We’re flooded with diet plans that promise optimal health and weight loss, but how do you know if they are truly right for your body – and your goals? It’s hard to miss transformation stories on social media that show incredible results from a specific diet plan, but it’s important to know exactly what is required for each plan to make sure it’s right for you. Follow along to learn the basics of the most popular “diets” and stay tuned for a deeper dive into each.
Every year, there seems to be a new way to eat. High fat, low fat, low carb, no meat, all meat – how do we choose? Do we count calories or macros? Many plans lead to rapid weight loss through calorie restriction or water content reduction, which makes them seem effective in the short-term. For those who have immediate goals and have access to medical supervision, these may make sense in the moment. But a large majority of people wanting to slowly change their body composition through nutrition and exercise are most likely hoping to safely maintain results over time, which calls for a more sustainable approach to nutrition planning. Either way, let’s visit the top “trending” plans and what is entailed in each.
The Paleo (or caveman) diet takes homage from our ancestors and what was available to consume in the Paleolithic era. It mostly consists of eating meat, eggs, seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and other healthy fats. It eliminates grains, legumes, processed foods, sugar and dairy.
The Keto (ketogenic) diet has recently gained wide popularity. It consists of eating a strict macronutrient profile: high-fat, moderate protein, and extreme low-carbohydrate. The main goal of the diet is for the body to reach “ketosis” where it relies on fat as its first source of energy, rather than carbohydrates. A typical day of eating would include a significant amount of fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and meat products.
It’s no surprise what the Carnivore Diet entails: meat, and lots of it. Individuals partaking in this protocol eat a diet that is almost entirely animal-based, with no plant products allowed (i.e. no fruits, vegetables, or grains, and limited plant oils). Similar to a ketogenic protocol, the focus of an all-meat plan to limit carbohydrates from the diet so the body remains in a state of ketosis. (Check out a recent client’s experience on this diet.)
The concept of “Whole30” emerged on the nutrition scene around 2015 with the intention of eliminating possible “triggering” foods that may cause discomfort or a reaction in the body. The diet eliminates dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, added sugar, sulfites and MSG, and processed foods. After 30 days, dieters slowly introduce food groups back into their diet to discover what may be causing discomfort. It does not require counting calories or macronutrients.
On this diet, macronutrient amounts and proportions are the main focus. Foods are classified into three nutrient types: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, with all foods have varying proportions of each. On a macro-specific diet, individuals measure and track the exact proportion of macronutrients based on a specifically developed plan, usually designed by an expert or estimated through online calculators.
A highly popular diet (or rather, pattern of eating) in the fitness competition world is carb-cycling. Taking a step further into the macro diet, carb-cycling consists of varying the proportion of carbohydrates consumed throughout the week. For example, an individual may eat a carb-rich diet two or three nonconsecutive days a week (usually on heavier training days) then taper off or remove most carbs from the diet during the remaining days.
Perhaps one of the biggest “buzzwords” this year is intermittent fasting. The principle of fasting has been around for thousands of years, and with much research is pointing towards its benefits, it has become a huge movement in the health and longevity world. It consists of periods of fasting (consuming no calories) and eating, which allows the body to cleanse itself and draw from fat storage for energy. Fasting patterns can range from 12 hour fasts to days of no eating (sometimes called “water fasts”).
A plant-based (or vegan) diet eliminates all meat and other animal products such as dairy, eggs and, in extreme programs, foods like honey. Plant-based diets emphasize whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, plant oils, and sources of plant protein including tofu and legumes. Plant-based individuals must be conscious about monitoring blood levels of specific vitamins, such as B-12, as a primary source of this is derived from animal products.
Raw Food Diet
Just like it sounds, a Raw Food diet consists of eating entirely whole, unprocessed, raw fruits, vegetable, nuts and seeds. While it is typically completely plant-based, some plans allow raw eggs, dairy or meat. There is minimal food preparation, with only dehydration allowed as a heating source.
Obviously, there are many nutrition protocols to consider (and likely more to come!) but the “best” meal plan is one that gives your body what it needs to function at its highest potential – and one you will stick to. Curious what meal plan is right for you based on your goals? Talk to a nutrition coach today!