The list will never end. Diets will be renamed, reshaped, repackaged, and resold till the end of time.
So, what’s a person to do? How do we distinguish the real from the fake? Actual nutritional advice from nutrition myths?
While we are making leaps and bounds as a fitness community, less than 20 years ago people thought Arnold was clean, protein powders had to taste like trash water, and that wearing an electro magnetic belt would melt away your stomach fat.
When it comes to dieting, we have just scratched the surface. Whether it’s our genetics, hormones, DNA, natural metabolism, exercise routines, or all of the above, we are still struggling to amass some sort of exact science to it all.
It’s important that you know this so you can make an informed decision. No diet and no single training method are perfect for everyone. No body and no genetic makeup are exactly the same.
Therefore, it can be beneficial to try different techniques on dieting till you find what works for you.
Generally speaking, they will only fall into a few categories anyway- low fat, low carb, and fasting are about the only categories any real diet will fall into.
Here are some of the pros and cons of popular diets with videos attached for better understanding.
USDA Standard (Low Fat)
• It has evidence to support it and has withstood the test of time. Simple, bland, and effective it is like the grandfather of fitness. It has seen a lot of shit and has remained steadfast through it all.
• It is pretty easy to follow as far as some of these diets go. Just eat clean and balanced.
• Getting in the recommended 12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is about as fun as the SATs.
• Popular food documentaries may make you skeptical.
• Not a big fan of the low fat diet for males. Fat is very helpful in the production of testosterone and limiting that seems foolish.
Paleo (Low Carb)
Paleo was very popular about 8 years ago and there is a good chance you have heard of it. Basically, Paleo’s central thesis is that we should eat as similarly as possible to how we have eaten in the past (Paleolithic era). The approved items are nuts, meats, vegetables and things you want to avoid are dairy and almost anything with carbohydrates. The diet also wants you to eat as much organic food as possible and nothing that’s processed.
• Literally thousands of supporters and has well documented results.
• Emphasizes eating good fats and protein, which should boost testosterone for males.
• While you may miss out on carbs, bacon is totally approved. BACON IS APPROVED.
• Built on a faulty presumption. Just because we have done something in the past, does not mean it is the best thing for us in the future. When our bones broke in the Paleolithic era we would let them heal without surgery- Does that mean it is better than going to the hospital? No.
• Diet can be difficult to follow when eating out because carbohydrates are in almost everything we eat.
• Meat and nuts are pretty expensive in comparison to milk and bread.
Intermittent Fasting has been around for a few years, but got its popularity because of the Hodgetwins and their Youtube channel. Basically, you want to focus on when you eat and eat only in small eating windows during your day. You are fasting for 14-22 hours a day (not eating) and eating only for 2-8 hours a day. You are supposed to eat as much food as you normally do in the small time frame given. The theory is that you will burn more fat during the time you are not eating.
• Your body does not eat away its muscle when you do not eat, it’s actually about 48 hours before it can even go catabolic so do not worry about wasting your gains.
• The relationship between human growth hormone and insulin is inversely correlated. By fasting for most of the day you are minimizing the release of insulin and maximizing your natural HGH.
• Not researched enough. While this diet makes sense from a logical point of view, there needs to be better studies before we can make a definitive reference to it.
• Can be difficult, especially if you like to drink. Making an eating window starting at 6pm and ending at midnight just so you can drink is a pain.
This diet is a spin on the much older Zig-Zag diet. You will find different variations of the diet, but basically you alter the amount of carbohydrates you have on certain days. One of the most popular methods is cycling 3 days of low carbohydrates with one day of high carbohydrates.
• Effective and well researched.
• Allows for cheat days, which can keep you motivated.
• Can get rid of that stubborn last few percentages of fat.
• Is for the much more intense person. Keeping a constant track on you carbohydrates is more time sensitive than, say, cutting out carbs.
• Low carbohydrate days can suck especially if you are on day 3 of having low carbs. Your glycogen will be low and you will experience lower amounts of energy.
This diet has some similarities to IF. They do not want you to eat any carbohydrates before your workouts and tell you to push your breakfast back two hours. Then after your workout, you can eat whatever you want sugar wise. Ice cream, soda, the works. So basically after your workout all your eating is simple sugars and protein.
• If you are one of those people who just want to flip the middle finger to the world and eat whatever you want, then this diet is for you. Packing in hundreds of simple sugars every night at least sounds fun.
• Not a single shred of real evidence to support it.
I watched a documentary on the juicing and did the only logical thing we could- immediately running to the store and buying a $65 juicer.
• Well, I’m not sure if you have ever had a fresh-juiced veggie shake before, but after you drink it, you feel FANTASTIC. It’s probably not a coincidence that packing a ton of fruits and veggies into your everyday life would make you feel better, but juicing takes the hassle out of eating all those servings.
• A friend of mine actually did the juice fast and lost about 15 pounds in 10 days.
• Not sustainable. After my friend stopped juicing, he gained some of the weight back. Personally I think juicing would be a good thing once a day, but not taken to any extremes.
• Constantly shitting and living a bleak existence from not being able to go out for more than 2 hours at a time.
• Fruit/veggies are expensive.
• The blending can get annoying after a while.
Grapefruit diets, 3-day diets, and the rest.
Generally, diets will fall under either low fat (Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, USDA standard), low carb (Paleo, Atkins, Ketogenic), or variation of when you eat. Stick with one of these when you start because anything else is not based on real evidence. Grapefruit diets and other stupid things are not to be trusted. Besides, those suck anyway.
In summation, try different things until you find something that works for you. Your body is more intelligent than you give it credit for and will let you know if something is wrong. If I was forced into a corner and asked for a suggestion, I would point to Paleo or Intermittent Fasting for most guys- Carb Cycling is also a great one, but can be harder to adhere to.
Do some research before starting any new diet. Check with your doctor and, of course, don’t be an idiot.