Are you confused by the enormous amount of conflicting information about what to eat, what not to eat and which diet is best for you? Well welcome to the club! It seems there’s always a new diet trend that promises to help you lose weight, gain muscle, have more energy and “look” fit. With all of the trendy diets in and out of the media it’s easy to get confused on what to eat and which diet plan to choose. Today I’m diving into, and breaking down, the top six asked-about diets that have piqued people’s curiosity with their promise to deliver real results.
1. The Ketogenic Diet “Keto”
The trendy ketogenic diet is all the rage for weight loss and it seems to be one that everyone is asking most about. This program focuses on a low carb and high healthy fat diet with protein falling into the moderate consumption window. The Ketogenic Diet which is also referred to as “Keto” works to deplete the body’s glucose storage so your body burns fat. It does this by limiting the amount of carbohydrates consumed. In the Keto diet people are aiming to consume around 5-10% of their total calories as carbohydrates. Of course, as with any diet these numbers fluctuate based off of the individual but 5-10% is the goal.
What’s The Point Of It?
The point of the Ketogenic diet is to put your body into a state of ketosis where the body begins to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. This is great for fat loss, improving insulin resistance and managing the symptoms from chronic conditions. To get into ketosis, carbs and sugars need to be limited to the bare minimum. This means no pastas, breads, oats, cereals or anything else considered a grain containing any significant amount of carbohydrates. This also means sugar whether refined or from a natural source (like honey) is strictly prohibited.
So you may be thinking, what can you eat on this diet? The Ketogenic Diet is composed mostly of healthy fats including avocados, nuts, full fat dairy, seeds, and healthy oils like MCT, olive oil and more. It also encourages a lot of vegetable consumption which is beneficial for any health goal. The vegetable choices tend to lean towards the non-starchy vegetable group such as spinach, kale, cucumbers, cauliflower, asparagus and any dark leafy greens.
Downfall To Keto
One of the biggest downfalls of the Keto Diet is that it doesn’t emphasize the quality of the foods especially when it comes to the protein sources. Abiding by Keto Diet could mean an organic certified humane chicken breast but it could also mean a highly preserved, hormone injected, factory farmed slice of bacon. There’s no regulation or standard for quality in the Keto Diet.
Who Is Keto Good For?
Keto has made a name for itself for its impressive ability to aid in weight loss, it’s extreme improvement in energy levels and the impressive health benefits for people suffering with any kind of chronic disease.
This Diet Could Change Your Life
For your average American the weight loss benefits and increased energy alone are tempting and convincing results. For people with chronic conditions this may be considered a life-changing diet as followers note significant improvements in their overall health, reduced symptoms and slowed disease progression while adhering to a Ketogenic Diet. In some cases, Keto is actually being utilized as a treatment protocol for patients suffering from some chronic diseases.
Keto May Not Be For You
If you don’t like strict diets then Keto is definitely not for you. Although there’s no real calorie counting here it is important that I mention: to stay in a state of ketosis you have to maintain a certain percentage of carbohydrates consistently. For a lot of people this may be extremely frustrating and, for many, it just may not work with their lifestyle.
If the Keto concepts interests you, but without the strictness you’re going to love its sister-diet Paleo.
2. The Ancestor Diet “Paleo”
For most of humankind existence we have eaten in a hunter-gatherer fashion. Hundreds of years ago things like spray butter or colorful cereals didn’t exist and maybe that is for good reasons. If we’re being honest, our bodies are slightly confused by these types of processed foods and has trouble breaking them down properly for clean digestion. The Paleo Diet takes us back in time joining our hunter-gatherer ancestors removing dairy products, grains, refined sugar, flour, and anything processed.
Eat Like Your Ancestors
The Paleo Diet focuses on nourishing the body with foods that were consumed by our ancestors. This includes protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. This diet is perfect for people who are looking for a healthy lifestyle change. There is no counting calories or percentages, simply eat whole foods whenever you’re hungry. Avoiding processed foods likely increases the quality and nutrient density of the food as well. Paleo encourages good quality meats and vegetables to live the healthy paleo lifestyle.
Paleo Is Simple
Paleo takes us back to the basics. A good rule of thumb is if a caveman didn’t eat it then you shouldn’t either. What I like most about Paleo is it is extremely easy to follow. There’s a clear list of foods that you can and can’t eat and there’s no measuring or weighing or calculating to figure out if you’re accurately following this diet. Paleo is simple! Get rid of the processed foods and replace them with nutrient-rich, whole foods. This diet can realistically work for anyone at any age. It helps replace bad eating habits with healthier alternatives. This is for people who want a really sustainable, overall healthy lifestyle-type diet.
