fad diets debunked
Image: Courtesy of Farhad Ibrahimzade via Unsplash

Here Are Three Popular Fad Diets, Debunked by a Nutritionist

No more cabbage soup, please.

For as long as we can remember, there has been diet after diet being promoted in the media. Some stuck and are still widely known today, others are now long forgotten — the cabbage soup diet, anyone? These don’t work because they’re not sustainable. Your body will forgot you ever did a diet the second you stop one. We spoke with Alex Thomas, the founder of Sports Nutrition Association on the top three popular diets and what actually works. Keep reading to learn more about what he suggests for healthy living.

common diets debunked
Image: Courtesy of Alex Lvrs via Unsplash

Here Are Three Popular Fad Diets, Debunked by a Nutritionist

1) The Low-Carb Approach

Over the years, there have been a lot of claims around the low-carb diet and its effectiveness. Consequently there has been a big move towards “carb phobia” over the past two decades which has lead to both eating disorders as well as an individual not getting the right balance of nutrients to fuel their body correctly.

However, when we look at the literature around this diet, specifically in a study by Hall and Colleagues, (Kevin Hall is one of the best researchers when it comes to examining diet effectiveness), they found that when comparing a low carb diet vs a group of people with the same matched calorie intake, but all people on the study were eating at a calorie deficit, there was no major difference between the results they achieved.

Additionally, while for the past 20 years there have been claims saying that carbs and sugar are bad for you as sugar and insulin affect weight loss, it turns out that is not the case either. We know this because when you look at another study that looked at the consumption of processed food and sugars in the US in the last 2 decades, the correlation between obesity, weight gain and sugar intake actually wasn’t linear. This is because as sugar intake has gone down in recent years, obesity is still trending upwards, and I would say that comes down to your calorie intake and managing your energy expenditure activity.

2) Intermittent fasting

There are so many claims around intermittent fasting covering longevity, weight loss and fat loss. While it sounds amazing when you look at the research that suggests that Intermittent fasting is improving health conditions and is achieving fat loss over a normal diet, this actually all just comes down to controlled calories. If you put one group of people on a calorie deficit but they are eating normally, and one group on a calorie deficit with intermittent fasting, the results will be comparable.  What the researchers are seeing is that because those on the intermittent fasting diet are eating their food in a shorter window of time, they are often consuming less calories, they are eating less food and they are losing weight because they are in a calorie deficit.

When it comes to any diet, from intermittent fasting, low carb, high protein, high fibre diets, any of these diet archetypes are good to help certain people become coherent and learn to stick to an eating plan, however the underlying cause and mechanism where you are seeing improvements in their health markers and their weight, is them being in a calorie deficit. That is the foundational thing.

3) Calorie deficit

Which brings me to my last point. The most effective way to lose weight and improve your health markers, is to be in a calorie deficit. To do this you need to track what you are putting into your body, versus the energy you are burning. It could take 4 to 7 months to get fluid with it, but here are my tips to start:

With the input, weigh your food and track it every day. It is a bit of mental effort as some peoples diet will change from weekdays to weekends. You also will have an additional variable if you drink alcohol frequently or binge drink. With your food, if you are consistent with what you are eating it will be easier to track than if the food you eat changes all the time. That doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meal every day, but just something similar.

The output however is so variable.  There are a number of factors that we look into for output. That is:

  • Your basil metabolic rate
  • Your exercise activity
  • The thermogenic effect, the metabolic effects of the food you are eating
  • The non-exercise activity and movement that you are doing
  • Additionally, you need to look at how much sleep you are getting, how hydrated you are and your current fed state. All of these elements will affect your output rate.  Additionally, there are the non-variable things such as your weight, age, gender and height.

As this is a little trickier to measure, you may consider seeing an expert who can help measure all of this and put a plan into place, if not, here are some tips:

  • If you are in a sedentary job or your lifestyle varies, us the tracker on your phone to count your steps and aim for a consistent active step count. Aim for 8000 steps on average but if you a sedentary that day, aim for 6000 as that won’t be too stressful to achieve.
  • Aim to exercise 3 to 4 sessions a week as you are more likely to be consistent which will make it easier to track.
  • Try to eat the same types of foods each day. That doesn’t mean that your meal needs to be the same, but aim to have fruit vegetables at every meal and lean protein 3 x times a day.
  • Get 2 to 3 liters of water a day
  • Make sure you sleep a good amount of hours

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