Have you ever tried to seriously sit down and do some in-depth diet research online? Confusing is an understatement. The volume of contradictory and downright deceptive information out there is enough to make your head spin. Not only that, people get protective. For a lot of folks their diet choice is intensely person and they will live or die by it. You may even find that it you come along and point out any scientific research to contradict their way of thinking you’ll soon find yourself in the equivalent of an online bar fight. It’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands, say “screw it” and head on over to your nearest McDonalds instead and call it a day.
Well you are NOT alone. It can be hard to make sense of the infinite number of diet schemes, trying to uncover the truth about which is best, and more importantly, which will work best for YOU. After all, everybody is different and what works for your gym buddy isn’t necessarily going to work for you.
I was frustrated by all the double talk and overblown claims on the internet when it comes to dieting. So I made the decision to try them all. Okay, maybe not all of them, but definitely most of the major ones you’ve probably heard about. I wanted to see for myself what was real and what was nonsense, instead of relying on some “food expert” online.
Below is everything I’ve learned through my food journey. Keep in mind, like I said above dieting is personal and what worked for me isn’t necessarily going to work for you. But my hope is that this guide can at least give you a framework to decide what you think will work best for you.
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The Ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is said to offer many health benefits. It involves drastically reducing your carb intake and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy.
Traditionally, strict ketogenic diets are structured with about 70-75% of your daily caloric intake coming from fat, and about 5% from carbs. However, there are several other versions of this diet with variations on the level of carb intake. In one study, it found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved. Not only that, another study demonstrated that a ketogenic diet reduced hunger, led to spontaneously lower food intake, and induced roughly 12 pounds of weight loss in seventeen obese men who were studied in a residential trial.
Geographically, the area known as the Mediterranean are countries with coastlines that connect with the Mediterranean Sea. Notable examples include France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. As the name implies, it was from this region that the Mediterranean diet was discovered. Key features of this diet include high consumption of olive oil, legumes, fish, vegetables, whole cereal grains. The Mediterranean diet also involves a moderate consumption of cheese and yogurt.
What are some of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet? The New England Journal of Medicine showed that a Mediterranean diet was successful in helping participants lose weight (approx. 9 pounds). But also interestingly there was a very high level of adherence to the diet plan by study participants (85% after 2 years). It turns out a routine of olive oil, fish, and legumes isn’t too hard to stick to after all.
The Paleolithic Diet, is based upon the idea that the optimal diet is to mimic that of our ancestors – think ‘hunter/gatherer style’. The premise of this diet is to 1) avoid processed foods, grains, legumes and dairy, and to 2) consume lean meats/fish, fruits, vegetables, and “healthy fats”. With this diet, you won’t be constrained by calorie counting, as the primary focus is on the quality of food being ingested.
The type of food people consume on a Paleo diet shifts their macronutrient intake to a high protein, high fat, and low carb diet. A recent study showed that following the paleo diet for even as little as 10 days had the capability of improving insulin sensitivity and favorably altering blood triglycerides. It also showed that the Paleo Diet led to “spontaneous caloric restriction”.
Flexible Dieting aka IIFYM
IIFYM stands for “If It Fits Your Macros” in case you were wondering. Flexible Dieting is based solely on the concept of calories in vs calories out. You use a calculator to determine your energy needs, essentially making a math equation out of weight loss and body composition. Here’s the interesting part, the types of food that you eat do not matter; just that you eat foods that will fill your calculated energy needs. A calorie is a calorie regardless of its source. This diet plan provides far greater flexibility in terms of what you can and cannot eat.