Popular diets: Do they work?
Low carb eating, intermittent fasting, keto diet, and calorie counting are popular methods many of us use to lose weight. But do they work? Registered dietitian Jessica Justice Reath addressed some of the popular diet trends.
Low carb eating
“A lot of people don’t realize, because carbs have a reputation of being bad, but your body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates for energy,” Reath said. “If you’re eating too few carbohydrates and mostly protein and fat, your body is going to use that protein and fat as an energy source versus helping you to build muscle. You want to eat enough carbohydrates to provide energy to your body and then allow that protein to build or maintain muscle mass.”
At least 50–60% of your energy source should be from carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables.
Intermittent fasting plans create periods of time each day when you don’t eat. Reath said this is an approach that should individualized.
“Your body already intermittent fasts at night when you’re sleeping. One of the biggest mistakes people can make with intermittent fasting is waiting too long to reach a specific time. We recommend that you listen to your body’s cues and don’t ignore your hunger.”
She said this can vary from day to day.
“Some mornings you might wake up hungry, depending on how well you slept, what you ate and what your activity was the day before. In this case, have breakfast and go about eating your normal meals throughout the day. Other mornings you might wake up and not feel hungry until noon. Your body may not indicate that you need to eat something for energy, and so you can wait until noon or one o’clock to have a meal.”
She said you should listen to your body and provide yourself enough fuel for energy, especially if you’re exercising in the morning or planning to do a big workout.
The keto diet is a plan that focuses on eating only meat, eggs and cheese. Reath said the keto diet was originally designed for children with epilepsy to help control and reduce the number of seizures they were having by reducing their sugar intake. It focuses on a high-fat diet with moderate amounts of protein and low carbohydrates.
“As dietitians, we don’t promote the keto diet because it doesn’t provide you with enough energy. You will see weight loss happen pretty rapidly, but the second you try to incorporate any type of foods back into a normal diet, you’re going to see rapid weight gain occur, and it could occur as a fat mass gain versus a muscle mass gain.”
She said something else to keep in mind is that a keto plan prescribes a certain amount of fat, and a lot of people end up eating too much fat.
She encouraged those who are considering going on keto to reach out to a dietitian. They can make sure you have enough of the other food groups to prevent the rebound effects keto can have.
“Tracking calories can become tedious and lead to restriction,” Reath said. “We haven’t found great success with that program.”
She said it’s better to focus on what type of foods you’re eating. Are they empty calories from foods high in sugar or fat that don’t sustain fullness or provide energy? Or are they denser calories that help keep you fuller longer and provide energy?
Bottom line on weight loss
“The biggest advice I can give is to make sure you are eating enough. Sometimes what happens in our weight loss journey is that we are restricting a little too much. And so sometimes that can cause a plateau to happen because your body is trying to hang on to energy,” Reath said. “Reach out to a dietitian and talk to them about your goals. They can help you with your weight loss goals but also make sure you’re getting enough fuel for your body based on what you do each day.”
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