A new year signals a time for a fresh start, and it has never felt so welcome as in 2022. Since many people have been vaccinated against covid-19, they’re looking forward to getting out more. However, some things never change, such as the desire to lose weight. With so many diet plans available, getting started has become more difficult.
Some diets aim to curb your appetite and reduce your overall food intake. Others suggest restricting your calories by cutting out entire food groups.
However, the most important thing to do when adopting a new diet is to ask yourself these questions: is this sustainable? Does it forbid foods that include your favorites? Are you able to stay on your diet in social settings?
In this article, we seek to explore the most popular fad diets for weight loss and discuss the good, the bad and what effects do they really have on weight loss.
What Are Fad Diets?
Fad diets refer to diet plans that recommend adjusting the proportions of macronutrients or instructing people on what foods to eat or avoid, usually with the goal of fast weight loss.1.
Fad diets are diets and eating patterns that provide short-term weight loss, with little or no emphasis on long-term management. These diets usually enjoy temporary popularity2.
Diet fads are often promoted as the most effective and fastest way to lose weight; however, many of these diets eliminate foods that contain essential nutrients for health3. The research on these diets is often lacking or faulty.
Many fad diets promote rapid weight loss without considering what your body needs in terms of nutrients. In the long run, these weight loss plans seldom work – some can even cause health problems.
Here’s how to identify a fad diet.
Most Popular Diets for Weight Loss
1. Keto Diet | What is Keto Diet?
A keto diet is a strict low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet. It has recently gained popularity in the United States and globally due to its fast weight loss benefits4. By reducing carbohydrates, the body can rely on fat as its main energy source, resulting in ketosis.
The increased publicity of faster weight loss has made it one of the most popular diets.
In a state of ketosis, fat cells are converted to molecules known as ketones, which circulate in the bloodstream and become the body’s primary energy source.
Keto Diet Meal Plan
While switching to a ketogenic diet may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. Meals and snacks should be high in fat and protein while low in carbs.
Ketosis can only be achieved and maintained when carbs are restricted. While certain people might only achieve ketosis by eating 20 grams of carbs per day, others may be successful with a higher carb intake.
Generally, the lower your carbohydrate intake, the easier it is to reach and stay in ketosis6. Therefore, sticking to keto-friendly foods and avoiding items rich in carbs is the best way to successfully lose weight on a ketogenic diet.
Drawbacks of Keto Diet
Difficult to Sustain
Because of the stringent food restrictions, many find the keto diet hard to stick to.
Ketogenic diets can be effective for weight loss when used for a short period followed by the adoption of healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, it lends itself to yo-yo dieting, which increases mortality7.
Individuals who consistently track food intake are more likely to remain in ketosis. But the only way to tell if your body is in ketosis is a blood test.
Difficult to Sustain
Diets that restrict nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibers) cause you to be deficient in those that come from fresh fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains.
Due to these deficiencies, people also report feeling foggy and tired. These symptoms have been dubbed “the keto flu”8. Constipation is common in the keto diet due to the lack of fiber.
2. Intermittent Fasting | What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a broad term that encompasses a variety of programs that manipulate the timing of eating periods by utilizing short-term fasts9. It is a time-restricted, scheduled eating plan where you oscillate between periods of eating and fasting.
Unlike other diet plans, intermittent fasting does not involve strict food restrictions or a long list of rules. You get to choose your approach by deciding which days of the week you want to fast. This makes the diet easy to follow as it can be adapted to varying lifestyles, even for people who do shift work.
16 8 Intermittent Fasting
Although there are other intermittent fasting protocols, the 16/8 diet is the most popular one. The 16/8 diet consists of fasting for 16 consecutive hours and eating for 8 hours10.
The practice of 16/8 intermittent fasting involves limiting your intake of foods and calorie-containing beverages to a set window of 8 hours per day11. You abstain from food for the remaining 16 hours, though you’re still allowed to drink water and other no-calorie beverages.
While other diets often have strict rules to be adhered to, the 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol is easy to follow and with minimal disruption to your lifestyle.
In short, this form of dieting is safe for many people. However, it may not be for everyone. For people who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or have other chronic health conditions, skipping meals may not be the most effective method for weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
One of the main advantages of the 16/8 fasting protocol is its convenience. Apart from using it as a method to shed weight, some studies have shown that intermittent fasting improves blood test results. This includes fasting glucose, cholesterol levels, and even blood pressure. Some body functions are also enhanced, including increased insulin sensitivity, improved immune function, as well as cognitive ability12.
Intermittent Fasting Drawbacks
It is possible to experience mild side effects when first starting this new diet, such as giddiness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of focus, and temporary sleep disturbances. More serious but rare consequences like dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and muscle loss have been reported among the general population too.
3. Low-carb Diets
A low-carb diet, much like the keto diet, is essentially one that restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables, and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Low-carb diets are popular for weight loss and often do not require calorie counting.
It may seem that a low-carb diet works like magic, but the reason is simple: it reduces energy intake and imparts a negative energy balance.
Low-carb Diets Benefits
Low-carb diets may be particularly effective in the short term due to their ability to burn through glycogen. It is also possible that low-carb diets are helpful for people with type 2 diabetes since a large dose of carbohydrates can send blood sugar levels soaring to unhealthy levels in people who lack the usual response to insulin.
Low-carb Diets Drawbacks
Intermittent diet is not starving but an occasional planned break-in food intake for relatively short time periods. This method of fasting is therefore generally safe and will not put your body into starvation mode.
That said, despite the existing evidence in the scientific literature that short-term use of low-carb diets may lead to weight loss, there is no evidence of superior weight loss in the long term. The low-carb diet has also been associated with better control of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, although there is insufficient evidence of long-term benefits.
Limiting your food choices can also lead to micronutrient deficiencies. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. They help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system. A carbohydrate-deficient diet may cause headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, and mineral deficiencies.
Although fad diets promise dramatic results with minimal effort, they are only a temporary resolution that doesn’t always deliver sustainable healthy results. Restrictive diets are challenging to maintain, and, therefore any weight loss by fad diets is likely to be temporary.