Who Is This For
Although Paleo is easy to adhere, sustainable and nutrient dense it is not necessarily for everyone. Paleo is a great diet for most people with the exception of some high-level athletes who may find it more challenging. The lack of carbs can leave some athletes feeling weak and less able to perform.
Learn more about Athletes and Paleo here.
3. The Alkaline Diet aka Tom Brady’s Diet
Putting aside your personal feelings towards the Patriots NFL team, there is no debating that Tom Brady’s health and performance at the age of 40 is something to take note of. Tom Brady has stated that his diet and physical regimen has allowed him to play as a quarterback for the Patriots well into his 30s and now into his 40s. His diet is very similar to the Alkaline Diet which focuses on creating an alkaline state in the body by choosing foods that fight acidity and promote alkalinity.
Highschool Chemistry And Your Health
Yes, we’re taking it all the way back to high school chemistry class with a lesson on pH. Our bodies function ideally between a pH of 7.35 and 7.45 meaning were slightly alkaline. The Alkaline diet and the diet that Tom Brady seemingly follows is based on the idea of eliminating things that create acidity in the body. This includes eliminating alcohol, grains, conventional meats, eggs, processed foods, flour and refined sugar. Dairy is limited to yogurt and kefir strictly for the benefits of the probiotics. All other dairy is a no-go for The Alkaline Diet.
Learn more about the Alkaline Diet here.
How To Achieve Tom Brady’s Peak Performance
Maybe you’re not trying to win the next Super Bowl but I’m sure you could still benefit from the amazing properties of an alkaline based diet. Tom Brady does this by fueling his body with alkalizing foods like brussel sprouts, kale, sweet potatoes and even dandelion greens. He avoids things like GMOs, dairy, MSG or high sodium foods, processed foods and even nightshade vegetables for their inflammatory properties. His chef explained that he tries to shop as organic, local and natural as possible.
Alkaline Living, Is It For You?
Once again this is a diet that doesn’t require counting or measuring or calculating. It is simple and straightforward as to what you can and can’t eat making it easy to follow. The Alkaline Diet is known for many health benefits including its ability to aid in the protection of bone density and muscle mass. It also lowers inflammation in the body which may single handedly be the reason that at age 40 Tom Brady is still out on the field. In addition to those benefits being slightly alkaline helps the overall immune function and metabolism. To learn more about the extensive benefits check out this article.
4. Whole 30
The Whole 30 diet is designed as a reset for your health in which you focus on consuming whole foods for 30 days. Seems pretty logical right? The answer is yes because it is. Once again there is no counting or weighing or calculating for this diet you are strictly eating real foods for 30 days. The goal is to strip away the processed foods that cause the sickness and illness in our bodies in the first place.
This diet came about by Melissa Hartwig who realized the need for a truly healthy 30 day reset diet plan. The processed foods we so regularly consume lead to all sorts of health issues including inflammation, hormone imbalances, leaky gut, energy issues and food sensitivities just to name a few. Eating whole foods will help you to get rid of things in your diet that harm the gut microbiome and create inflammation which is now linked to almost any condition you can think of. The goal is to eat whole foods that have not been processed for 30 days to reset your health.
What The 30 Days Consist Of
Basically, The Whole 30 Diet is paleo on steroids. The Whole 30 Diet doesn’t allow for sugar of any kind which includes maple syrup and raw honey. This diet cuts out sneaky sugars and the unnatural ingredients in things like artificial sweeteners, alcohol and soy products. During the 30 days you are not supposed to consume any grains, legumes or dairy products. Instead you will be eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, and some healthy oils and fats.
Can You Actually Do This For 30 Days?
If you’re looking for total body reboot this is the plan for you! It is great for people wanting to rebalance the body and reset. It works extremely well for all health goals and it is only for 30 days…You can do anything for 30 days, right?
Check out more info here.
The Two Outliers
The two diets or eating styles that I am always getting questions about is Intermittent Fasting and Carb Cycling. There seems to be a lot of confusing chatter about these two and what they actually entail. Although they are considered less of a diet and more of a healthy eating style they are extremely important and have been proven to show amazing results for fat loss, weight management, energy, and even brain clarity.
5. Intermittent Fasting
When was the last time you fasted? If you’re new to this whole “fasting” trend then you may be totally confused and thinking “why in the world would I purposely fast? Isn’t that something we would want to avoid?”
Fasting is extremely beneficial for weight loss, focus, energy and the promotion of less insulin resistance in the individual. Fasting has been widely used among many cultures for spiritual reasons as well. A fast can last anywhere from 14 hours to days, weeks and even months.
