How 'Eating Clean' Didn't Work, But Chocolate And Double Meat Got Me Shredded
Back in 2015 it was all about clean eating...
'Young Mike' was the epitome of health. He only ate foods so clean you would think they came straight out of the dishwasher. Clients knew they should only be eating foods like meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and oils.
Cutting out all junk food... that was the secret to a great body.
I didn't touch pizza and thought ice cream was the delicious devil. Also, for some undeserved reason, I believed carbs caused all body fat, so bread, rice, oats, pasta and all sugary sweetness were big no nos (only potatoes made the cut, because, you know, they are 'natural').
It was meat and vegetables all day, every day.
The big problem?
For that endless hard work and sacrifice, I didn't have the body I wanted (or thought I deserved).
Okay, I wasn't at all overweight, and many people would be happy with that physique.
I'd sacrificed a hell of a lot in my dieting efforts. You could spot me bringing tupperware containers of 'clean' food wherever I went and skipping nights out on the regular.
It wasn't a lifestyle anyone could sustain.
And, in the end, it didn't work.
Skipping forward to now, I still eat all the meat and veggies, but I also chow down Ben & Jerry's like it's going out of fashion. I order from the menu at restaurants guilt-free and drink pale ales whenever the mood strikes. I eat chocolate bars and chocolate muffins.
You'd expect me to look worse right?
That's me now.
I actually look like I lift.
It started when I was a young buck with a subscription to Men's Fitness.
The physiques on those glossy pages were impressive enough for me to be sucked into the world of the gym, protein shakes and cheeky flexes in the mirror. Unfortunately, the nutrition advice in these mags wasn't nearly as impressive.
These hulking, shredded dudes proposed 'eating clean' as the way to big muscles and shredded abs.
I believed them.
So, I went all in and committed to it 110%. With that came sacrifice, and my relationships, money and time all crumbled through my fingertips in the pursuit of a better body.
Frustratingly, the promised results never came.
Becoming a member of the bodybuilding.com forums changed everything.
In there, nobody has an agenda, so they tell it as it is. These forums have some incredibly smart members who preach what actually works (as long as you wade through all the trolls).
I caught a whiff of calorie counting and realised it made sense when the goal is a great physique.
There are no inherently good and bad foods. It's much more important to control total daily calorie intake to control your body composition.
Science has proven that time and time again.
'Young Mike' was sold. I started counting calories and beautiful things started to happen.
I felt like the guy who lost over 12kgs on the Twinkie diet.
Being able to finally eat a whole range of foods, as long as they fit my target calories, and still improve my physique daily was awesome. I was my own secret experiment and people were noticing.
I started to lean out while eating chocolate daily.
What was this magic?
Diving further into the calorie counting world, I noticed it was not only about calories.
Daily protein intake matters too if the goal is increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass (which it should be for everyone). It's been shown that the ratio of carb and fat intake is insignificant, as long as protein and calories are matched. Again, #science coming through with the goods.
The evolution of my diet was to track both calories and protein.
Only two things to count, with many results to be achieved.
These days, there are no restrictions on what I eat. As long as I exceed my protein target and stay close to my calorie target, I can eat whatever the heck I please.
Of course, take this whole 'eating anything' approach with a pinch of salt, as most of my calories still come from traditional 'healthy' foods. All I'm doing is stressing that quantity is more important than quality.
Again, quantity is more important than quality. That doesn't mean quality is thrown out the window. Not even close.
What I propose is to eat mostly healthy foods, and then your favourite 'unhealthier' foods in moderation.
This is the type of diet you can stick to for the rest of your life.
It gives you the flexibility to enjoy your favourite foods and the occasional night out with the lads.
Best of all, it stops the whole 'black & white' thinking of foods as good and bad. That approach brings guilt (when you eat something 'unclean'), binge-eating and obsessiveness. None of these will help you on your quest for a great physique.
But... clean eating worked for my mate!
Yeah, it can work, but not because the food is 'clean'.
When someone changes their diet to swap in clean foods for 'bad' ones, they inherently lower their calories.
Clean foods generally contain fewer calories than their 'bad' counterparts. If that person eats the same total amount of food, calories will be lower.
It's not the fact that they are eating clean food (there's no magic fat-loss foods), it's the fact that they are lowering their calories that makes them lose fat.
But, it can also not work.
If someone swaps in only clean foods, but still eats too many calories over their maintenance level, they WILL gain weight. Period.
Sounds good, but does this diet work in the real world?
Yes, if you are exhausted of spinning your wheels only to get no results, it gosh darn works a treat!
It works because it's sustainable. When you're able to eat anything you want and actually enjoy the process of dieting, it doesn't really feel like a diet.
Having freedom and flexibility is revolutionary in the current world of strict diets cutting out entire food groups.
It does require you to count and track your calories and protein. This may be the hardest part, but I promise after you've done it for a while it's a piece of cake. It's worth the effort.
All you're doing is taking your diet by the horns and wrestling it into submission. You, and you alone are in control and decide what your physique will look like.
There's not an official name on the internet for this type of diet. So, from now on, let's call it the CalPro Diet. That's catchy enough...
Long story short, counting calories and protein is how I got shredded.
Is it necessary? No.
Does it work? Yes.