As summer approaches, it’s in our best interest to stay at the top of our game. Dieting is a popular technique used by millions around the world to help with their fitness routine. There’s a common misconception that dieting means foods are completely “off limits”. It is in fact false and can have adverse effects on your body as well as health. The right foods can help you build muscle, improve endurance, and speed recovery. With so many diets out there, it’s hard to find something that is effective for you. Here, we are listing some of the diets that are likely to help you get in shape faster. Some of the diets mentioned here are recommended by a panel of experts who reviewed 41 plans for the U.S. News Best Diets rankings.
1. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, very low-carb diet. When following a ketogenic diet, the aim is to reduce carb intake, so that your body must burn fat for energy instead of glucose, or blood sugar, in a process known as ketosis. During this process, the body uses ketones — byproducts of fat breakdown produced by your liver — as an alternative energy source.
Cyclical ketogenic dieting on the other hand is different from standard ketogenic diet. In the case of cyclical ketogenic dieting, a standard ketogenic diet protocol is followed for 5–6 days per week, followed by 1–2 days of higher carb consumption. The higher carb days are referred to as “refeeding days”, which is meant to replenish your body’s depleted glucose reserves. The cyclical ketogenic diet is popular among those who diet and are seeking muscle growth and improved exercise performance.
According to Healthline, it’s important to consume fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day and healthy fat options include: Eggs, Coconut oil and unsweetened coconut, Avocado, Full-fat dairy products, Low-carb nuts and seeds, Nut butters, Fatty meats, MCT oil. During the “refeeding days” complex carbs such as: Sweet potatoes, Butternut squash, Brown rice, Oats, Quinoa, Whole-wheat or brown-rice pasta, Beans and lentils are best choices.
Downside: Some might experience nausea, fatigue, headaches, constipation, weakness, difficulty sleeping and irritability. Healthline recommends cycling in carbohydrates 1–2 days per week to decrease these symptoms. (source)
2. The HMR Program
The HMR or Health Management Resources Program is a weight loss system designed to reduce calories by substituting meals with added fruits and vegetables. The program also aims to promote healthy lifestyle strategies, increase physical activity and personal accountability. Currently, the dieting program is ranked #30 in Best Diets Overall. However, the program has to be medically supervised, in-clinic or at-home options.
Developed more than 30 years ago by Lawrence Stifler, a behavioral psychologist and former president of HMR, the diet replaces meals and snacks with low-calorie shakes, meals, nutrition bars and multigrain hot cereal. In addition, fruits and vegetables are also consumed, which are naturally low in calories and also helps displace higher-calorie foods from a diet. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is also important with the diet. (source)
Downside: The HMR Diet is very restrictive, pricey and may not supply enough calories for those who are physically active or have increased needs.
3. Paleolithic diet
The Paleolithic diet or paleo diet is basically a stone-age diet that mimics what human hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago. The diet mainly consists of whole foods, and several studies suggest that this diet can lead to significant weight loss without and major improvements in health. Designed by American nutritionist Loren Cordain, the diet restricts one from consuming sugar, dairy products, legumes, grains, some vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods.
The foods that are to be consumed by those on this diet include: unprocessed meat, fish and seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, tubers, nuts and seeds, healthy fats/oils and salt and spices. (source)
Downside: Not consuming dairy products, grains, and legumes can result in calcium, iron, and magnesium deficiency. Too much consumption of meat can also result in cardiovascular related illnesses. Experts recommend following the diet in intervals as to not deprive your body of the basic necessities.
4. The Atkins diet
The Atkins diet aims to burn fat by limiting carbs and packing in fat and protein. Developed by cardiologist Robert Atkins in 1972, the company claims that you can lose weight while eating as much protein and fat as you want, as long as you avoid foods high in carbs. Studies conducted within the past 20 years do show that low-carb diets without the need for calorie counting are effective for weight loss and can lead to various health improvements.