The newest fasting diet trend is Intermittent Fasting which pushes your fasting window from a regular 12 hours fasting window (the amount of time between dinner and the followings days breakfast) to anywhere between a 14 and 20 hours.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting typically looks like eating your meals anywhere between noon and 8pm at night. Some people push it further and break the fast near 1 or 3pm but it is all a personal preference and its best to start small and build up over time.
Who said you shouldn’t skip breakfast? Intermittent Fasting actually proves to be a really beneficial reason to skip breakfast or at least to push it off a few hours.
Intermittent fasting is great for weight loss but one of the most beneficial factors is its ability to regulate insulin resistance. Insulin is produced by our bodies when we eat and digest food and it is correlated to weight gain and fat storage. When we aren’t eating we aren’t producing insulin. In America we struggle with insulin resistance because we are actually overstimulated by the high amounts of sugar, refined grains and processed foods we see in the typical American diet. This is why intermittent fasting is beneficial. It gives the body a break from producing insulin.
Do Not Cut Calories
When fasting intermittently you aren’t actually reducing calories but rather shifting them to later in the day. If you normally eat 2,000 calories/day don’t stop, simply push all those calories closer together. With Intermittent Fasting you eat more per meal but with less meals while keeping the daily caloric intake the same.
How Do You Do Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is extremely flexible and you can alternate the days you choose to fast. If you want to try this Monday, Wednesday, Friday go ahead! If you’d prefer to do the fasting over the weekend that works too. It is flexible and you can always start with one day at a time. Since hunger is often mistaken for thirst make sure to drink plenty of water the morning during a fasting day.
Is Intermittent Fasting For Me?
Intermittent fasting is great for any lifestyle. It’s easy and simple to follow but definitely something you want to ease into. Start with a 12 hour fast and increase it over time to 14, 16 and even 20 hours. Play around with the amount of days you fast each week. Everyone is different so finding a healthy balance is always the best option for you! Also, never forget to listen to your body. If you are hungry make sure you eat! A little trick to new fasters: drink a glass of water right when you wake up.
Some women may find intermittent fasting difficult resulting in low energy and potentially even causing hormonal imbalances. It is even more crucial for women to listen to their bodies and not deprive themselves as women tend to have a more powerful defense response to lack of food or starvation sensations. Read more about this here.
Opposite to Paleo, intermittent fasting is extremely beneficial for athletes due to its ability to help preserve and encourage muscle growth. It can be paired with Keto, Carb Cycling or any other diet! You can plan your fasting days based around your workout style and training regimen to optimize energy and recovery times.
6. Carb Cycling
Carb Cycling is exactly what it sounds like; the cycling of carbs. The whole idea of this eating style is to eat high carbs on certain days and low carb on other days. No calorie counting or restrictions necessary with this type of eating style. This fluctuation between high and low carb days helps with weight loss, satiation and cravings, balancing hormones, and energy. It is also a beneficial eating style for people trying to manipulate their food to maximize lean muscle growth.
Is Carb Cycling For You?
Carb cycling is amazing for getting past a weight loss/gain plateau. When you’re feeling stuck and your diet and training regimen isn’t yielding the results they once did, maybe it’s time to switch it up and try something new like carb cycling.
If you like carbs and don’t see the appeal of a no-carb or low-carb diet like Keto or Paleo this could be the perfect option for you! Carb cycling is great for someone who enjoys a healthy balance of carbohydrates but would also love the weight loss benefits of alternating high and low carb days. This is especially helpful for individuals who do not want to cut out carbs depriving themselves of foods they enjoy. It is also important to note that cutting out a food group to just reintroduce it later can cause the weight to return. This is a problem seen in so many of the weight loss diets out there. Carb Cycling works well because you never completely cut something out, yet you still reap the benefits of low carb days and high carb days.
Here is a great article further explaining carb cycling, how to do it, who it benefits, and what it can look like day to day.
The Best Diet For You
The best diet for you is the healthy one that you will actually follow long term. I don’t mean the one you start on Monday and you’ve quit by Wednesday. Which of these diets or eating styles seem like they could work for you and your lifestyle long term?
Before you jump into any of these diets in hopes that you will lose that extra 10 pounds for summer, please wait. Diets and healthy lifestyle changes take time and are something you need to commit to for weeks, even months to see real results. Pick a diet that you will genuinely enjoy and one that works for your lifestyle.
My Secret: All Of These Diets Will Work
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Every single diet discussed above will work for you. They all focus on limiting sugar, preservatives and processed foods replacing them with more whole food nutrient-dense options. That is a recipe for success for just about everyone!
There are a plethora of different diets out there with new ones introduced regularly.
One of the most important things to know about any diet program is that it works best if and when it becomes a healthy lifestyle habit. Diets only work for a finite amount of time, whereas healthy lifestyle changes are the true way to achieve and maintain long-term results.