Fad Diets, What are They and Should I do One?
Keto, Paleo, Intermittent fasting, Carnivore, Zone – You’ve probably heard of at least one of these diets before but the question is will they help you drop weight? And if they do, Why?
Do These Diets Work?
The short answer: Yes.
Each of these diets can be successful in helping you decrease body fat.
How Do They Work?
Despite the many claims made, there is only one way in which a diet will help you lose weight.
There is no magic to weight loss.
The Laws of Thermodynamics tell us we cannot create something from nothing. We cannot store fat unless we put energy (food) into our system. We can’t live or move without using energy (ie, stored fat).
So how do these diets do this?
These diets manipulate the number of calories you ingest in a number of ways:
Keto & Carnivore: These cause you to ingest less calories by removing an entire macronutrient from your diet – In this case carbohydrates. The high level of fat in these diets is also very satiating and will cause you to be less hungry.
Paleo: Paleo restricts the calories you ingest by restricting you to wholesome, nutrient-dense foods that fill you up easily. Rather than ingesting low quality calories like sweets or processed meats, these foods take longer to digest and keep you fuller for longer without as many calories.
Intermittent fasting: This is a technique that gives you a smaller window of time to ingest calories. Less time to eat in a day will generally result in fewer calories ingested.
Zone: Zone reduces calories by weighing and measuring the amount of food you are eating and encouraging you to eat large amounts of vegetables and low calorie foods. By being methodical with weighing and measuring, you are much more likely to stay in a deficit (assuming you can stay on top of it).
So Calories in, Calories out right?
In a nutshell, yes.
There has been numerous studies completed in this field over recent years as to how these diets are actually working for people and how they’re getting amazing results. The vast majority of these studies have discovered that when you’re on a keto, paleo or intermittent fasting diet, you’re basically just cutting down the amount of calories that you’re putting into your body.
Something something Fat oxidation, something something Insulin causes fat gain….
Ok so someone’s told you keto causes fat oxidation (using fat for energy) or that insulin can cause you to gain fat in a calorie deficit.
First up: Dietary fat intake = increased Fat Oxidation.
Yes it will increase fat oxidation, but the reason for this is that the body will use the fuel that is available. Just because the body is directly using fat as a fuel source doesn’t mean it will result in a greater overall loss of body fat. It still comes down to your overall energy balance.
Secondly: Insulin causes you to gain fat in a calorie deficit.
In short – no. This has been debunked numerous times. At equal calories & protein, reducing carbs doesn’t increase fat loss compared to reducing fats.
So they all work – what’s the negative?
This is the part where people will often express differing opinions and answers become biased. If your goal is purely to lose weight/centimetres fast and you’re not fussed on any other aspect of overall health (such as maintenance and balance), then yep, these diets work.
However, if you do care about your health as a whole, then why cut out or severely limit a major food group that has a lot of nutritional benefit to it?
Multiple studies have demonstrated that lower carb diets are not superior to other weight loss diets that include a higher percentage of carbs. The research has shown that when you’re educated in how to consume a higher quality of food, you can achieve weight loss without drastically changing the types of food you eat. It’s more about quantities and quality of food.
Education and Consistency is Essential for Success
If you’re consistent with whatever diet you choose, there is no doubt that you will see results. But is this sustainable? Will you gain weight again if you stop? Can you stick to this diet for the rest of your life and enjoy it? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
These are questions that you need to answer when thinking about doing a fad diet. Completing appropriate research (i.e. finding unbiased and unfunded studies) on a particular fad diet is essential before going all out on it.
You can still get amazing results if you’re consistent with a ‘normal’ diet by eating a healthy balance between your major food groups and completing regular exercise.
At the end of the day, the best diet is the one you can stick to.
Holt et al. (1997). An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods. Am J Clin Nutr. 66(5):1264-76.
Pal et al. (2010). The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. Br J Nutr. 104(8):1241-8.
Alhassan et al. (2008). Dietary adherence and weight loss success among overweight women: results from the A TO Z weight loss study. International journal of obesity (2005), 32(6), 985–991.
Tinsley et al. (2017). Time-restricted feeding in young men performing resistance training: A randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(2), 200-207
Layne Norton: https://www.biolayne.com/