New Year health kick: 8 diet trends more flab that fab
Belfast PT Alan Waterman looks at popular diet trends that might not be the best way to lose weight.
On your New Year health kick? January is always a time where we find ourselves considering our health and fitness once again.
Maybe 2017 didn't quite go to plan, but we've told ourselves that this will be our year - we're going to nail it in 2018!
But be warned... it's a minefield out there.
We have a whole host of diets and fads which we can choose to follow, which promise us quick results. However, as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
But which diets trends might not be our best option for helping us follow through with our 2018 goals?
1. Low/zero carb diet
We're not short of choices when it comes to different types of low/zero carb diets.
Despite emerging years ago, they've maintained their popularity through their purported effectiveness for quick weight loss, so many think that ditching carbs is the best way to start off their new year's body transformation.
Low carb diets, however, have been reported to be no more effective for weight loss than higher carb diets - differences have been shown to be minimal.
What's more, as our training may suffer with lack of carbs in our diet, we may actually be at risk of losing greater amounts of muscle.
Successful weight loss from a low carb diet is achieved through the same way that any other successful weight loss diet works - by achieving a calorie deficit (i.e. burning off more energy than we take in.)
Yes, a low carb diet will suit som people, but it's not the superior method for weight loss that many will claim.
2. Juice diets
For rapid weight loss, juice diets are all the rage.
Yes, they often do deliver on what they promise with regards to weight loss, and it does occur quick, but we need to ask is quick weight loss from a juice diet sustainable? Typically not.
Rapid weight loss from juice dieting is a result of eating a very low calorie intake.
And as the results we achieve through a diet will only stick if we can continue to follow the diet method we used to achieve them, we will most likely see that weight begin to creep back on once we begin to eat a higher calorie intake.
We also have to be aware of the distinction between weight loss and fat loss.
Though with a juice diet we may see ourselves losing weight at a rapid pace, as our calorie and protein intake is so low we are at much greater risk of losing muscle- a stone of weight loss isn't a great result if most of it is muscle tissue.
3. Detox diet
After a month of overindulging in December, many of us figure that we need to clear out our system with a good detox.
Many supplement companies figure that too, which is why it's so easy to pick up a "detox" shake or product which promises to clean us up from the inside out.
Do they work? Not really, but luckily we don't need them to.
Our kidneys and liver provide us with our very own natural detox system (did you ever wonder what their job in our body actually was?) which works to do more than any superfood shake will ever do.
Don't waste your money or time on detoxing - your body has you already covered.
4. Intermittent fasting
Although there are now many different ways of implementing it, the concept of intermittent fasting is all the same - not eating for extended periods of time, therefore limiting our daily food intake to a certain feeding window.
Is there anything actually wrong with intermittent fasting? No, and it will suit some people very well, but it is simply one of many ways of creating the required calorie deficit for weight loss.
If we choose to not eat for at least 14 hours of the day, we have a greater likelihood of eating fewer total calories.
However, can we reduce our calorie intake without fasting? Absolutely.
Is there any other real benefit to fasting? Not particularly, and the claims that there is are sketchy.
Fasting, like low carb dieting, is not some magical solution for weight loss, it's simply one way to achieve the outcome we need to allow for it (i.e. a daily calorie deficit.)
5. Gluten-free diet
For the estimated 1 in 100 of us that suffer from Coeliac disease, gluten is a real problem and should almost certainly be eliminated from our diets.
However, for the remaining 99 of us, we need not worry too much.
Gluten (a protein) has been touted as being a real devil in our diets, responsible for a number of ailments, but the truth is that very few of us will truly be negatively affected by including it in our diets.
Paying the extra cost in order to purchase "gluten-free" products will empty our wallets while providing most of us with no real benefit, but we are led to believe that they are a healthier option.
Unless we are Coeliac, or suffer from a wheat allergy, we should be able to consume gluten without any real issue.
6. Clean eating
In theory, the idea of clean eating should make sense - lose weight by only eating healthy, highly nutritious foods.
In practice, however, it's somewhat unrealistic. Eliminating all "treat" or less nutritious foods entirely from our diets can easily set us up for craving those foods, which can often result in binge-type behaviours (sabotaging our weight-loss efforts.)
Our understanding now is that when it comes to weight loss, a calorie is a calorie - we can still lose weight while eating less nutritious foods, provided our calorie intake is appropriate.
Similarly, we can still gain weight eating "clean" if we still consume too many overall calories.
A diet which allows for a moderated intake of less nutritious foods will likely be much more sustainable long-term than one which reduces diet flexibility by focusing wholly on "clean eating."
7. Paleo diet
Do people lose weight eating "like a caveman"?
Of course, as stripping out processed foods will typically remove many higher calorie food choices from our diet, so we will likely see a natural decrease in our total calorie intake.
However, it doesn't promote fat-burning any more than the next diet, it's just yet another method of creating a calorie deficit.
It is also worth asking whether Paleo is realistically a sustainable diet with how many of us tend to live our lifestyles - do you want to have to eliminate alcohol and have difficulty choosing a paleo-friendly meal when dining out?
Finding ourselves much more limited with our food choices may even work against us, as studies have shown that diets which promote rigidity rather than flexibility tend to produce worse long-term weight loss results.
8. Alkaline diets
Alkaline diets have pretty incredible purported effects, some even claiming it can be used to treat cancer.
Attempting to change the pH balance of our blood to a more alkaline basis through diet is not only practically impossible, but the body has mechanisms in place to prevent an alteration in blood pH.
Despite testing to show that urine pH can be altered, this is no indication of change in blood pH levels.
An Alkaline Diet may aid with weight loss, but like Paleo, as it requires elimination of many higher calorie processed foods, we naturally find ourselves eating a lower-calorie diet.
As for curing cancer? It is true that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment, but neither can any of the other cells in the body - achieving a more alkaline blood pH would literally kill us. If a diet puts forward such sensational claims, we really ought to be sceptical of it.
The bottom line?
Despite there being many dietary trends we can choose from, the fundamentals of our diets should always remain the same: choosing an approach which is sustainable for us on an individual basis, is flexible around our lifestyle, based on the foods we enjoy, and provides us with the calories, protein, carbs, fats and micronutrients we need to help us achieve our desired goals.
Want to find out more about how to reach your fitness goals in 2018? Make sure to check out the Facebook Page for daily advice and tips.
Belfast Telegraph Digital