To diet means to restrict food consumption to small amounts or special meal plans, or both, in order to lose weight. Diets that promise to work fast, particularly those that are labelled “fad diets,” are not always good for health, however. Fortunately, there are weight-loss diets that are not only healthy, but also show rapid results.
To Fad, or Not to Fad
The Cambridge English dictionary defines a “fad” as “a style or activity that suddenly becomes popular but which usually does not stay popular for very long.” And the main reason that fad diets that promise rapid weight loss are often short-lived is because they are unrealistic and too difficult to sustain. They are ineffective for long-term weight loss and fitness because they are usually nutritionally deficient, if not completely unhealthy.
But there are diets that started out as fads and proved to be sustainable and nutritionally sound. Even better, these healthy diets do work fast.
The Atkins Diet is a high-protein, high-fat, and low-carb diet that has been around since it was first created by Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, back in the 70s.
The Atkins Diet is based on how the body uses fats and carbs as its sources of fuel. When consumption of carbohydrates is restricted, the liver starts to break down excess/stored fats into ketones for the body to use as fuel. The high-protein, high-fat diet sustains the weight loss by providing fats as the main source of fuel for the body. Carb intake is slowly increased to healthy levels over the course of the diet.
The Southbeach Diet was designed by cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston, in the 90s and was based on the Atkins Diet. The main difference is, this diet is low in both carbs and fats, but also high in proteins.
The ScienceThe diet is built around the same fundamental concepts as the Atkins diet with regards to reduced carb intake. It allows for fat consumption, but only healthy fats and also in restricted amounts. During phase 1 of the diet, carbohydrates are completely cut out of the diet to “reset” the body’s internal chemistry and significantly reduce cravings for sugar and junk food. The diet prioritizes high protein intake as it relies on protein’s ability to boost metabolism into higher gear, and to trigger the release of hunger-suppressing hormones.
The ketogenic diet involves consumption of high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and extremely low amounts of carbs – from 50 grams to 20 grams a day.
This diet also relies on triggering the process of ketosis in the liver to produce ketones from the burning of fat. It completely shifts the body’s primary fuel source from calories derived from carbs to ketones derived from fats. Ketosis is activated when the body does not have enough carbs/calories to burn for energy. The diet’s low carb restriction is specific and constant – that is, it does not allow for or require the gradual increase of carbs. This puts the body in constant ketosis.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is more of an eating pattern than it is a diet, as it is more focused on when you should eat than what you should eat. The pattern follows a cycle of fasting and eating, measured in hours per 24-hour cycle and in days per week.
The most common IF cycle is the 16/8, wherein you fast for 16 hours and eat within the remaining 8 hours, done at least two days a week; and the eat-stop-eat cycle, which involves fasting for 24 hours, done once or twice a week. IF promotes weight loss in multiple ways. During the periods of fasting, calorie intake is heavily cut down. Additionally, the body’s human growth hormone (HGH) levels increase significantly; insulin levels drop; and the release of norepinephrine, a fat-burning hormone, also increases. All together, these hormonal changes increase metabolic rate by up to 14%.
Diet Fads Made to Last
What are the common factors among these “fad diets” that make them healthy and effective? Firstly, these diets are all designed to reduce calories from carbs in healthy and safe ways. Secondly, they “manipulate” the body’s responses to dietary triggers so as to shift sourcing of body fuel from calories to fats. And thirdly, they promote a lifetime of healthy eating through gradual and sustainable changes.
Not all diets that promise rapid weight loss are healthy and safe; but these ones are.
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