Autumn’s here, and on the plus side, we don’t have to worry about looking good in
swimwear for a while. But we don’t want it all to go completely to pot, either. So, as the
new season swings in, now’s good time to try a different way of eating.
Changing your diet keeps your body guessing, and it’s a good way to find out what kind of
plan suits you and your lifestyle.
Firstly, what diet you follow depends on your goals. Are you trying to look shredded, gain
muscle, have more energy, sleep better, improve your health…or all of the above?
Here are some current popular diets – how they work, what they do, and what we think of
The Slow-Carb Diet – Favoured by RFC’s Director, Trent Scanlen
The aims and rules are:
– Reach your genetic potential in 6 months
– Forget portion control – if you eat the right foods, you can have large servings
– Focuses on the role of insulin and the importance of ensuring your body doesn’t
become intolerant to it
– Clearly identifies which foods should be avoided and which should be eaten
– Contains one ‘cheat’ day per week, where you are challenged to eat as much junk as
you can to spike your insulin. This day improves your adherence, as you never have
to give up that one thing you love (pizza, ice cream, beer etc.) You just need to make
sure you only eat it one day per week
It’s an unusual approach, but some swear it. It’s derived from the experimentation of
hundreds of people who consistently need to perform under high pressure, such as elite
athletes and Managing Directors.
More than a decade of research has gone into the diet, which revolves around answering
one question: what small changes can we make for the best physical results? Tim Ferris
implanted an insulin measurement device in his stomach to monitor insulin activity with
different food. Luckily, we don’t have to do that.
The complete plan is detailed in Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body, but it boils down to these
five basic rules:
Rule 1: Avoid white starchy carbohydrates – all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains
Rule 2: Eat the same few meals repeatedly, especially for breakfast and lunch
Rule 3: Don’t drink calories, although you’re allowed 1-2 glasses of dry red wine a night
Rule 4: Don’t eat fruit, because fructose creates more body fat (but avocados and tomatoes
Rule 5: Make sure you have that one cheat day a week
RFC’s Director Trent is a big advocate: “This is the easiest way to lose body fat as it’s clear to
follow and the cheat day makes a huge difference. I’ve been on this for 6 years and modify it
to suit my training goals.”
The Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic, or keto diet is similar to the Atkins diet or LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) diet, but
the main difference is that it also restricts protein.
How does it work? Well, when you eat something high in carbs, your body produces glucose
and insulin. Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so
that will always be chosen over any other source. Insulin is created to process the glucose
and take it around the body as blood sugar.
If you eat very few carbs and small amounts of protein, the body makes an alternative fuel
called ketones, which is a state known as ketosis. Our bodies are incredibly adaptive and
when you take away carbohydrates, ketones are made from fat and used as the primary
As well as running almost entirely on ketones, low insulin levels increase fat burning
dramatically. That’s great if you’re trying to lose weight, but it’s also reported to have other
benefits, like less hunger, a steadier supply of energy, and (some say) better mental
But with weight loss often comes muscle loss, and you want to retain as much lean muscle
mass as possible as it helps you keep the weight off. Muscle burns off roughly three times as
many calories as fat, so strength training is key, using both weights and high-intensity
Jack Toczydlowski, British Powerlifting Union champion and RFC’s boxing and MMA coach,
says, “If this works for you, then great – go for it, as long as it supports your goals.
Personally, I've tried different methodologies and strategies over my years as an athlete and
my opinion is what you eat is a tool and must serve a purpose.
“When I was a fighter needing to make 170lbs, my purpose was to keep my weight low and
for that I found intermittent fasting, particularly Jason Ferrugia's Renegade Diet worked
“Now, the purpose of my food is to fuel the Powerlifting training sessions and recovery. And
for that I'm really only looking at two things – Protein intake and calorie intake. I want to eat
around 2g of protein for 1kg of body mass (I round it up to 200g a day) to protect/build
muscle. I also want to take in 3000kcal on non-training days and around 4000kcal on
training days to stay in calorie surplus. That ensures I don't lose weight and recover the best
“As to what I eat – whatever I want to that helps meet those numbers. I call it my see-food
diet. There's a tonne of research demonstrating that how much you eat (macros, calories) is
a lot more important than what you eat (organic, gluten-free, made from ground up angels)
– meaning your health markers aren't affected by things that make your food more
expensive, so I spend exactly zero time and avoid wasting money following fads and trends.”
The High-Fat Diet
Most of you will have heard of this one, which is based on super-low levels of carbs,
medium protein, and high fat. Sugar or sweeteners are obviously off the menu, as are milk,
yoghurt, fruit, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, vegetables that aren’t green or white, sauces
(except pesto and guacamole) or nuts (apart from walnuts and pine nuts).
