Navigating the minefield of modern-day dieting techniques


Ciarán McMullan

DIETING for many is a minefield of complicated buzz words, magic shakes and quick fixes. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Finding balance in what works best for you will be the game-changer. Personally, I’m of the opinion that there is a lot of information out there that will confuse you, possibly set you on the wrong path and have a detrimental effect on your nutrition choices.

I’m not bashing any of these diets, as I think we should make decisions around our health and fitness based on education and constant learning, but I’ve picked out two very popular and well publicised diets that are out there at the minute.

Ketogenesis is the bio-medical process of how organisms produce ketone bodies through the breakdown of fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids. It sounds seriously complicated, but broken down it’s the process of how these fatty acids replace carbohydrates as our main energy source.

Carbohydrates usually are our main energy fuels and are broken down into glucose, but not in a Keto diet. With a lack of carbohydrates in the body the liver breaks down these fatty acids into Ketone bodies and are used as an alternative energy source. So, the state of Ketosis is the physiological adaptation of the body to low carbs and lower energy.

Meals are usually broken down into high fat, ‘adequate’ protein and low or no carbohydrates. For me, this has limited scope and I’m not a fan of cutting out one macronutrient—either carbs fat or protein. I’m not saying it’s not for you, just me personally.

Intermittent Fasting is a pretty umbrella term used to describe meal timing schedules and when you can eat or fast. There are a number of ways to do this and here are a few examples:

—5:2 is when you eat your daily recommended calorie intake and for the other two days consume 25 per cent of your intake.

—Alternating day fasting is eating your recommended daily intake for 24 hours then either fully fasting or eating 25 per cent of your intake the next day.

—Time restricted fasting, which is very common, is a setting aside an amount of time during the day where you have an eating window. 16:8 is very popular as for 16 hrs of the day you fast—a lot of this time is spent sleeping as it’s at night—and having eight hours to consume your calories for the day.

Both Keto diets and fasting are often used for weight loss purposes and can be effective if done properly, however their sustainability can be very difficult.

In Keto to live without carbs—or a very low amount—through choice may be extremely hard to stick to as a lot of foods we crave the most are carbs.

Intermittent fasting is, for me, a way of putting yourself into a calorie deficit as essentially you are skipping a meal and you have a limited time to eat your calorie intake for the day. Eight hours is not a long time to eat however many meals you need to hit your calorie target.

There are so many diets, fads and magic potions on the market and a lot of people will buy into something that they don’t know a lot about as a celebrity has put their name to it.

My approach is a lot more simple, eat whole foods, when possible, in a balanced diet where you have the correct breakdown of carbs, fats and protein—not forgetting our fruit and veg—that suits not only your calorie target, but also your daily life.

As more people get involved in diet and exercise programmes, it’s so important to educate yourself about food and how your body needs the nutrients it provides to survive and function properly. We can then form a better relationship with food as we begin to learn and understand why protein helps muscle growth and repair, why carbohydrates give us energy and how fats are essential for the absorption of vitamins.

Certain diets may work for some people, but not everyone and that being said, they have to be sustainable over a period of time to get the outcome that person wants.

Keep things simple, learn the balance your body needs through diet and exercise and the only diet you will need is your own personal diet from now on.

Ciarán McMullan is a former St Enda’s Gaelic footballer and League Cup winning midfielder with Cliftonville FC. He currently works as a personal trainer in Belfast. Visit his Facebook page: Follow him on Instagram: cmcfitness