Fad diets: breaking down keto, paleo & more
Coming up with a meal plan all on your own can be overwhelming. It’s hard to be sure which methods will actually help you lose weight or just waste your time. Despite all the fancy names and claims, every fad diet has a breakdown of calories and nutrients that lead to certain results. Just because a diet plan claims to produce the fastest weight loss, doesn’t mean it’s your best option. Before you commit to a new meal plan, take a look at some of these fad diet breakdowns.
The Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is built on a very low-carb if not zero-carb meal plan. Instead of fueling up on carbs for energy, keto teaches your body to rely on fats. Without carbs, you’re in a state of ketosis and your body gets more efficient at burning stored fat for energy. There is a downside though. People on the keto diet tend to experience flu-like symptoms. Headaches, nausea, and fatigue are all signs of the keto flu. Ketosis isn’t a natural, sustainable state for your body to be in and it starts to go through withdrawal without all the carbs.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet is the brainchild of physician and author Dr. Robert C. Atkins. The diet is very similar to keto, emphasizing lots of fats and protein instead of carbs. But Atkins is broken down into phases: induction, balancing, fine-tuning and maintenance. The closer you get to your goal weight, the more carbs you’re allowed to have. Once you’re through the maintenance period, you can continue on with a long term healthy lifestyle and hopefully keep the weight off. Because you’re drastically cutting carbs, you can experience the same keto flu symptoms. And Atkins doesn’t require you to track anything but carbs, so your protein and fat intake can get out of hand. Too much of either can hinder weight loss and cause digestive problems.
The South Beach Diet
And another low-carb diet. It even has the same kind of phases as Atkins, gradually increasing carbs as you go along. But South Beach is all about foods with a low glycemic index. Glycemic index measures how a food item affects your blood sugar levels. The diet teaches you the difference between saturated fats and healthy fats, and helps you avoid processed junk. Instead of listing off generic food items that are completely off limits, it allows you to pick and choose based on the actual breakdown of nutrients. Once again, prepare to feel a little sick as you cut out carbs.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is based on foods eaten during the Paleolithic era or basically caveman days. You only eat food that could only be found through hunting and gathering; including lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, according to the Mayo Clinic. It rids your diet of pretty much all processed ingredients. The downside is you don’t get any grains or dairy which can affect your energy levels and vitamin intake. If you are exercising and trying to tone up, it can be difficult to eat enough carbs just from just fruits and vegetables.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet started after studies in the 1960's revealed that heart disease was a lot less common in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Heath guru's in the U.S. started imitating these countries' way of eating. It's a primarily plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oils and other sources of healthy fats. You still eat fish, chicken and dairy products, just on a weekly basis instead of daily. The only things it really restricts are red meat and processed ingredients. The other cool thing about the Mediterranean way is the emphasis on emotional health as well. It's traditional in Mediterranean culture to cook, eat and exercise with loved ones. So while you're trying to shed the pounds, the diet encourages you to have a support system.
The Tomato Diet
The tomato diet is pretty self explanatory, you simply add tomatoes in whatever form to your daily diet. Tomatoes are made up of micronutrients, water and fiber so they keep you full without all the calories. It’s an easy way to teach yourself how to implement vegetables in every meal instead of other starchy alternatives. The downside is tomatoes don’t actually have any super fat-burning qualities. If you eat tomatoes on your greasy burger, you won’t see any weight loss. It’s important to keep in mind that the tomato diet is more a mindset than a guaranteed method.
The Boiled Egg Diet
The boiled egg diet is along the same lines, boiled eggs with every meal. Boiled eggs do have more to offer than tomatoes in the way of protein and healthy fats. The diet is essentially a high-protein, low-carbohydrate way of eating, a lifestyle you can achieve with the help of lots of other foods other than boiled eggs. If variety and flavor are a priority for you, scarfing boiled eggs day after day may not be your best bet.
The Alkaline Diet
The Alkaline diet focuses more on overall health and wellness than weight loss. The idea is that there are alkaline foods and acidic foods. When acidic foods are digested they can leave toxic residue in your organs and affect the overall pH of your body, which in turn, can weaken your immune system, according to Healthline. The problem is, alkaline foods are mostly fruits and vegetables. Meat is off the menu. You may as well be a vegetarian. And there aren’t any solid clinical trials on humans to back up the diet either.
Weight Watchers has ballooned from a diet to its own wellness movement. There are support groups, books, magazines, TV specials, all the things. The Weight Watchers app tracks your weight loss using a point system instead of calories. You get a certain amount of points per day, higher calorie foods are more points, low calorie foods are less points. Because you want to be eating more food instead of less, the diet naturally guides you to healthier choices. The downside is the Weight Watchers plan isn’t free. And the broad application of points to all kinds of food can become problematic. Instead of a food having a certain amount of proteins, carbs, fats, sugar, etc., it’s just points. A gallon of ice cream is just points. As long as it fits your count for the day, you are technically following the rules. You could be completely deficient in essential nutrients and still be on track. Also, Weight Watchers has a whole list of “zero-point” foods that you can eat to your heart’s content. If it was just lettuce, kale, spinach and celery that would be fine, but it’s tons of dense fruits, vegetables and even meats that are far from zero calories. For example, an apple is zero points, but in reality, an apple is 100 calories and a solid 30 grams of carbs. You could actually gain weight if you stuck to the zero point choices.
The Raw Diet
Don’t worry, it’s not an all raw meat diet. It means that you are only eating food completely uncooked and unheated; mostly fruit, vegetables, legumes, and select meats. Like the alkaline diet, the raw food movement is intended to rid our bodies of toxins. Obviously many processed foods that we crave have to be thrown in the microwave or oven, so the options the raw diet leaves you with are mostly organic and nutrient dense. Your protein options are limited because many meats are chalk full of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses uncooked. And heating food up can actually raise the antioxidant properties of certain foods, ultimately making them better for you than if you were to eat them raw.
The Carnivore Diet
The Carnivore Diet is exactly how it sounds, all meat and animal products. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy. That’s it. The theory is that our ancestors survived mostly on meat so we should too. Once again, a diet with a settle to score with carbs. Carbs are the enemy, they lead to most of the world’s chronic diseases. Because you can’t survive on only protein, the diet promotes fatty meats for energy. And we’re back to ketosis. It also doesn’t have any kind of tracking system. No calorie limits or serving sizes. The diet relies solely on the fact that you’re not eating carbs for weight loss and throws all the other factors out the window. It also makes you vulnerable to high cholesterol, high sodium, and increased risk of heart disease if you’re a fan of red meat.
Unless you’re having surgery, having trouble chewing or have your jaw wired shut, I wouldn’t recommend a liquid diet. First of all, it’s as awful to stick to as it sounds. The idea is that high protein meal replacement shakes will keep you full and help you avoid any unnecessary calories throughout the day. A lot of liquid diet plans only get up to about 800 calories a day, which is way below healthy levels no matter what your goals are. Sure, you may be losing weight, but that extra weight is being taken from not only your fat, but your muscles and bones too. Liquid diets are often a fast track to weight loss when you have a lot to lose, but they are not a long-term solution.
The Master Cleanse
Speaking of liquid diets, there’s the Master Cleanse. For the first ten days, it’s a liquid diet consisting only of lemon water, salt, and herbal laxatives. After that, you slowly add in other liquid foods like soup and eventually solid vegetables. But no meat or dairy. The word “detoxify” will pop up a lot with this diet, but the truth is, your liver can detoxify your body just fine on its own. This is the definition of a crash diet for rapid weight loss and it comes with the usual starvation side effects.