The reason I do my research and publish my blog is to help you get healthier by raising your walking game. My walking routine was the only thing I was proactively managing when I transformed my physical and mental health for the better a few years ago. However, I have to acknowledge that my diet habits did change organically during that time. I don’t think any of you will disagree that what you eat, directly impacts your body weight and body fat, however, sometimes it is easy to ignore what our walking diet is doing for our energy levels and are therefore impacting our performance.
You don’t have to look far on the internet to find fad diets and weight loss programs, it’s almost a marketing gold mine, so I am going to take a closer look at some of the more talked about nutrition structures.
I am not a professional nutritionist, I am just going to tell you what I have learned while I have been looking at nutrition.
Obviously, this alcohol is not a diet, walking or otherwise, but one of the most overlooked detractors for weight loss goals is alcohol consumption. Far be it from me to preach the life of a Tee Total, I enjoy the wobbly-headed ramblings of a group of friends as much as the next guy. However, if you drink regularly, you have stepped up your walking game and you are not seeing results, consider trimming your drinking routine.
- The diuretic effects of alcohol can lead to dehydration and if you don’t drink enough water before you exercise, this may compound it. Dehydration can lead to many health complications but inline with the theme of this article, it can lead to your body retaining water making it appear that you are bigger and heavier than you should be.
- The calories in alcohol are abundant and empty. This means you will get all of the weight gain and none of the energy associated with calories. Even spirits are calorie-laden – did you know that a single 25 ML measure of vodka contains 56 calories.
- As I explained in my recent post about burning excess body fat – your liver plays an important role in storing and processing glycogen, your body’s essential energy reserve. Your liver also processes the alcohol to get it out of your body so if you have not given sufficient time for all of the units of alcohol to be processed before you walk, your energy levels will be sub-optimal at best.
I will start with my yin and yang of nutrition, intuitive eating. In theory, this is my very favorite for people to eat. Intuitive eating means you listen to and trust your body to tell you what it needs, if you are hungry, eat. You can set meal times, you eat until you are not hungry then leave the rest. You can skip meals or you can snack between meals and even before bed if you are hungry.
Because your body is designed by evolution, it has adapted a way of knowing if it is going to have enough energy to run your organs and muscles and give you hunger cues when it needs more.
Being in tune with your body’s hunger cues means you will only eat when your body asks for food and your body will only ask for food when it needs it. When you exercise more you will need more so you will get hungry more. In theory, you will be intuitively managing efficient energy usage and not allowing your body to store excessive amounts of body fat.
In practice, however, diet culture, processed foods, and even our mental health have made intuitive eating a little more difficult. Yo-yo diets could have trained your brain to ignore your body’s natural physical hunger cues making it as simple as you no longer know when you are actually hungry.
Compounding this confusion, if you eat too much-refined sugar this could elicit a regular response from your brain’s pleasure center resulting in emotional hunger cravings. Your body’s physical hunger cues now have to compete with these and your brain may see a bigger reward from cravings. When we are struggling mentally, our brains want pleasure so it stands to reason we will have more cravings when we are down.
If you are intuitive eating, you may feel like reaching for an iced muffin thinking it is what your body wants. Ignoring, emotional cravings is beneficial but ignoring hunger cues could be dangerous.
Should You Make Intuitive Eating Your Go-To Diet?
The good news is that by taking a careful approach, you can get back in sync with your body. If you find yourself craving something you know is bad, reach for a healthy alternative. Instead of confectionary, try eating fruit in its natural form. This way you are making sure you are eating in case it is a genuine hunger cue, but you are not letting your emotional craving hinder your diet goals. At first, you may still want the sweet treat but over time your cravings should subside and you can start to trust that when you feel hungry, you should eat.
Low Carbohydrate Diets
Dr. Robert C. Atkins published best selling low carb diet book in 1972, however, in the first few years of the 21st century, possibly coinciding with the normalization of internet access for everyone, the Atkins diet really blew up. The Atkins diet leverages reduced carbs and increased protein to manipulate your appetite and get you used to healthier eating, after an initial kickstart period of restricting carbs and eating high fat and high protein for energy. The induction is followed by a slow reintegration of healthy carbs back into the diet stopping short of reintroducing refined carbs.
The Keto diet is similar to the induction phase of the Atkins diet in that it requires you to leverage less than 5g of carbs per day while eating high fat however, Keto requires only moderate protein intake. The absence of carbs causes your body to switch to fat as its primary source of energy. This is called Ketosis and allows your body to efficiently burn your stored fats when it runs out of the food you have recently eaten.
The publicity of the Atkins diet has been something of a roller coaster. After its initial release, Atkins’ book was panned by the mainstream health world, however, over time, several studies have vindicated the weight loss and health benefits of managing your carbohydrate intake. The Atkins diet is a 4-phase program to break down and rebuild the way you eat.
More recently, the Keto diet has gained a lot of publicity, including Tyson Fury famously shedding over one-third of his body weight before his return to the ring in 2019. Fury had battled back from mental health issues and drug addiction and ballooned up to his maximum weight of 180 KG before losing 65 KG in 18 months. Using the Keto diet, Tyson Fury had hacked his body’s natural survival processes to get healthy, return to the ring and go on to beat Deontay Wilder for the WBC heavyweight title. A Ketogenic diet can have other benefits to such as managing epilepsy in children.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that low carbohydrate diets can lead to impressive weight loss. However, the Atkins diet is more than just a low-carb diet. Some of the bad publicity the Atkins diet has received is because some of the people claiming to be on the Atkins diet were merely cutting carbs and had never actually read the book.
