People go on diets for various reasons. Some aim for certain fitness goals, let it be dropping a few pounds or reaching your ideal body composition. Whereas others simply want to improve their health & wellbeing. Or they might have certain personal values and beliefs that direct their eating habits as well.
But the big question is, does everyone really know what they’re signing up for with certain diets?
Each diet out there is built on different philosophies, emphasizes different foods. and hence varies in their rules for your daily nutrient intake game. Some will completely cut your carbs, while others will tell you to eat more. Some won’t even feel like a diet, whereas others are a lot stricter.
Due to all these differences, each diet will also differ in their expected results. And of course, they will all have their own unique advantages, as well as drawbacks. Hence, it’s good to know this and that about a diet before you let it take over your entire life. Because as we all know, one that works for your best friend might not work for you.
So let’s see our mini guide to the 3 most popular, and some might argue most effective, diets out there.
What is Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic or Keto diet is a low-carbs, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet, which is claimed to have several health and weight loss benefits. It was originally developed in the 1920s to treat children suffering from seizure control issues .
The entire diet is built on the idea of reaching a certain metabolic state with your body, called ketosis. You can get to this state by two means. 1) Fasting – which is the more drastic solution. 2) Shifting your basic macronutrient ratios and decreasing carbs in favor of fat – the bearable solution aka Keto diet.
When you reduce your carbs intake to the minimum, your body is going to look for alternative energy sources. Since all those carbs you said goodbye to are replaced by fat, your body will use fat as fuel. It will use the high fat intakes to produce so-called ketones in the liver.
These ketons will be your new glucose. Meaning that your body will burn ketons instead of glucose, which is normally gained from your carbs storage .
As a result of all this, your body will become a “fat-burning powerhouse”. It will almost entirely live off fat instead of carbs. Your insulin levels will drop, while your fat burning rates will highly intensify.
How and What To Eat On a Keto Diet
There are 3 basic types of keto diets. All of them are built on the same low-carbs principle, but they all differ a bit in their specifics.
1) Standart Keto Diet (SKD)
The SKD is the one most people refer to when saying “I’m on a keto”. Probably the simplest version of keto with only one rule: shawty get low low low on your carbs at all times.
According to previous research, your macronutrients ratio for SKD should be the following: 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs.
2) Targeted Keto Diet (TKD)
The TKD is simply a version of SKD for those who exercise regularly – so hopefully you as well. It’s built on the idea that for high-intensity workouts, at least if you’re aiming for great performance, your body needs extra fuel. And this fuel should ideally come from carbs.
The TKD therefore, allows you to slightly increase your carbs intake on your workout days. It suggests an extra 25-50 grams of easily absorbing carbs 30-60 mins before your training. This will ensure that the extra carbs are burnt off during your exercise and won’t mess with your body’s ketosis.
But one thing you still have to keep in mind is adjusting your macros ratios accordingly. On your workout days, don’t forget to decrease your fat intake by the extra carbs you eat.
3) Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)
The CKD kind of speaks for it self. It involves cycles of keto days and high-carbs days.
While the TKD is good for people who do Soulcycle 2-3x a week – and of course other similar group exercises, solo gym sessions, etc. – it’s not for athletes. If you’re an athlete, who has multiple serious high-intensity trainings a week and don’t just aim to lose fat, but also gain muscles, CKD is your friend.
Under the CKD, you’ll have 1-2 carb-loading days. During these days, your body will refill its glycogen stores for more effective lean mass building. And during the remaining 5-6 keto days, you’ll also be able to take advantage of maximized fat burning.
But this will only happen if you’re actually exposed to enough high-intensity workouts. Because that’s the only way your body will use the additional carbs intake and go back to ketosis.
What To Eat When You’re On Keto Diet
It’s pretty much a no-brainer, but you’ll have to aim for low carbs-high fat foods. These include things, like natural fats, nuts & seeds, avocado, eggs, meat, fish & seafood, and also some vegetables. Whereas you should avoid things like, potato, pasta, rice, sugary fruits, processed foods, alcohol. Basically everything with high sugar and starch content.
Ultimately, your goal is to remain in the 5-10% zone with carbs and let your body enter ketosis.
Pros Of Keto Diet
As mentioned earlier, the ketogenic diet has a number of health & fitness benefits. Obviously, as it’s all about burning fat, keto diet is thought to be one of the most effective ones for losing weight. Previous studies [3,4] comparing low-fat diets with keto diet have found keto to be superior when it comes to weight loss.
Additionally, keto diet is also associated with lower appetite and reduced food consumption . And hence is thought to be less harsh form of dieting.
