Do diets really work?

The word "diet" is closely associated to weight loss. But do the various diets really work or are you better off trying something else?

With so many diets available, which one really works?

"You are what you eat."

"It's 80% diet, 20% exercise."

"Get on a high-protein, low-fat diet!"

Sound familiar? In a body-conscious society, that little muffin-top or non-existent thigh gap is usually frowned upon. Fueled by photos of "perfect-looking" models (who are most probably photoshopped) on magazine covers and advertisements, many have found a reason to dislike their body and resort to fad diets.

Keto, Cambridge, Paleo, Detox, Atkins the list goes on. Many claim that these are the most healthy diets for weight loss. The results are amazing, but as soon as you go back to your regular eating patterns, you start packing those extra pounds again.

So what is the one diet that actually works?

Diets are a lifestyle, not just a phase of different food intake.

"You are what you eat"

There is truth to this. Nutrients from the food you eat provide the building blocks for your body's cells. You are constantly regenerating cells and rebuilding your body. So, if you constantly feed your body with highly processed fast foods, your body does not have much to work with. You will witness a beautiful growth on your waistline due to the high content of saturated and trans fats. However, when you feed your body with a clean and nutrient-rich diet, your body will rebuild a different set of cells that work better; muscles.

"It's 80% diet, 20% exercise"

The key to weight loss is creating a negative energy balance or a calorie deficit. Your daily intake fuels your body to keep it working. But you expend more energy than you take in, your body will start using the energy deposits (fat). One way to do this is by exercising, but controlling your food intake is much easier. Therefore, the 80/20 rule.

For example, you would need to run 10-20km a day to create a 500-700 calorie deficit through working out, compared to just reducing your food intake by a third per meal. But that doesn't mean you can have a sedentary lifestyle and just stop eating. Exercising increases metabolism (the rate at which your body uses energy) and this will help in shedding the extra weight much faster.

Reducing food portions is easier than running 10-20km to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.

"Get on a high-protein, low-fat diet!"

Gym-goers often stand by this rule. But it is vital to understand the meaning behind it. Your body needs only a maximum of 1g per kg of your body weight. So if you weigh 60kg, you would just need 60g of protein and this is achievable by consuming a chicken breast a day. The reason behind the high-protein diet for gym goers is to repair their muscles, especially if they are looking to grow muscles. Even so, the intake increases to a maximum of 1.6g per kg of body weight. That again, is achievable through the same intake of chicken breast a day.

So why the high-protein intake for weight loss? Depleting your body of conventional energy sources like carbohydrates and fats, forces your body to resort to the existing fat deposits for energy. Protein also makes you feel fuller so you won't go looking for a snack.

Similarly, if you feed your body less fat, your body will use up your fat deposits. But be careful, especially when it comes to low-fat products. These products tend to have a higher sugar or carbohydrate content. You also need to be mindful about the type of fat you consume - unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats.

The ultimate diet

Some diets like the keto diet say a high-fat-high-protein diet works better. Some like the detox diet swear by high-fibre. Confused yet?

Our advice to you is simple. If you are looking to lose weight, create a calorie-deficit through clean-eating and exercise. Fad diets DO NOT work in the long run and deplete some necessary nutrients. In the long run, you will gradually come across health problems. The right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber in every meal is key.

A balanced meal consists of a set portion of each food group. Photo credit: Harvard University

A good guide is the healthy eating plate. It shows what a balanced meal should consist of and in the long run will not cause any health problems. Start eating clean and stay active, and you will already see the difference. There is no need to go on a crash diet and risk it all.

#benchmarktheory #nolimits #getfitright #diet #nutrition #health

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