Weight Loss Diets Explained
New diets come and go like fashion trends, people are always looking for ways to keep the excess pounds off, and the quicker the better is often the case in most peoples minds. For those who enjoy exercising regularly, or for those who follow a structured training programme it is very important to consider whether you are compromising performance or health when looking at ways to lose weight. To try and help you understand whether you are making the right choices regarding diet manipulation for weight loss, we have explained briefly a few of the popular diets people are tuning to these days.
1) 5:2 Plan
This is an intermittent fasting diet which involves 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of eating a quarter of your recommended daily calorie intake - 500 kcal for women and 600 kcal for men. Claims have been made that you can lose up to 0.5kg a week. However, weight loss will not be achieved if during the 5 normal days you overeat, this diet requires planning and discipline to be successful. For athletes, it is important not to let the fasted days interfere with your training; the calorie-restricted days should coincide with rest or easy training days. Fasted training has it’s place but requires optimal nutritional recovery post training to really reap the benefits, doing this on a 600 kcal restricted day would not allow you to do this.
2) Paleo Diet
This diet mimics the type of food eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors and moves away from foods brought to us by the agricultural revolution. Basically all the grains and processed foods that make up todays diets are replaced by food that we can hunt or source from nature. For example put aside breads, cereals and refined sugars, and replace with meat, fish, nuts, fruit and vegetables. The premise is that although society has developed over the years our bodies haven’t, as humans we have still not adapted to consuming large amounts of grains in our diet hence the reason why todays average body type is very different to that of our caveman ancestors. However, it has also been questioned whether the paleo diet is actually beneficial and suitable for athletes due to it’s relatively low carbohydrate content. A more logical approach to the diet would be for endurance athletes to use non-paleo carbohydrate for fuelling and recovery to optimize training and training adaptations.
3) Low Carbohydrate Diet
This diet is pretty much as it says on the tin - reduce carbohydrate intake in your diet to around 20% of your total calorie intake. This reduces the body’s insulin production which in turn causes the body to use fat and protein for energy, therefore reducing body weight. When fat is the main energy source your body starts to produce ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are used for energy instead of glucose by certain parts of the body such as the brain that cannot rely on slow release energy from fat, this is known as ketosis. The problem with a low carbohydrate diet is that despite seeing initial rapid weight loss, this weight loss achieved is usually through water or loss of muscle tissue. For athletes muscle tissue loss can be very detrimental, it is therefore important to provide the body with high quality protein when adopting a low carbohydrate diet. This diet should be approached with caution during intense training as low carbohydrate levels will not provide you with suitable energy to main the intensity of your training or help with recovery and adaptation. Intense training and low carbohydrate intake may also compromise your immune system.
Remember: It is still important to maintain hydration status before, during or after exercise even when adopting any specific weight loss program.