When it comes to nutrition and weight loss, everyone seems to set goals centered around being a little better than before and get there as soon as possible. As a result, we fall victim to quick-fix diets and weight loss methods that are quite extreme. Unfortunately, these approaches aren’t sustainable longterm. Eventually, our bodies respond with mood swings, low energy levels, and food cravings.
Lucky for us, there is a healthier, more sustainable way to reach our wellness goals. By using the 8fit app to work regular exercise and healthy meals into your routine, you’ll get the results you’re looking for without experiencing the negative side effects of a quick-fix diet.
Not convinced? Let’s take a look at five popular low-carb diets.
1. Restricted diet — or crash diet
Many calorie-restrictive diet plans advertise a weight loss of 5-10 pounds per week. Restricting calories does lead to weight loss, but it also means your body is getting inadequate amounts of food resulting in malnourishment. Our body starts to think that its starving and any functions which are not necessary for survival are decreased or shut down completely impacting your energy levels, fertility, sex drive and brain function.
What’s tricky about calorie-counting is that food labels can be off by 20 to 25 percent. Also, each body absorbs food differently depending on the type of food, gut bacteria, and hormonal issues.
Restrictive diets also impact your resting metabolic rate. A great example of this is what happened to contestants on the Biggest Loser television series. Most contestants regained almost all of the weight they lost because their resting metabolic rates had declined. In fact, they were burning about 700 calories fewer per day than the day than when they started the challenge.
Why? Many factors contribute to individual metabolisms, but in this case, the contestants didn’t learn sustainable skills or develop healthy habits. Instead, they relied on starvation and extremism to force their bodies to change too fast. To compensate, their bodies shut down during the challenge, albeit while shedding pounds. Once the challenge ended, the restrictive diet did too, and the contestants rebounded by slowing their metabolism.
2. Low-carb diet
Have you ever wondered what low-carb actually means? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy people get 50 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates and the rest from the other two macronutrients: fat and protein. This means that if you are on a 2,000-calorie diet, you’ll consume about 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. Anything less than the recommended range of 50 to 65 percent is sometimes considered “low-carb.” At 8fit, we like to define low-carb as getting closer to 30 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates — that’s about 150 grams for the same 2,000 calorie diet.
That said, this definition of “low-carb” is still a bit vague as it doesn’t consider the source or quality of the carbohydrates you’re eating. By definition, one person could get their 30% from simple carbs like cake, cookies, and juice, then another person could get their 30% from whole grain bread, oatmeal, and rice, but bother would be considered “low-carb.”
This is why we can’t judge a meal by its macronutrient ratio. Complex carbs (quinoa, rice, whole wheat bread, or oatmeal) contain more fiber and more nutrients than simple carbs (honey, sugar, or juice). The body takes longer to digest complex carbs, giving your body long-lasting energy and reducing cravings — especially when we combine them with healthy fats and protein.
3. Ketogenic diet
In contrast to the standard low-carb diet, only 5 to 10 percent of your energy come from carbs on the keto diet. Ketogenic diets are known for quick, drastic weight loss. If you follow a keto plan strictly, you’ll probably see results pretty fast, however, you might want to fully understand the pros and cons.
- Following a keto diet means avoiding foods with carbs. To be precise, it means not eating more than 20 to 30 grams net carbs per day — way lower than our 30%, 150-gram low-carb diet.
- When calculating your carb intake on a keto diet, you can subtract undigestible carbs — i.e. fiber — from the total amount of carbs giving you your net carbs. For example, chia seeds have 47 grams of carbs per 100 grams, but 40 grams are from fiber, meaning your body absorbs only 7 grams of net carbs (47 total grams – 40 grams from fiber = 7 grams net carbs).
- You might be surprised to hear that vegetables, nuts, and dairy can contain a decent amount of carbs. For example, a medium-sized onion contains more than 8 grams net carbs.
- Foods that are usually low in carbohydrates are meat, fish, eggs, and some dairy products.
