by: Jamie Hale
With so many diet plans and books on the market how do you choose which one to follow? Which diets will work for you? In this review I will give a brief review of some of the most popular diets on the market today. After reading the review you will be able to decide which plans are appropriate for you. The following is an excerpt from Knowledge and Nonsense and also appeared in Planet Muscle.
Atkins’ New Diet Revolution
Robert C. Atkins is the founder of Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. Atkins is also the founder and former director of the Atkins Complimentary Medicine in New York City. The diet is a low carb high fat diet with no restrictions on fat intake. The diet begins with an induction phase (ranging from 2-36 weeks) limiting carb intake to only 20 g/d. The consumption of fruit, bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy other than cheese, cream or butter are prohibited in this phase of the diet. There are two phases following the induction phase where daily carb intake is increased in weekly increments of 5gms & 10gms. Then comes the maintenance phase. Proponents of high-fat, low-CHO diets dismiss the notion that caloric intake is important to either weight gain or weight loss (this is a ridiculous statement). They claim that “most overweight individuals do not overeat” (if you believe this you need a brain transplant), even as they suggest that high-CHO meals leave individuals less satisfied than meals that contain adequate fat, resulting in increased hunger and increased food intake. With respect to weight loss, Atkins claims that on a low CHO diet there are “metabolic advantages that will allow overweight individuals to eat as many calories as they were eating before starting the diet yet still lose pounds and inches”. Furthermore, proponents contend overproduction of insulin, driven by high CHO intake, is the cause of the metabolic imbalance that underlies obesity (the over exaggeration of insulin’s role in obesity is commonly promoted by many of today’s most popular nutrition gurus, needless to say this issue has been blown out of proportion and is only one factor in weight gain).
My thoughts: Atkins’ New Diet Revolution
Studies cited by Atkins to support his contentions were of limited duration, conducted on a small number of people, lacked adequate controls, and used ill-defined diets. Some of these, as well as other studies actually refute the contention that low-CHO diets, in the absence of energy restriction, provide a metabolic advantage. Early studies on a limited number of obese men and women indicate individuals consuming low-CHO diets reduce overall caloric intake and lose weight. High protein in combination with low calcium intake could be detrimental to bone health. Another important consideration is the water loss that occurs with the Atkins plan. In the early stages of the diet you can expect a substantial loss in water (due to glycogen depletion, for every gram of glycogen you store you also store 2.8 – 3.5 gms of water). Believing there are some magical metabolic advantages to this diet is a fallacy and not supported by Primary Scientific data. Numerous studies have indicated a big reduction of calories (below maintenance requirements) when following low carb diets. The newest version of the diet promotes the intake of high-fiber foods; which is a good thing. The diet also made many people realize dietary fat is not the sole reason people are fat. In conclusion, if you can stick to the food recommendations and function well while following a ketogenic diet the Atkins diet may be for you. Athletes using the Atkins’ diet should be highly cautious as performance may suffer (primarily this occurs in glycolytic athletes, yet not always). Any diet that results in weight loss generally enhances health markers. If you are following the Atkins plan and are not dropping weight pay close attention to lipid levels. Numerous studies have shown that in absence of weight loss ketogenic diets may be detrimental to blood lipids levels, while ketogenic diets that result in weight loss are good for blood lipid levels. If you are gaining weight (yes it is possible) reduce calories further or try something different.
South Beach Diet
Arthur Agatston, MD, created this diet. His specialty is heart imaging and he is an associate professor of medicine at the Miami School of Medicine. The first phase of the diet includes a 14-day initiation to “rid yourself of your sugar addiction”. Consumption of fruit, bread, pasta, baked goods, dessert and alcohol are prohibited in the initiation phase. In the second phase lower GI-fruit and lower GI-starches are permitted. Once target weight is reached you go into the maintenance phase. If weight gain occurs while in the maintenance phase repeat phase one.
My thoughts: South Beach Diet
The diet relies too much on the glycemic index of foods in an attempt to control obesity. When you look at the studies comparing low-GI diets to high-GI diets there appears to be little difference in weight loss assuming the calories are the same. The satiating affects of single meal low-GI foods compared to high-GI meals are indecisive. There is a wide individual variance factor when considering a food’s affects on appetite. Also remember the glycemic index of a food changes when eaten with other foods, and when you eat that food in a non-fasted state (you are still absorbing nutrients from other meals). David Jenkins originally created the glycemic index to help diabetics modulate blood sugar levels. The diet allows a good balance of foods (good nutritional profile) once you get pass the initiation phase. The plan is relatively easy to follow for most people once they pass the initiation phase (no counting carbs, weighing food, or measuring food). . Expect a substantial amount of weight loss in the initiation phase (generally creates big calorie deficit, and significant water losses) with weight loss slowing thereafter. Even though lower GI-fruits and starches are non-calorie dense you can eat too much of these foods; therefore decreasing the diet’s effects on weight loss.
Enter the Zone
Enter the Zone was created by Barry Sears, PhD. The plan suggests that every meal should be composed of 40% carb, 30% protein and 30% fat. The goal is to control insulin levels and prevent the overproduction of bad eicosanoids (group of compounds derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids that have several biologically important actions). Sears claims high GI Index foods cause obesity.
My thoughts: Enter the Zone There is no magic macronutrient percentage. People have done fine (weight loss and functionally) using a wide array of different macronutrient percentages while dieting. The information regarding insulin is incomplete and misleading (insulin has numerous roles in metabolism). Suggesting that high GI carbs per se make you fat is incorrect. Most people find it difficult and time consuming to calculate the macro percentage of every meal The diet is generally nutritious. The diet also promotes the consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can have numerous health benefits.