Food must contain 70 per cent of its calories from fat to considered as fat on the diet, so
feta, for example, counts as protein not fat. You can eat loads of good stuff, though:
avocados, cream cheese, double cream, butter, coconut cream, all meats and fish, all green
vegetables, nut oils, pesto, eggs and some cheeses (except high carb ones like cheddar).
Just like the keto diet, by eating fat and practically no carbs, your body switches to a state of
ketosis. With fat as the primary energy source and very low insulin levels, fat burning is
Unlike low-fat diets, which make you feel hungry and crave sugary snacks, most people find
they feel pretty full on this diet. Low blood sugar levels also seem to keep cravings away.
It’s not an easy diet though, because a tiny bit of cheating could ruin it. Even the smallest
amount of sugar can offset the delicate process and stop your body burning fat for a few
days. For more advice, check out Dr. Dominic D’Agostino’s site: www.ketonutrition.org.
RFC’s Mark Mene says, “In my opinion, a high-fat diet is more enjoyable than a low-fat diet.
This is due to the fact it releases hormones like endorphins and dopamine, as well as
promoting a long life.
“The latest research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona
found those with low intake of saturated fat raised chances of early death by 13%,
compared to those eating plenty and consuming high levels of all fats cut mortality by up to
“My personal ethos is: live happy and try and consume about 80% fruit and veg daily.”
The Vegan Diet
The vegan diet is devoid not just of meat, but all animal products, including eggs and dairy.
Generally speaking, vegans tend to be thinner and have a lower BMI than non-vegans. But
that’s not just about diet – it’s also down to the fact they usually make better lifestyle
choices: a good fitness regime, not smoking, etc.
Research also shows that vegans lose more weight than people on calorie-restricted diets,
even when they're allowed to eat until they feel full 1 . Experts think this is down to higher
dietary fibre intake, which makes you feel fuller so you naturally eat fewer calories.
To many, a life without meat or any animal produce whatsoever might seem pretty dull. But
veganism is very effective at regulating blood sugar and reducing waistlines, so it’s
becoming increasingly popular.
Vegan diets come in different formats. The most common are:
– Whole-food vegan: based on whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, nuts, and seeds
– Raw-food vegan: includes raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or plant foods cooked
at temperatures below 118°F (48°C)
– 80/10/10: a raw vegan diet that limits fat-rich foods like nuts and avocados, and
relies mainly on fruits and greens. It’s also known as the low-fat, raw food vegan diet
or fruitarian diet
– The Starch Solution: low-fat, high-carb vegan diet, similar to the 80/10/10 but
focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of fruit
– Raw till 4: low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and Starch Solution. Raw
foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for
– Junk-food vegan diet: lacks whole plant foods, and instead relies heavily on mock
meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts and other heavily processed vegan foods
RFC’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student Karina McClusker says, “I have been following a vegan diet
for the past 5 years, and have never felt better! Although my main reasons for this choice
are ethical and environmental, following a plant-based diet has been proven to have many
health benefits. For this reason, a large number of athletes are choosing this lifestyle, such
as MMA stars Nick and Nate Diaz, record-breaking strongman Patrik Baboumian, and former
boxing world champion David Haye.
“Personally, I focus more on consuming nutrient-dense foods for overall health rather than
hitting specific macro ratios. However, I do keep track of my protein intake to aid muscle
growth and repair. My diet mainly consists of loads of fibre-rich fruit and veg, and plant-
based complete protein sources such as tempeh, quinoa, and hemp. There are plenty of
options available now so I’d definitely recommend giving it a try!”
RFC’s HIIT, Fight Fit and lifting coach, Charlotte McIntyre had this to add: “I don’t follow a
specific diet or fad because I believe you should do whatever suits you best. Just like how
there are different training methods that suit different people, people also have different
preferences and dietary requirements.
“My breakfast throughout the week consists of meat and nuts. I can rotate the type of meat
and nuts or keep it the same. The meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar and
the nuts provide healthy fats and allows the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended
period of time. Strength coach Charles Poliquin argues that it raises ‘both dopamine and
acetyl-choline, the two most important neurotransmitters for focus and drive’. I also find
that it keeps me fuller for longer.
“Throughout the day, I like to have tea, to embrace the English side in me. Then Monday to
Friday, I get my meals prepped through a company called MacroMealsUK. This has been
amazing in terms of time-saving and also portion control. If I am trying to hit my macros,
this also makes it easy to track because the meals show the macros on the container. If I
come home from training late then I like to have a protein shake with banana and casein
protein, which is a slow-release protein.
“At the weekend, for my evening meals, I adopt Jack’s see-food diet, which is great for the
mind and body.”