Fad diets have gained a bad rep throughout the century because of its overly dramatic yet dangerous results, too-good-to-be-true promises, and the craziness of the method. Despite the ridiculousness of most of them (like the tapeworm diet that requires you to ingest tapeworm eggs and let it thrive in your intestines for years), there are still people who try them out because of their “silver bullet” qualities.
But not all fad diets are exactly bad. There are some that have actual benefits to the body, as proven by a series of studies done by reputable institutions and experts. Two of them would be the intermittent fasting diet and the ketogenic diet. Both will be discussed more thoroughly below.
Intermittent fasting: food deprivation systematized
Intermittent fasting or IF is one of the most recent fad diets created. This method requires the dieter to abstain from eating for extended periods of time until his or her designated “eating window” comes. It has six types:
- 16/8 method: fast for 16 hours, eat at the remaining eight every day.
- 5:2 diet: 24-hour fast for two days every week.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: fast for 24 hours at least once a week.
- Alternate day fast: do fasting every other day.
- Warrior Diet: do not eat during the day, feast like a king at night.
- Meal skipping: skip meals whenever you don’t feel like eating, or you are so busy to eat.
In a nutshell, IF is more like a change in eating behavior than reducing the caloric intake itself. You can eat anything you desire, and you can do it at your desired time.
IF is not harmful when done right. In fact, our prehistoric ancestors and other religions have done this from time to time due to lack of food sources and specific spiritual disciplines. Our bodies can surely adapt to these changes.
Scientists also found out the benefits IF can bring to the body.
- It is a safe and natural way to lose weight.
- It reduces insulin resistance, making you less susceptible to Type 2 diabetes.
- It saves you time and money for preparing and cooking three meals a day.
- Studies show that it protects the brain from cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
- It is less associated with muscle wasting, making it safe for bodybuilders and fitness instructors.
- Some may feel extreme discomfort, at least at first, due to intense hunger pangs.
- Studies show that it causes amenorrhea (a condition where the menstrual cycle ceased) in women, so they recommend doing 12-14 hours of fasting only for the ladies.
- Because IF dieters would heavily rely on coffee to keep hunger pangs at bay, some may develop caffeine dependency.
- It may develop eating disorders for some.
Simply put, IF is made for people who do not want to fuss about calorie counting and for those who simply do not have the time to prepare food for themselves. With intermittent fasting, you can control food instead of letting it control you.
Ketogenic diet: What fats can do for you
It is described as a diet high in fat and extremely low in carbs. It was initially prescribed to epileptic patients for reduction of seizures in the 1940’s. As anti-seizure medications spring up, the ketogenic diet shifted from being a therapeutic diet to a fad diet.
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to induce ketosis, a phenomenon wherein your body uses fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates by converting it into ketone bodies. The proportions of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats would depend on what type of keto diet you will adopt.
- Standard ketogenic diet: divides your caloric requirement into 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: divides daily calories into 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: allows five days of keto diet with two days of high-carb intake every week.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: strategically add carbs before, during, or after workout sessions.
Of all four, the first option, SKD is the most recommended since it employs the highest amount of fat in the diet. Keto diets, however, must only be introduced gradually. Most start at reducing 10% carbs per week from the 60-70% recommendation along with increasing the fat intake.
And because it focuses on calories and fat, there is a specific do’s and don’ts list of food items that dieters must take to heart. As expected, it includes avoiding sugary and starchy foods, most fruits and vegetables, some beans and legumes, and some types of alcohol.
Because of the restrictions, keto diet has its share of benefits and consequences.
- It is effective for losing weight.
- Because fat is used instead of carbohydrates, blood glucose levels drop, and insulin resistance improves, making the dieter less susceptible to diabetes.
- With the right food choices, it can improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
- It reduces adult acne due to less sugar intake.
- It boosts brain health and improves mental performance.
- Dehydration can be a problem which may lead to constipation and indigestion.
- Some dieters report bad breath and keto rash brought by the increase in acetone production, a byproduct of ketosis.
- If not supplemented with vitamins and minerals, cramps can happen due to lack of magnesium.
- You must strictly adhere to the diet for you to reap its full benefits, something that might be difficult for others.
Keto diets are recommended for people who want to build muscle since it emphasizes protein intake as well. Despite conflicting studies, most fitness experts swear by the efficacy of ketogenic diet as a way to lose weight. We’ve even done a full program review of Brandon Carter’s Keto Hacks, a book published by Carter detailing his experiences in adopting this type of diet.
Although both diets have its fair share of pros and cons, nothing beats the ancient approach when it comes to weight loss: eat right, exercise, and sleep well. Fad diets can only take you to your target weight—for a while, often with health consequences attached to it. But the conventional methods, when done right, can be sustained for a lifetime.