Debunking Fad Diets: How To Maintain A Healthy Diet
Flamin’ Fad Diets
Fad diets are exactly what they are called. Fads. Short-lived crazes. At Flamin’ Fitness, we aim to be Fuelling Forever Fitness. That means sustainability, and fad diets are not. Fad diets have become popularised over the decades because everyone wants a quick fix. A magic diet that finally gets you the results you’re maybe too lazy to achieve. Don’t be a fad fanatic, be a fitness enthusiast.
Learn below, the basics of some of the popular fad diets on the market today, then be enlightened on the Flamin’ way.
The Keto or Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, low carb diet. Carbohydrate intake is normally between 10-20% of daily calorie intake and fats and protein make up the remaining amount. This craze has come off the back of believing that carbs are the enemy, which they are not. Because the fat content of this diet is so high, lots of saturated fats tend to be consumed. Typical foods consumed on the diet are eggs, meats, fish, dairy products, low carb vegetables such as courgette and spinach. High-fat foods such as avocados and a lot of oil. Any grains and cereals are off-limits, fruit and veg are also kept to bare minimums.
After a while of eating very low carb, the body goes into a state of ketosis. This means that the body is now using fat as a source of fuel rather than carbohydrates by producing ketones. You’re probably thinking ‘great, that pouch on my lower belly is going to be burned away as energy!’ Not quite. If you’re still consuming more calories than you’re expending, those scales won’t budge.
When starting keto, a lot of people experience a sudden weight drop. This is mainly due to the fact that when you eat carbohydrates, for every gram of carbs, 4g of water is needed to store it. So it is actually a decrease in ‘water weight’. As carbs also restore glycogen stores in the muscles, the lack of means that there will lead to a loss in weight. This doesn’t equate to FAT loss. This sudden weight loss is very appealing to people and the lack of water retention leads to people being less bloated and ‘looking’ leaner. It’s just an illusion. Your body composition hasn’t actually changed. Eating very low carb may be implemented by an athlete that has to make weight for an event to drop those few final pounds of water weight. BUT they do not do it long term, they’ve got to their chiselled condition by hard Flamin’ work.
So now we know how ketosis works, let’s look at the side effects:
- Due to the lack of carbohydrates, fibre intake is probably below adequate, meaning that constipation is very likely to occur.
- Fruit and Veggies fall under the carbohydrate category, so they’re not being consumed. This means that your vitamin and mineral intake is not optimal.
- Keto Flu - This is a term associated when first starting a keto diet. The brain struggles to use fatty acids as a source of fuel. To perform optimally, the brain needs carbohydrates. You may feel groggy, nauseous and just genuinely not very with it.
- As water retention is very low, the body can be low on salts. This can lead to cramping.
- The ketones in the body can produce bad breath.
Keto is not sustainable for most. You are cutting out an entire food group. A bloody delicious food group at that. We’re sure the novelty soon wears off. The smell of fresh-baked bread, the juiciness of fruit in the summer or that mouth-watering appeal of pasta, can they all really be ignored forever? Not only is it restrictive for your body, not gaining sufficient nutrients, but it’s also a proper social bummer. Alcohol is also a carbohydrate source, so forget those glasses of wine of an evening. When going out to eat, not many restaurants offer keto-friendly dishes, unless you’re happy with a portion of meat and a salad forever. Remember if something isn’t enjoyable, it isn’t sustainable. You should be living every mouthful of the food you’re consuming.
The success stories of keto come down to one thing and one thing only. A CALORIE DEFICIT. The negative balance of calories is what leads to fat loss, not the lack of a major food group. Cut CALORIES not CARBS.
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent fasting is a method adopted by people where they eat within an 8 hour time frame and for the remaining 16 hours of the day, they fast. So you tend to skip breakfast? You fit in the intermittent fasting category. There’s nothing that magical about it. The most common way to intermittent fast is by not eating your first meal until around midday and stopping food consumption around 8 pm.