- The keto diet also sets a limit on protein intake because proteins can also kick you out of ketosis. When carbohydrates are low, protein can also be broken down into glucose by the body. That’s why you should limit it to 20 to 25 percent of your daily calories.
Originally, ketogenic diets were used to treat medical conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s and others. Like any diet, the keto diet should be followed under medical supervision because recommended macronutrients ratios might vary from person to person depending on activity level, nutrition needs, and stress levels.
4. Paleo diet
The paleo diet includes foods which were available to Paleolithic humans. That’s the reason why the diet is also called “caveman diet” or “Stone Age diet.” Typically foods such as dairy products, grains, regular potatoes, sugar, legumes (beans, peanuts, peas, lentils) processed oils, alcohol, and coffee are excluded. Instead, meals include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, meat, fish, and eggs. There are different interpretations of what is allowed and not allowed in the Paleo diet.
Here’s what you need to know about going paleo:
- Your calories will mainly come from protein and fat because the foods on the “do eat” list are relatively low-carb.
- Less processed food means healthier meals packed with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and good sources of protein.
- You’ll have more energy from these healthier meals.
- Paleo often does lead to weight loss and health improvements. However, this is mostly due to the fact that the diet doesn’t include processed foods and mainly more healthy and less caloric-dense foods.
- Some paleo followers say they struggle with digestive issues when eating grains, gluten, legumes or dairy. However, the digestive abilities of modern humans are different from those living during the stone age. Therefore, the excluded food groups shouldn’t be problematic. Of course, every person and body functions differently. An allergy or intolerance shouldn’t be played down.
The paleo approach can usually be considered safe as long as you nourish your body with a variety of different foods and are sure to include the allowed carbs like sweet potato in your diet — especially if you work out regularly.
5. Juice fasting or detox diet
Juice fasting, also known as juice cleansing, is a diet in which a person only consumes fruit and vegetable juices. It’s usually done in order to detoxify the body or lose weight. Common juice fasts last several days to several weeks. Here’s what you need to know before signing up for that cleanse:
- Our bodies are destined to cleanse themselves. Almost everything is toxic in some way. Our digestive tract, kidneys, skin, lungs, liver, lymphatic system, and respiratory system do a great job of riding our body of different toxins. Every time we use the toilet, sweat, or take a big exhale, the body is getting rid of something it doesn’t need.
- Freshly squeezed orange juice contains more sugar than a soda. Juice, even from vegetables, contains lots of sugar and drives the blood sugar to spike. For example, one glass of orange juice — freshly squeezed or packaged — contains more sugar than one glass of Coke. Of course, Coke isn’t the better choice, but it shows that juice should only be consumed sparingly.
- Fruit and vegetable juices contain a very small amount of fiber. This is problematic because fiber helps cleanse the digestive tract and helps control blood sugar levels. Juicing removes the fiber-filled flesh of oranges, kale, celery, ginger, and apples, leaving us with a glass full of nutrients and sugar, too. This is good and bad. The nutrients are absorbed faster by the body because there is no fiber to break down, but the sugar is absorbed quickly as well leading to a spike in blood sugar.
- Juice cleanses often forget about protein and fat. Fruits are high in sugar (and therefore carbs), but low in protein and fat. Juices also contain less way fewer calories than your body requires, even fewer calories than a typical weight loss plan. This calorie deficient can make you feel tired and cause you to lose muscle mass instead of fat.
The long-term approach
What do all of these approaches have in common? You’ll most likely be losing weight because you’re fueling your body with fewer calories than it requires. Like we explained in the Biggest Loser example, strictly reducing calories is unhealthy and oftentimes results in regaining the weight when the diet is over.
As a general guideline, it’s usually considered healthy and sustainable to lose around 1 pound (0.5 kg) weekly. Theoretically, this can be done by consuming 500 fewer calories daily. We recommend doing this by focussing on natural foods and avoiding processed foods. Focus on moderation instead of restriction and don’t let yourself be influenced by clever marketing.