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What is the best diet for weight loss?

Updated: Apr 2

Nutrition is often hotly contested across the internet and social media. What is the best diet for weight loss? Is a calorie really just a calorie? Why isn’t my diet working anymore? Quite simply, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Whilst there are some overarching themes that apply to 99% of the population, nutrition is far too complicated to boil down to one easy fix diet.

Nutrition covers everything we eat and drink. Everything we consume is broken down by the digestive system and either absorbed into the body or removed as waste.

This triggers a set of responses within the body called a postprandial response. Some of the responses are more optimal than others. Eating a ‘typical’ meal which consists of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will cause a change in our blood glucose (glycemia) and triglyceride levels (lipidaemia), as well as circulating hormones such as insulin. Different individual food items and combinations of foods will trigger varying responses in these metabolites. Some responses are highly unfavourable, causing excessive glycemia and lipidaemia and overwhelming our normal, healthy regulatory responses.

Repeated exposure to these unfavourable responses can increase our risk of long-term health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Research shows that responses to food are highly individualised (see Fig. 1 below), based on a number of genetic and non-genetic predispositions. Looking at nutrition at an individual level is important to ensure your diet is matched to your personal health needs, goals, and individual preferences.

There’s some cool tech emerging for nutrition that initially started in clinical or pro-athlete environments but are now available for the wider public. These include continuous glucose monitors, looking at how you metabolise and respond to different foods, comprehensive blood tests available by post and microbiome tests to look at your personalised gut environment, amongst others. More data = more informed coaching decisions.

Figure 1 – Individual triglyceride, glucose and insulin responses to a mixed meal of 1,102 healthy individuals in the PREDICT2 study (ZOE, 2020).

That being said, there are some general rules that apply to most of us. When you look at the typical British diet, there are some offenders that keep cropping up. According to the NHS Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet (NHS, 2018), only 26% of adult Brits consume their 5-a-day and even worse, so do only 16% of kids. Every age and gender group over-consumed added sugars and saturated fats, and under consumed fibre.

The best way to improve your diet? Understand your body’s needs and be honest to yourself (and your coach!) about your current diet. When we recall what we’ve eaten in a day, it’s very easy to forget about the biscuit you grabbed from the cupboard whilst you were making lunch or the extra squeeze of mayo in your sandwich. Keeping a food diary and taking pictures of everything you eat is a quick and easy way to keep track of your diet, eliminating the human error of retrospective recall.

Once you’ve collected the right information, you can have an honest conversation with your coach about where you are at and where you’d like to, and need to be.

How do you reckon your diet would shape up? Keep an eye out for our future posts which will look in more detail at specific nutrition questions.

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