Your body likes carbohydrates, trying to force your body into Ketosis means you will also have to manually manage a few other functions. Before your body achieves the state of Ketosis, it will still be looking for carbs for energy. If you don’t get enough water or electrolytes during this time, it can hinder the time this process takes and lead to a very lethargic state called “Keto Flu”. The Keto Flu can last about a week and for some people, can include more flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. A friend of mine immediately quit her attempt at the Keto diet after experiencing the Keto flu. One small bite of a cookie and the symptoms subsided, but her body now had too many carbs and she would have had to begin the process over again.
Remember, when Tyson Fury used the Keto diet he was training to return to boxing, he had physical trainers and nutritionists supporting him and managing the whole process.
Should you go low carb?
A low-carb diet is a fantastic option for people living with or at risk of diabetes. Managing your carbs may deliver some good results so by all means, keep it in mind if you are looking to shed a few pounds and shrink your waistline. However, throughout the process, you should be careful not to deprive your body of what it needs. If you like the sound of the Atkins diet, be careful to understand it properly before you try it.
I would never recommend the Keto diet to someone without access to professional support but it does work for some people. If you do choose the Keto option, you may want to consider variations that allow you to shoehorn carbs in around your workouts, or even include carb refeeding periods.
Please always listen to your body and if it doesn’t feel right, consult a medical professional. Not every diet is good for everyone.
High Carb – Low Fat
Sticking to what your body already knows, carbs provide immediate energy before topping up your reserves and eventually being converted and stored as fat if there is any left. Keeping your fat consumption to no more than 20% of your daily calorie intake by consuming naturally low-fat foods will keep you healthy while ensuring you have enough energy to get your 10000 or more, steps.
In this study of 19 obese people were initially fed 2700 calories a day before reducing calories by a third either reducing carbs or fat. The results showed that those who cut carbs were at a metabolic disadvantage to those who cut fat. Eating carbs before your walks means your body will have the energy it needs.
As with low-carb diets, the diet is more than just a name. It could be tempting to reach for reduced-fat alternatives to full-fat products like yogurts. However, if the product is supposed to have fat in it but doesn’t something has more than likely been added to replace it.
Low-fat diets also rule out healthy fatty foods like cashew nuts and avocados and it turns out your body actually needs fat to absorb the fat-soluble nutrients from fat-free fruits and vegetables. According to the NHS in the UK, this includes vitamin D which is essential for a healthy immune system.
So You Should Go High Carb?
Remember a diet is more than just a name, if you are looking to leverage high carbs to achieve your weight loss goals, you should do adequate research to make sure you are getting enough fat and not overdoing the carbs.
With dedicated Facebook groups, Influencers on Youtube, and even a lot of health professionals promoting it, it seems like Intermittent Fasting is here to stay. Full disclosure, I am a big fan of IF for several reasons, so while I try to remain impartial, my bias might be evident.
IF requires dieters to restrict eating to specific times and then fast for the rest of the time. The most common IF diet patterns are
- 16/8 – This involves fasting for 16 hours and ensuring all of your meals are in the same 8-hour window every day.
- OMAD – One meal a day, always eaten within the same 4-hour window.
- 48 Hour cycle – The dieter will eat an evening at a set time (e.g 7 pm) and then not eat at all for 24 hours. The following 24 hours will be a regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner before repeating the whole cycle again.
- 24 hour fast – Dieters don’t eat for a single period of 24 hours. This can be once a week, once a fortnight, or even once a month.
While many diet structures may pair IF up with another diet, traditionally, this has nothing to do with what you eat or how much you eat, it’s all about when you eat.
The easiest benefit to identify when you are trying to lose weight is that by having a smaller window of time to eat, you increase the probability that you will eat fewer calories. However, there are other benefits. While you are not eating your blood sugar will significantly reduce, and your body will switch to fat burning. This helps prevent type 2 diabetes. While your body is not regulating food intake, it can turn its attention to cell repair (autophagy).
IF can tread the line between discipline and dysfunction. What some people see as fasting, others may see as starving yourself. It can be difficult to get used to not eating anything for such periods and there is confusion about the difference between a fast that puts your body into a fasted state and a fast that just limits certain foods. (E.G. a juice fast)
Is Intermittant Fastng The One?
I love fasting because it manages my energy levels, and I can eat a bit more in the evenings without worrying that I am eating too much. I wouldn’t recommend IF to people suffering from eating disorders or body dysmorphia at all and anybody with a dietary illness needs such as diabetes should speak to a doctor first.
If you do decide on IF, your body will need to acclimatize, it won’t take long but start slowly. You could start off 14/10 on alternate days and see how you feel. I like to also maintain flexibility so sometimes I fast for 16 hours sometimes 14, sometimes 20. Sometimes I don’t fast at all.
Which Walking Diet Is The Best
In short, it depends on your personal fitness goals. I have looked at several different eating disciplines that all look to optimize the process. However, before selecting which of these works for you, I recommend you first accept the following principles to lose weight:
- You must burn more calories than you consume
- a varied diet full of natural goodness will benefit your body
- If you are not comfortable with your routine, you are more likely to fail.
- Exercise and diet work hand in hand for weight loss
I believe that once you accept these principles and build your diet structure around them, you will see results. However, everybody is different so I am not suggesting to you which of these diet disciplines is the best. I personally found that when I increased my activity I was less tempted by junk food. I gravitated to reduced carbs in the evening unless I was exercising but this happened organically, I did not do set out to do that.
Make your walking diet work for you and tell me how you get on in the comments below.