On the health benefit side, keto diet was found to improve insulin sensitivity , reduce the risk of diabetes, and also provide treatment for type 2 diabetes . And finally, keto diet is also associated with treatments for other diseases. Including epilepsy, cancer and so on.
Cons Of Keto Diet
On the other hand, Keto diet also brings some negatives. First of all, a common initial side effect of the diet is what people refer to as ‘keto flu’. It’s a simple flu that originates from your body’s trial to adjust to a new diet. It shouldn’t last longer than a couple of days and is probably least of your problems.
However, a more serious con of the keto diet is related to fueling your brain. Your brain normally runs on blood glucose, which is indeed gained from carbs. Hence, dramatically cutting carbs from your diet may cause a decline in your cognitive abilities.
Additionally, the high-fat focus and meat-heaviness of keto diet can also increase your cholesterol levels. A significant drawback that can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lastly, as we’ve already discussed, you need carbs to fuel your workouts. If you don’t have adequate carbs intake, your performance is likely to drop. Therefore, while keto might be an excellent diet for treating patients with various diseases, it might not be the best choice for athletes.
What Is Vegan Diet
Out of all the diets, veganism is probably the most often originated back to ethical and environmental reasons. It has become extremely popular in the past 1-2 years and has several health benefits.
Veganism is usually referred to as the ‘strictest form of vegetarianism’, as it takes vegetarian diet a step further. It’s built on excluding all animal-based products from your life. And hence, most of the time it’s not even seen as just s diet but more like a lifestyle.
There are various factors behind people choosing to go vegan. As The Vegan Society suggests the primary reason is often fighting against exploiting animals. However, others may include health-,environment-, and sustainability-related reasons.
How and What To Eat On a Vegan Diet
Just like keto diet, there are also a variety of vegan diet options. From high fat raw vegan to detox vegan and high carb low fat vegan diets, you’ll find everything out there. While none of them will loosen up on the no-animal-based products – duh, since this is the core value of veganism – they emphasize different macros and foods.
And as always, which one’s the best for you will depend on your personal preferences and health & fitness goals.
However, if you want to be ‘just Vegan’ your golden rule is going to be simple. It’s ‘yes to all plant-based and no to all animal-based’. While eating fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds, and whole grains is quite evident, what happens to your protein intake is a more questionable topic.
As protein is one of the 3 macronutrients and is simply essential for your body’s proper functioning , regardless of veganism, you can’t lose focus of it. While it’s a controversial issue, according to the American Dietetic Association, veganism done properly provides you with all essential macronutrients. This includes protein as well.
So besides the golden rule of veganism, your main attention should shift to consuming the right plant-based proteins. The most nutritious options include soybean-products, such as tofu, edamame beans, and tempeh. These are whole source proteins and are high in the essential amino acids your body needs.
Then, of course, beans and legumes, more specifically lentils and chickpeas should also be high up on your list. They are excellent sources of protein as well as of complex carbs and fiber.
And for those who like nuts, peanuts and almonds are also great choices. These, and their yummy butter products, are not just good protein sources, but also high in healthy-fats.
And to tick off the mandatory box of health & fitness blog posts, we also have some superfoods for you. Spirulina, the blue-green microalgae that’s thought to be the world’s first superfood is an excellent plant-based protein source. Besides it’s high protein content, it also packs several vitamins and iron in itself.
And finally if you’re craving something sweet rather than salty, Chia seeds are definitely a good choice. High in protein, fiber, iron, calcium, selenium and magnesium, it makes the perfect supplement.
Pros of Vegan Diet
Besides the environmental and ethical benefits, veganism can also improve your health in many ways. By definition a vegan diet is filled with vegetables and fruits and increases vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants in your system. Combining this with no-cholesterol and low saturated fats as a result of meat- and diary-free diet will reduce your risk of several diseases.
A study by the PNAS has found that due to the previous factors, vegans are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. And as a result they predict diet-related mortality rate of those following a vegan diet to drop by 6-10% compared to a reference diet by 2050 .
Additionally, in some cases, veganism can also have weight loss benefits. As you’re not eating meat and diary products, your calories-in can drop significantly. And as your calories-out are supposedly the same, you’ll lose weight. But it’s important to note that if you start stuffing yourself with vegan chocolate cake, you 100% shouldn’t expect any weight loss results.
Cons of Vegan Diet
Besides it being a strict diet and messing with your easy grocery shopping and eating out habits, there’re some bigger vegan drawbacks too. As you’re shutting out all animal products, you might also be shutting out some essential nutrients.
While iron can be found in some plants too, your body absorbs it easier from animal-based products. As iron plays an key role in the oxygen transportation throughout your body, it shouldn’t lack focus. So a good advice for vegans is to eat plants with high-iron content combined with Vitamin C. This will help with the absorption of iron.
