat Loss Diet Plan – My 2 Shakes and Chicken Salad Diet. These types of diets are “vacation prep” type of diets.
How to implement this strategy: I don’t use this type of dieting anymore, because my goal is to be in “maintenance mode” for life…meaning that I never want to get out of shape again. Also, I’m not concerned with dipping down to 6% body fat anymore. I’m content with sticking around the 8-12% range these days. For those people who do like to get in crazy shape for an event, this type of diet does the trick. Just use it 1-2 times per year 2-8 weeks out from an event. Note: Some people should never attempt this as it can make some them especially irritable.
The “Cheat Day” Strategy
The idea behind the cheat day is to eat higher calories at least once per week to boost leptin levels and keep the metabolism high. Some people recommend eating as much as you want, one day per week, and others recommend a more moderate approach.
How I implement this strategy: I like the more moderate approach and simply like to up the calorie intake by eating somewhat loosely on the weekends. It seems to do the trick of keeping the leptin levels from crashing. More importantly, it allows me to live life, have fun, socialize, etc. Here is a good article which explains the positives and negatives of cheat days: Cheat Days Explained.
My Hybrid Diet Summary:
Here’s a quick bulletpoints summary of my Hybrid Diet.
- A weekly calorie deficit.
- Strong deficit Mon-Thursday.
- Cheating a bit Fri, Sat, and sometimes Sun.
- Low’ish carbs and calories during the day.
- Medium to high carbs and biggest meal at night.
- Intermittent fasting 1-2 times per week (part of the year).
Note: I also do my cardio routine on the days I eat strictly.
Setting Up Your Own Hybrid Diet
Remember, the most important principle is eating in a way that creates a calorie deficit. If you can do that in a way that minimizes insulin spikes, it will make your diet that much more effective. It really is about that simple…the trick is to do it in a way that is easy for you and doesn’t feel like torture.