If you’re trying to change your eating habits as part of a healthy lifestyle, it can be hard to know what exactly to do. Some people will tell you to avoid carbs, others say it’s all about no sugar and still others say a plant based diet is the best. I get a lot of questions from Synergy members about diets and new ways of eating that are getting attention. Should I go keto? Does intermittent fasting work? In an effort to answer some of those, here are the basics on 3 of the more popular trends today.
The Ketogenic Diet
Doctors actually started using the ketogenic diet in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and more recently it has been considered as a potential treatment for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The Atkins diet was the first to make the ketogenic way of eating popular among dieters looking to lose weight. The ketogenic diet is very low in carbs, relatively low in protein and very high in fat. Eating this way leads to low levels of blood glucose and forces the body into a state called ketosis, when the body depend largely on ketones for energy. Proponents of this approach say it brings weight loss, increased energy and greater mental clarity. “Depending on your approach, keto diets can contribute to significant lean body mass loss along with fat loss,” said Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition at Oregon State University. “And as with other fad diets, people typically regain the weight once they go off the diet.”
The Paleo Diet
As the name says, the Paleo diet suggests mimicking the meals of cavemen. Paleo dieters typically eat unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, while staying away from grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, potatoes and processed foods. “While the evolutionary arguments behind the Paleo diet don’t hold up, it likely gets more right than it gets wrong. The emphasis on whole foods, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and other healthy fats is a massive improvement over the average Western diet,” says nutritionist Brian St. Pierre. “However,the evidence for excluding dairy, legumes and grains isn’t strong. Most of us can improve the way we look, feel and perform without completely eliminating these foods.”
Intermittent fasting is not so much about the foods you eat, but rather when you eat them. If you’re practicing intermittent fasting you alternate between periods of fasting and eating. Most people will fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 each day or fast for 24 hours once per week. While some are hailing this approach as the key to unlocking sustainable weight loss, the research on whether intermittent fasting works is relatively inconclusive. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine found no difference in weight loss between alternate-day fasting and daily caloric restriction.
My personal take is this. Any of these diets will work if you follow their suggested approaches to the letter. But the reality is they are all probably hard to follow for an extended period of time. Trying to stick to a strict list of good/bad or allowed/not allowed is setting yourself up for failure in my opinion. With diets like keto where certain foods – even nutritious ones like fruit and beans – are outlawed, you’re bound to slip up. Eventually you’re going to have a piece of fruit or a potato or some sweets. And when you do it’s tough to get back on track. Instead, I suggest focusing on eating real, whole, nutritious foods. Fuel your body with vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and lean meats. Stay away from processed foods as much as you can. While diet trends will come and go, whole, unprocessed foods will ALWAYS be your best bet.