I've been perusing this site for quite some time now. What I particularly like about this community is 1. the positive attitude and respect for differing methodologies and goals, and 2. the consistent feedback and journals kept by users.
After looking through many posts, and seeing some of the advice given, I've been inspired to share some of the lessons I've learned. To be a low fat, lean, mean, well-muscled machine, or, if you just want to cut up in general, perhaps I can share a few words of wisdom.
Dietary extremes won't keep you lean and mean I think, particularly for those persuing a cutting dietary strategy, a healthier, more gradual approach to weight loss would ensure success in the long run. I've done the extreme, Lyle McDonald UD 2.0 nutcase depletion cuts. Ya know what happened? I rebounded, big time. And ended up worse off than when I started. Sure, I looked great for a week... and then I cracked. I see individuals at 200lbs starting their diets eating only 2000 KCAL. That's just plain nuts. You should start any diet at maintenance calories. I'm a 21 y/o, 142lb weightlifter, and my maintenance is around 2600 KCAL. John Berardi offers a nutritional calculator at http://www.johnberardi.com/calc.htm to determine what your caloric intake should look like. Heed this advice. Fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
Caloric intake isn't the whole story - food selection plays an important role Alright, so there's still debate about the "a calorie is a calorie," and arguments over macronutrient combinations and their effects on insulin. Whatever. I think this is a case where science hasn't yet advanced to the point where empirical evidence can be supported by hard data. For me, by far, the best and easiest way to begin a diet is to simply improve my food selections and focus on nutrient timing. I eat only fruits and vegetables w/ lean protein and healthy fats outside of the 2 - 3 PWO window, which occurs after intense cardio or a weightlifting session. In that PWO window, I consume ~ 100g of high-GI CHO and ~ 50g PRO split into two meals. In my opinion, managing insulin levels is paramount to dietary success.
Healthy fats (fish oil!) are your friends There are a billion studies espousing the ridiculous number of metabolic and health benefits provided by consistent fish oil consumption. I consume 8 - 10g each day. For dieters, the increased satiety, improved carbohydrate sensitivity, and improved metabolic rate (sometimes upwards of 400 KCAL burned per day) are godsends. I make sure to eat no less than 50g of fat per day. My usual intake is around 80 - 100g, with an even split between sat, poly, and mono.
Eliminate the word cheat from your vocabularly When I ask myself why I'm in the iron game, I find that really, I can boil it down to a few key points. Self-discovery and testing the limitations of my body, improved health, and looking good naked. Having been at this for some time now, and having always had issues with my weight, I realized the sort of... obsessiveness and psychological strain that comes with body recomposition. All too quickly, I think we neglect our mental health. I know in the past I have. Dietary transgressions are not the end of the world. They're not even "bad." What I do think is bad is the sort of extreme back and forth that occurs when someone becomes unnecessarily strict. Suddenly that pizza is the end of the world, and the dieter tries to compensate the next few days by undereating. The dieter's metabolism crashes, hormones go out of whack, the mental strain becomes too much, and WHAM! another cheat. This can quickly derail even the most hardened dieters. The key to staying on the dieting railroad is to plan overfeeds. I like to plan an increased carbohydrate overfeed once every two weeks. Those with faster metabolisms can probably get away with one a week. On this day, I'll have 80% of my foods come from healthy, whole-gran carbohydrate sources. I'll fill myself up, then treat myself to whatever I want, AFTER my stomach is full. The increased carb. intake during the day activates the feel good receptors in my brain. Then, when it's time to eat that pizza, three slices satiate me rather than the whole thing. What I like about this method is that when I wake up the next morning, sure I'm retaining some water from the increased CHO intake, but I'm not depressed and miserable, agonizing over binge eating. I think the psychological stress induced by the "cheat" mentality is unnecessary. I think this method is a far easier (and healthier) way to have your cake, and eat it too.
Low-carb isn't a panacea What I don't like about low-carb dieting is the mythos surrounding it. It's treated as a short-term thing. Something that will happen for a little while, prior to reintriduction CHO back in the nutritional fold. This has led to some of the most viscious rebounds in my life. Simply put, the types of carbs matter more than simple consumption. I believe this is another case of science's inefficiency in quantifying the benefits of fruits and vegetables. I believe the host of micronutrients in nature's wonderfood are incredibly important not only to overall health, but just maintaining a "feel good" sense. I have never seen vegetables and fruits "slow" weight loss, or hinder someone's progress. I'd point my finger at the Twix candy bar and that ice cream rather than grapes.
Variety, consistency, and moderation ensure happiness and long-term success. We're all crazy. I believe anyone who gets involved in body recomposition fits the Type-A personality to a T. We aren't happy with how we look, or how we perform, and we'll do anything to fix it. I think this sort of honesty and self-reflection is severely lacking in the "body recomposition and athletic improvement" community. I think people should eat more moderate cheats (not binge) and take a few weeks off from weightlifting and caring so much about it every 12 - 16 weeks or so (assuming you've met your goals). Breaking the year down into manageable cycles of gaining, dieting, and improvement helps maintain that overall "life awareness" I think some of us (myself included) severely lack. Right now my plan is roughly twelve weeks in length, ending right around Thanksgiving. Every four weeks I schedule an active rest week, where I don't stress as much in the gym. At the end of the 12 weeks I offer myself a dietary break prior to starting my next cycle. Just remember, training isn't everything. Sometimes not stressing about it, not worrying about it, and just 'accepting' it can bring a peace of mind and relaxation to an admittedly demanding persuit.
I hope you guys get as much out of this as I have. Take care!