Very Low Fat Diets
VLF diets contain 10% or less fat, very high carbohydrates, and low-moderate protein. Representative VLF diets are those promoted by Dr. Dean Ornish
Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease), and Nathan and Robert Pritikin (The Pritikin Program) VLF diets are based primarily on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, with moderate quantities of egg whites, nonfat dairy or soy products, and small amounts of sugar and white flour. Ornish’s diet is vegetarian; Pritikin allows a limited amount of low-fat animal protein daily (no more than 3.5 ounces of lean beef, fowl or fish- my comment: this suggestion completely ignores individual needs and requirements). Each plan includes a nutrition and exercise component; Ornish’s plan includes stress reduction and emotional support as well. Pritikin also claims medications for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure may be reduced or completely eliminated by following these plans.My thoughts: VLF DietsNutritional analysis of a VLF diet indicates that VLF diets are inadequate in vitamin E, B12, and zinc. Some VLF diets, based on poor food choices, may mean lower than recommended levels of other certain nutrients such as iron, phosphorous, and calcium. Other nutritional questions that occur when following a VLF is the uncertainty about compromised absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and the impact of increased dietary fiber on the absorption of minerals. VLF diets that result in weight maintenance often cause increases in blood triglycerides and decreases in HDL levels. In general, with weight loss decreases in triglycerides and LDL levels occur with no change in TC/HDL ratios. VLF diets are often low in protein for athletes and active individuals (although this depends). Most people following very low-fat diets will probably lose weight (especially if they follow the guidelines prescribed by Ornish and Pritikin). These diets lack in overall optimal nutrition and the lack of dietary fat can lead to numerous problems.
Lyle McDonald created UD2. McDonald suggests if you are a male planning to follow the UD2 Diet you should have no more than 15% body fat, and if you are female you should have no more than 22% bodyfat. The title of the book is a tribute to Duchaine and Zumpano’s original Ultimate Diet that was released in 1982. The book is an update to the same diet incorporating new findings about metabolism, fat loss and muscle gain. As with computers newer versions get new numbers (thus we have 2.0). McDonald says he hopes it is the last diet you will need thus the name ultimate. Basically the diet has two parts: a catabolic/low-carbohydrate phase to maximize fat loss and an anabolic/high-carbohydrate phase to rebuild and gain muscle. Day 1 and 2 are both low-carbohydrate days, coupled with high rep, short rest period workouts. Day 3 is nutritionally a repeat of Day 1 and 2. No weight training occurs on day 3. On Day 4 you will have both low and high-carb meals. Day 4 AM: During the day, you’re going to stay with your normal low-carb/low-calorie diet but you only get to consume 75% of the total calories that you were eating on days 1-3. Day 4 PM: Consume 25-30 grams of carbs, with about 15 grams of whey before the workout (approximately 30-60 minutes before workout). The workout is a full body heavy duty/ high intensity workout. Following the workout on Day 4 until Day 5 at bedtime consume 7-8 grams of carbs/ lb of Lean body mass. Day 6 train the full body with heavy weights. Consume at least 1 meal before the workout with moderate protein and carbs. A carb intake of 2-2.5 g/lbm is suggested for daily carb total. Day 7 is another day of rest. Carb ingestion is about 1-1.5 g/ lbm for daily total. The book gives the details on protein and fat intake as well.
My thoughts: UD2
I used the diet a couple of years ago with great success. I have found that for some people (particularly general fitness crowd) the diet is too technical and they simply won’t follow it. Most bodybuilders and athletes that I have suggested use the diet seem to be pleased with the results. I have found there are numerous ways to vary the diet set-up.
The Anabolic Diet
The basis of the Anabolic Diet is to carb-deplete during the weekdays, then carb-load on the weekends. This involves 5 days of high fat, high protein, low carbs and 2 days of high carbs, moderate fat, and low protein. This diet was developed by Dr. Mauro Dipasquale. Dipasquale is a former world-class power lifter who won the World championships in power lifting in 1976 and won the world games in 1981.
My thoughts: The Anabolic Diet I used the diet in the late 90’s and lost a fair amount of weight initially. After about three weeks the weight loss stopped. I was eating too many calories on the weekend. Most of my clients seemed to get similar results. I also used a multi-vitamin mineral and fiber supplement when utilizing the diet. I think most people tend to go overboard and eat too much during the weekend carb load. I generally recommend 1 day for the all out eat feast (depends on person) when using the Anabolic Diet. I also like to see a little more emphasis on comprehensive nutrition and fat type through out the week. I would also recommend a fiber supplement (or non starchy vegetables) and multi-vitamin mineral. Another thing to think about is some people’s weakness for trigger foods (foods that trigger overeating). The 1 or 2 days of carb loading for these people can often cause them to blow the diet completely. They have a hard time returning to the more strict food consumption guidelines on the day following the free eating day (or days). For these people the carb load days should be more structured. Stay tuned for part 2 coming in the next edition.
Aragon A. (2007). Girth Control: the science of fat loss and weight gain 1st edition. Alan Aragon. Gropper S. (2000). The Biochemistry of Human Nutrition: A Desk Reference. Wadsworth Thomson Learning. Hale J. (2007). Knowledge and Nonsense: the science of nutrition and exercise. MaxCondition Publishing. Visit Jamie Hale’s site and purchase his new book (Knowledge and Nonsense: the science of nutrition and exercise)
Popular diets: Hale’s Review – Part I