Additionally, lack of diary product can lead to decreased calcium, which is necessary for healthy bone and muscle contraction . Omega 3-fatty acids are the good types of fat needed for healthy function of your body. Since they are mainly gained from various fishes, vegans may also lack these.
And finally as the main sources of vitamin B-12 is also animal-based products, it’s a problematic area too. Vitamin B-12 has an absolute central role in the functioning of your nervous and metabolic systems. Therefore, deficiencies can lead to various health issues.
So all in all, veganism can definitely have some positive health results, but to benefit from them you need to pay close attention to what you eat. You need to make sure to get adequate amounts of the supplements needed to avoid potential nutrient deficits. And then you can enjoy those health benefits.
What Is Paleo Diet
Paleo diet is entirely built on the Paleolithic era, which dates back to about 2.58 million to 11,700 years ago. The rules of the diet are modeled on the eating habits of the cavemen from that period. Meaning that all the main elements of the paleo diet are those foods that were accessible back in the very old days as well.
This philosophical underpinning puts whole foods at the core of paleo diet. Whereas it tries to reduce processed foods that’ve become popular with the introduction of agriculture. The reason behind this is quite simple. Those in favor of paleo claim that farming has shifted people’s eating habits from the norm, creating a genetical mismatch.
This genetical mismatch, according to the paleo diet, was too fast for our bodies to adapt to it. Which is one of their explanations behind the higher rates of obesity, heart disease and other “lifestyle diseases”. By saying no to this shift in humans’ dietary habits, paleo promises to decrease the risks of such diseases.
How and What To Eat On a Vegan Diet
Thinking about cavemen during the Paleolithic era, we can’t be 100% sure of their exact diet. Hence, you can also go down various paths when following a paleo diet. You can go more plant-based or eat all the meat and fish you want. The one and only thing that should guide you is not having anything that’s processed on your plate.
When we say processed foods, we tend to think of things that are pre-cooked, pre-packed foods, and artificial. But processed is a much wider category than this. It also includes wheat, diary, grains, legumes, refined sugars, salt and all products made of this.
So yes, if you decide to become paleo, it is going to take commitment. Get ready to say goodbye to your favorite pastas, breads, rice bowls. And also brace yourself for a cheat-day-, and alcohol-free life.
On the other hand, you’ll be able to enjoy all the healthy fruits and vegetables, oils, eggs, and most of the nuts. Unlike vegans, you can go crazy on meat, fish and seafood. But of course, as cavemen didn’t have salmon with Teriyaki sauce, make sure you only use paleo-friendly seasoning as well.
Pros of Paleo Diet
Starting from the basics, paleo diet is sometimes claimed to result in weight loss even without calorie counting. Now taking this with a grain of salt, cutting out processed food can indeed result in losing weight, but exactly because of the lower calorie intakes. Hence, don’t trash that food scale and calorie counter app just yet if your goal is to drop a few pounds.
The blacklisted foods will not only allow you to start using #eatclean on Instagram, but also bring some great health benefits. As you’re eating only whole-foods, your diet will be filled with nutrients gained from plant that have anti-inflamatorry benefits. Coupled with higher antioxidants intake, your immune system will get stronger. This will lead to your body’s increased ability of fighting diseases and illnesses.
You’ll ultimately consume more fiber, omega 3-fatty acids, unsaturated fats, protein, minerals and vitamins . And have a lower intake of saturated fats and sodium. A study has found that this paleo dietary nutrition can significantly lower one’s cholesterol levels. And as a result can be beneficial for those who’re fighting hyperlipidemia.
Cons of Paleo Diet
Before we get too excited, let’s look at the dark side of paleo as well. Of course, there are the usual ‘too expensive’ or ‘how am I going to go on a dinner date’ type of smaller wrinkles. But let’s focus more on what you’re not allowed to eat on paleo.
Firstly, the basis on which grains and grasses are rejected by the paleo diet seems to be questioned by several recent studies . Removing these whole grains and legumes from your diet may drop your fiber, magnesium, selenium and manganese intakes. As these all help keeping your gut health in check, they are important for your everyday wellbeing.
Furthermore, the diary exclusion can lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D. Since these are critical for your bone health, it is one of the big drawbacks of paleo diet . And finally, as suggested by UC Davis Health fats and protein can be consumed in excessive amounts. This can lead to higher risk of kidney and heart disease as well as certain cancer types.
So to sum up, there are several positive features of our ancestors’ diet, which we should try to mimic. But saying no to everything “new” might not be the best way to go about it.