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What you REALLY need to know about popular diets and fat loss (Part 1)

I have always said you could equate a person’s failed attempts at losing weight and transforming their bodies with the size of their home library that consisted diet books. The murky waters are hard to navigate with each diet promising amazing results. In this, the first part of a two part series, I am going to review and examine some of the popular diet styles being touted and look at some of the pitfalls and possible health consequences that each of them pose.

Nutritional Plan breakdowns of popular fat loss diets:

High protein, very low carb, very low fat diets
A very High Protein Diet that is nearly devoid of carbs AND fat can cause very rapid weight loss, but the risk of muscle loss is extremely high. An example of this diet is the meat/fish and water diet or the slightly less severe lean protein and green veggies diet. This can cause weight and body fat to come off at an alarming rate, but the risks are very high. Risks include loss of lean mass, loss of strength, low energy levels, nutritional deficiencies, impaired mental acuity, dehydration, and rapid weight regain with the reintroduction of carbohydrates.
RISK 3 (high)
BENEFIT 1 (low)

Ketogenic dieting (very low carbs, moderate or high fat)
By eating lean protein with high fat and keeping carbohydrates so low that you enter ketosis (usually 30-70 grams of carbs a day or less), many dieters report reaching levels of leanness they were not able to achieve with any other method. Reducing carbs drastically does seem to accelerate fat loss in virtually any body type, but seems to have greater benefits for those who were hypoglycemic and carb sensitive to begin with. Other people report only moderate fat loss but great losses of energy, weakness, flat muscles and loss of mental acuity. The benefits of low carb diets in general seem to vary from person to person and a major risk, in addition to those already mentioned, is the regain of lost weight with rapid reintroduction of carbohydrates. A slow transitional period into maintenance decreases the risks. Benefits may be higher if some form of “re-feeding” is employed (such as cyclical ketogenic dieting).
RISK: 2 (moderate)
BENEFIT: 2 (moderate)

Extreme calorie reductions
Many people still believe that severely cutting calories is the best and fastest way to lose body fat. While sharp reductions in calories may cause large and rapid losses of weight, much of the Weight Loss is often muscle and water, and the risk of long term damage to the metabolism, plateaus and weight re-gain is very high. Some people are consciously aware of the risks, yet they choose to employ severe calorie cutting anyway because they’re under time pressure to achieve a fat loss goal. However, the risks are so high and the benefits are so low, it would be more advisable to use a combination of other techniques that offer greater benefits relative to the risks.
RISK: 3 (high)
BENEFIT: 1 (Low)

Avoiding food for 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
Another controversial technique for accelerating fat loss is the avoidance of food for at least two to three hours before bedtime. Increased fat loss is achieved by increasing the length of the nighttime fast (which is broken by “break-fast”). Fat loss is also believed to be increased by avoiding food at a time when activity levels will be low (and the body will not be burning many calories), when glycogen may be topped off from a full day of eating, and when insulin sensitivity is lower. The potential benefit is high, but so is the risk. Body composition must be carefully monitored when using this technique.
RISK: 3 (high)
BENEFIT: 3 (high)

Tapering calories and or carbohydrates
Calorie or carbohydrate tapering involves decreasing carbohydrate portions and or total meal size as the day goes on. This technique works for the same reasons and carries the same risk-benefit ratio as the previous technique. Risk of muscle loss can be reduced by eating a protein-only or protein and fat meal close to bedtime. It’s also worth noting that carbs eaten before bedtime have also been shown to blunt the nocturnal release of growth hormone.
RISK: 2 (moderate)
BENEFIT: 3 (high)

Not eating after training
Some popular fat loss programs specifically advise not eating for a specified period of time (usually one to two hours) after cardio (and or weight training) in order to “maximize the Post Exercise Fat Burning effects of the cardio.” While this may accelerate fat loss slightly, the risk of inadequate recovery and loss of lean tissue is very high. The research is very clear on this point: There is a “window of opportunity” after training and the post workout meal (protein at the very least), should not be delayed, regardless of whether the activity is strength training or cardio training.
RISK: 3 (high)
BENEFIT: 1 (low)

To be continued tomorrow, until then

In Christ and Fitness,
Scott

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