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There are many weight loss diets out there nowadays. For many, the marketing and few success stories are what drive their popularity. These success stories, however, are not solely due to the diet alone. Daily routine and health are variant; therefore a body's response to a particular diet may differ from person to person. As a result, it’s important to be cautious when choosing these weight loss “remedies” based on emphasized positives, without weighing the negatives.
A classic “hunter-gatherer” type diet. It’s based on the theory that the western diet, including grains, dairy, and processed foods is linked to most modern diseases. This diet emphasizes whole foods, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds; but limits or removes processed foods, sugar, dairy, and grains
Takeaway: Multiple benefits including weight loss, lower disease risk, and metabolic health.³ Limited food options may reduce adherence. Not many associated risks with this diet, however the slightly reduced carbohydrate intake from grains may impact nutrient profile and performance.
Involves cycling carbohydrate intake according to activity levels. Light or aerobic activity, as well as off days, will reduce carbs drastically (along with calories). Moderate and high carb days will be on days with high activity and training.
Takeaway: Helps to maintain healthy hormonal balance and performance, while benefiting from a low carb diet regarding weight loss.⁵ ⁶ Great for healthy and experienced individuals looking to diet for performance or weight loss.
Limiting carbohydrates in your diet to extremely low levels, however the allowance varies. The purpose is to force your body to use more fat for fuel instead of carbs. When carbs are low, fatty acids are mobilized to the bloodstream and liver. Some are converted to ketones; which then can be used for energy.
Atkins -Allows you to eat as much protein and fat as you want, as long as you avoid carbs. The first phase limits carbs to around 20-25% of daily calories. There are 4 phases that introduce carbs slowly back into your diet as you reach your goal weight.
Ketogenic - Cut carbs to about 5 percent of daily intake. Around 75% will then come from fat and 20% from protein. Traditional Keto diets limit protein to 20%, however high protein ketogenic diets are rising in popularity to prevent muscle wasting and improve performance.
Two-year data suggests that weight loss is regained over time, possibly due metabolism drop and hormonal imbalances¹⁵
Takeaway - Safe for majority of individuals, but requires awareness of proper nutrient supplementation and healthy food choices. Shows improvement in weight loss and disease risk factors. Recommended for diabetics, epileptics, and obese individuals.¹⁶
Similar to cycling carbs, but instead cycling eating patterns. There are set periods for eating and fasting. Multiple methods within this diet, but two of the most common are:
Takeaway: Effective for weight loss and cellular health for healthy and nourished individuals. Not recommended for people sensitive to changes in blood sugar
Less than 10% of calorie consumption comes from fat. In stricter diets, protein comes from mostly plant-based sources; limiting animal products due to higher fat content. Protein intake is fairly low, around 10-20%, leaving carbohydrate intake around 70-80% of diet.
Takeaway: Shown to improve weight loss and heart disease risk factors in obese individuals. Reportedly difficult to stick to and potentially detrimental to health in the long-term.
There are plenty of diets to choose from out there. While some are blown up more than others, it's important to have an understanding of how the diet will affect your body. If you have concerns about what is best for you, be sure to consult your physician or a dietician. This is especially true for adolescents and young adults who are still growing and are more prone to developing eating disorders due to the media's emphasis on the “ideal” body and rising cases of depression as a result of insecurities.³⁰
Despite which diet you choose, it is of utmost importance to understand how energy balance and overall calories influence weight loss, gain, and maintenance. A weight loss diet is meant to be temporary if it requires extreme deficits in calories or nutrients. Extreme deficits can have detrimental effects on the body in the long run. Make sure you monitor your caloric needs, even if the program does not call for it. As like most things, diets are recommended in moderation. Certain programs can be great for teaching consistency, “will-power”, and healthy eating. Making sure not to make strict dieting a habit is crucial to maintaining a healthy metabolism and optimizing overall performance.