When to eat vs. What to eat diets – basics

Eating and calorie restrictions and regimes have been present in human food consumption culture for well over two millennia. The first attempts at medicine have been marked by dietary restrictions or food and herb intake recommendations in order to cure a disease. Ancient Greeks were the first ones to recognize that athletic capacity and bodily development depended largely on diet. Advancement of medicine and our understanding of biology have led to hundreds, if not thousands of diets being developed in order to target one specific thing, may it be weight loss, increased performance, boosting immunity or something else. While there is a general consensus that calorie restriction will lead to weight loos, most of the diets present today take one of two forms. There are the ‘what to eat’ diets, that promote consumption of certain foods while avoiding others and there are the ‘when to eat’ diets, which rely on the time that the consumption occurs. These however are not mutually exclusive. The purpose of this article is to, in short, describe the methods that these diets use and give you a general idea of basic concepts.

The what-to-eat diets

Most of fad diets fall into this category. A classic example of this is the Nicole Kidman’s Hard Boiled Egg diet. This kind of diets give you a full meal plan and usually have predictable results, as long as you keep to the diet. They are usually shorter (1-6 weeks) and are easier to follow. The fact that you have all of the meals pre-planed is extremely helpful if you want to go weekly grocery shopping. It is also much easier to plan for the days ahead and eventually pre-cook food that you need for the following day. You do not need to be an expert in nutrition in order to follow these diets since caloric intake and nutritional value of meals are already calculated for you. Since they tend to be shorter, it’s much to interpret results of others. A substantial weigh loss in a 4 week period can rarely be attributed to external factors. Immediate results will also boost your self confidence as well as your confidence that the diet works, which will in turn additionally motivate you.

One possible downside for what-to-eat diets is that it’s much easier to cheat on them. Without through understanding of the mechanisms in place for your diet to work and without the mindset of the creator it’s easier to fall in the trap of ‘cheat days’. You can, however, over come this through persistence and discipline. Another downside is that because of strict restrictions, a lot of people will ‘let go’ after they have completed the diet. This usually translates to gaining back the pounds lost through sweat and hunger.

When-to-eat diets

When to eat diets have a wholly different approach. The when to eat diets usually rely on internal body mechanisms. One good example of this is The Warrior Diet, which is a form of intermittent fasting. These diets rarely restrict the type of food you eat, but restrict times of day instead. When following the Warrior Diet mentioned previously, you are forbidden to eat during the day and should only feed during a 4 hour window before going to bed. They might sound counter-intuitive, but do some critical thinking and you will realize that you have developed your intuition based on societal standards, not based on what your body feels it needs. Compared to the first type, these diets usually last much longer and become more of a way of eating rather than a quick-fix short-term plan to lose weight.

The fact that it lasts longer, will require of you to adapt the whole system of thinking and philosophy behind it. You will need to do further reading as well since it’s your responsibility to construct your meal plans. You will also need to learn about nutritional values since it’s important that you restrict daily intake of calories in order for any kind of diet to work.

Another problem that you might encounter is no immediate results.When-to-eat diets last over a longer time span. This means it will be harder to conclude whether weight loss happens because of the diet or because of other, external factors.

One very good thing about this diets, though, is that once you adapt to them, they stop being a diet. Since it’s a lifestyle change,  you will stop feeling like you’re constantly dieting. You will stop craving sugary and sweet stuff after a while, and this alone has a huge array of health benefits.

The hybrids: When-and-What-to-Eat Diets

There are diets that attack the issue of weight loss from both perspectives. These usually are most effective, but require a bit of effort to comply to. One exception is the Chrono Nutrition Diet designed by  Dr. Alain Debalos. This is one of the rare diets that are both easy to get into and easy to maintain. Just like the Warrior Diet mentioned above, you also can eat whatever you want, you are just restricted on the type of calories (The what part) and the times of day (the When part). In this diet it is recommended that you eat your carbs, proteins and fats in the morning. Lunch consists of either carbs OR proteins. You must choose one and stick to it. Dinner in chrono nutrition diet is strictly protein.

Good thing about diets like these is that you determine your portion size depending on what your goals are. Smaller meals will mean weight loss, bigger meals will mean weight maintenance or slight gain. The beauty of this is that you decide what your meal will consist of and it’s much easier to just fix something quick. Another thing worthy to point out is these diets usually allow for snacks during the day, so no more headaches and the feeling that somebody is stabbing you in the stomach.

You will however still need to read up on it, since you need to understand the biological mechanisms that the diet is trying to make use of. The easy part is, just like the when-to diets, these diets once adopted can be carried on for a lifetime. This will, in turn, prevent the bounce back period.


Since nutrition, weight loss, calories and workout go hand in hand, exercise deserves a paragraph of its own. When you go on a what-to diet you put your body in a kind of shock. This will translate in much lower performance in the gym or any sports that you are currently practicing. Some diets are designed for athletes when they are trying to slim down. Think of a boxer losing 4 lbs to fight in a lighter category. They will address this issue, but the truth is, most of us do now follow sports diets. On top of that, most of us don’t have  the physical prowess of a pro athlete. This is why it’s important not to exercise too vigorously while keeping to a diet that is not designed to support this. Because of nutritional restrictions, some muscle loss and atrophy might occur as well.

The when-to and hybrid diets however, are a different story. Once you get used to the new lifestyle change, you will be able to do as much intense training as you like. It is incredible what our bodies can adapt to and shill thrive. We are a survivor species. Our bodies and minds are designed for scarcity and once put to the test, they will endure.

Hopefully this article resolved any confusions you had about diets and gave you some basics. The decision on what to do from this point on, however, solely depends on the changes you’re willing to undertake.

Healthy Means Happy



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