During some phases of fasting, the body can go into a state of ketosis. Using fat stores as energy as carbohydrate stores have been depleted. However, that is short-lived, when food is consumed again. There has been a mass craze that doing fasted cardio is going to lead to an insane fat burn. When fasted, your primary source of fuel is fat and completing a long stretch of cardio will recruit fat stores for energy over carbohydrates but that doesn’t equate to fat loss. If you’re still consuming more calories than you’re working off, your weight isn’t going to go down.
At Flamin’ Fitness, we see intermittent fasting as more of a lifestyle choice rather than a diet. For some people, skipping breakfast or eating breakfast a few hours after they’ve woken up slots into their life better than eating first thing. This doesn’t mean these people are going to be elite fat-burning machines. If the meal they’re skipping is substituted for a bigger, calorie-dense meal later in the day, results will be the same. We don’t discourage intermittent fasting as for some it works better with their busy schedule but it doesn’t affect results unless fewer calories throughout the day are being consumed.
Intermittent fasting will work for weight loss if you’re skipping a whole meal and keeping your calories at a sufficient deficit throughout the day. But that doesn’t mean that intermittent fasting is a magic diet, it’s one of many methods to achieve a CALORIE DEFICIT. It’s still hard work, you still have to work hard and be cautious of how you’re fuelling your body.
Now whilst this calorie deficit method may be beneficial to your lifestyle, for muscle gain results, it’s not optimal. For optimal muscle growth, the body prefers to receive protein evenly throughout the day rather than in one or two big meals. That being said, unless you’re a professional bodybuilder or an athlete, the differences aren’t going to be that noticeable. So don't stress, do what fits into your existing schedule.
Eat when you prefer, fitness should be a long term pursuit, not a short-lived period of mania. As long as your calorie consumption against expenditure is suited to your fitness goal, the timing of meals isn’t all that important.
The 5/2 Diet
The 5/2 diet is essentially intermittent fasting taken to the extremes. On 5 days of the week, you eat your normal calorie goal. The remaining 2 days are fasting days or very very low-calorie days, sometimes as low as 500.
Again, during the periods of fasting your body will go into a state of ketosis, but as we’ve already established that doesn’t lead to superior fat loss. Calories in vs calories out does.
Likewise, with intermittent fasting, the 5/2 diet is more of a lifestyle choice. (We’re not really sure who an earth would choose this lifestyle). The 2 days of fasting means that your weekly average of calorie consumption will be much lower, but if you’re making up for that by eating more on the 5 feeding days, this will counteract the huge deficit you’ve tried to create.
For sustainability, we find it hard to see how the 5/2 diet could work for many. Not eating 2 days of the week seems ludicrous especially if you’re training hard. We also struggle to see the enjoyability factor of this diet, those 2 fasting days must be the most miserable days going. If you know someone partaking on the 5/2 diet, maybe avoid them on fasting days. Just to reiterate, if something isn’t enjoyable, it isn’t sustainable. If not eating for 2 days is making you a cranky robot, stop and grab a sandwich.
The success of the 5/2 diet again comes down to a common theme. A CALORIE DEFICIT. Over the week a suitable calorie deficit may be achieved but that can also be achieved from eating EVERY day of the week. So why punish yourself by not eating??? Seems like madness to us.
The Flamin’ Approach
At Flamin’ Fitness, we encourage working out your calorie goal based on your fitness goal. Either being in a deficit for weight loss, a surplus for weight gain or at maintenance to sustain weight. Once you’ve achieved this, work out your protein goal. 0.8-1g per 1lb of body weight should be an effective amount. With the remaining calories, eat whatever you flamin’ want! Well to an extent, we are promoting health and fitness. But cutting out an entire food group or not eating entirely is not a healthy nor sustainable approach to fitness.
Eat when and what you enjoy. Fitness should not be a punishment.
So to summarise, all these fad diets bumbling around today work by one method, creating a CALORIE DEFICIT. They are a few ways of many to create one. There are much less restrictive and challenging methods.
Stop looking for a magic solution. Put the work in. Be in a sustained calorie deficit. Fuel your body with wholesome, delicious food. Results will come!
Want more support or added accountability to reach your goal? Talk to one of our coaches to see what we can do for you.