Popular Diets for Functional Fitness
Here are four of the most popular diets for functional fitness:
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet was the original diet recommended by several CrossFit Games athletes. It's about balancing macronutrients and portion control. It's all broken down into blocks. How many you'll need depends on your size and goals.
- Many athletes have reported a positive effect on performance.
- When done right, you'll eat more nutrient-dense meals, thanks to the large amount of vegetables required.
- No foods are off limits - and you easily integrate treats into your food plan.
- It takes a while to get used to using the system.
- You'll need to do lots of measuring and planning - not ideal for those short on time.
- Difficult to integrate into every day life, especially if you like to eat out or travel a lot.
- The macronutrients are fixed, so it doesn't take into account individual differences.
To learn more about the Zone Diet, check out this article by CrossFit Impulse.
The Paleo/Primal Diet
The Paleo Diet probably doesn't need much introduction. This is the most popular diet within the functional fitness world - with many boxes holding challenges for their members.
This approach focuses on eating natural food - loosely based on the type of food our ancestors would have eaten back in the caveman days.
- Focuses on natural, unpackaged food, without added sugars, chemicals or preservatives.
- It's reported to have anti-inflammatory benefits, which may improve recovery.
- The framework doesn't specify macronutrient ratios, so you can adapt this according to your needs.
- People tend to eat a lower amount of carbohydrates, which can negatively impact performance.
- It advocates removing whole food groups, which isn't always necessary.
- It's restrictive, making it difficult to sustain long-term.
To find out more about the Paleo/Primal movement, check out these resources:
The Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic Diet is a low carb, high fat approach to nutrition. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake significantly, putting the body into ketosis. This is a metabolic state in which the body burns fat, instead of carbohydrates, for energy.
- This approach is advocated by athletes who want to keep body fat down, whilst retaining enough energy to train at a high intensity.
- Some research suggests the approach may reduce the symptoms of diabetes.
- It requires a lot of will power to become fat adapted. To put the body into a state of ketosis, you may need to avoid most carbs for 2-3 months.
- The main focus is the macronutrient profile of the food, rather than the micronutrients and health benefits.
- It may not be helpful if your goal is to build strength or muscle mass.
- Critics claim this type of diet will only provide results in the short-term, and may be extremely harmful to the body.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) was developed by a group of bodybuilders, who were bored of eating the same food day in, day out. They wanted to develop a framework that enabled them to achieve their goals, without sacrificing their favourite foods.
So, if you're looking to get shredded but you don't want to give up pizza, this sets out a method for you to do it. All you have to do is track your macronutrients, and stick to the ratios necessary to achieve your goals.
- You don't have to give up your favourite foods, but do still get results.
- It helps you understand portion control, and eat the right amount for your body.
- It's not the healthiest option - as there's no emphasis on nutrient-dense foods.
- You still need to measure, weigh and track everything - so it's time consuming and hard to maintain over time.
Which is Best?
As you can see, each of these frameworks offer something totally different. It's impossible to say which one is best, without understanding your goals and preferences.
Each approach has an army of advocates, who claim their way is better than the others. But are these fixed diet frameworks even necessary anymore?
There's a growing movement that encourages us to use common sense, and eat what feels right for our body. This involves getting to know what we need on a deeper level, taking into consideration the psychology of eating.
What do you think?