The diet is split into four parts: Induction, balancing, fine-tuning and maintenance. Those following the diet can consume eggs, chicken without the skin, low-fat fish and seafood, low-fat dairy products, hard cheese, and tofu. As always, water should be your go-to beverage. During the initial phase, sugar, high-carb vegetables and fruits, starches, trans fats, grains and vegetable oils are to be avoided. Bread, potatoes and rice should also be avoided and can be substituted with low-carb vegetables. (source)
Downside: Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and constipation can occur due to the deficiency of carbs. The diet is also not recommended for those with certain conditions such as diabetes and should consult a doctor before beginning.
5. WW (Weight Watchers) Diet
Launched in late 2017, WW uses SmartPoints system, which assigns every food and beverage a point value, based on its nutrition. The program expands dietary options that are 0 points from only fruits and vegetables to more than 200 foods. The SmartPoints system guides members toward an overall eating pattern that is lower in calories, saturated fat and sugar, and higher in protein. Foods with 0 points include eggs, corn, fish, seafood, skinless chicken or turkey breast, non-fat plain yogurt, beans, peas, lentils and tofu.
The idea of the program is to lay a foundation for a healthier pattern of eating. However, those who take on the diet can eat whatever they want, as long as they stay within the daily SmartPoints target. The daily SmartPoints target is calculated individually and varies from one person to another. Healthline gives it a score of 4 out of 5 and is followed by many with positive results. (source)
Downside: One has to be willing to keep track of the foods and their associated SmartPoints, every day. This can be a tedious and time-consuming task for some. Another downside to the program is the fact that it comes with a subscription plan, which can be too expensive for some.
6. The Ornish diet
The Ornish diet consists of mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and very little fat. Dean Ornish, MD, president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., was considered revolutionary in the early ’90s. He developed the diet to help reverse symptoms of heart disease. Ornish and his research team argued that, a vegetarian diet coupled with exercise can reduce stress and also help people lose weight.
The diet gained popularity after studies showed that participants had lost an average of 24 pounds on the Ornish Diet and most managed to keep the weight off. Those on the diet are strictly forbidden from consuming alcohol, all sources of caffeine, avocado, butter, nuts, and sweets and are only allowed to eat beans, legumes, grains, fruit, and vegetables. Meat is acceptable, but only small amounts. Those who have to have meat with their meals can consume lean chicken. (source)
Downsides: Deficiency of protein, vitamin B12, and other useful substances can occur. It is also effective only when the routine is strictly followed. Because the diet is extremely low in fat of all types, it can be hard to follow long-term.
7. Jenny Craig Diet
The Jenny Craig diet comes with prepackaged meals and recipes that help participants lose weight. According to its official website, participants can lose up to 2 pounds a week, through restricting calories, fat and portions. One 2015 review of studies suggests it works: It found that participants lost more weight in a year on the plan than on other commercial weight-loss programs, including WW (Weight Watchers). Some experts deemed Jenny Craig program “very effective” for short-term weight loss, while some praising its focus on teaching proper portion sizes and helping dieters learn to eat when they’re hungry, rather than when they’re bored or emotional. (source)
Downside: A $99 enrollment fee and at least $19 a month is required for the “Premium” program. The enrollment fee is optional and if one is only interested in one consultation each week, then it can cost around $39 a month for the “Trial” month-to-month option.
8. The Volumetrics diet
The Volumetrics approach involves considering foods’ water density with the aim of losing a pound or two per week. Developed by Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, a renowned nutrition researcher who has been studying hunger and obesity for more than 20 years, the Volumetrics diet was ranked #5 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets Overall list in 2018. The idea of the diet is that you shouldn’t focus on the amount of food.
According to Rolls, the key to achieving healthy, long-term weight loss is to eat a low-calorie product before you eat a high-calorie meal. For instance, before eating a main course, low-calorie foods such as vegetables, soups, smoothies, and so on should be consumed. This will already make you feel full and thus reduces the amount of main course you consume. Studies show that the system is effective and aids in losing weight for longer periods than other programs. The diet also requires everyone to consume home-cooked meals, rather than processed or store bought meals. (source)
Downside: The cooking at home approach is time consuming and will not suit everyone. Also, eating low-calorie foods under the Volumetrics plan helps only for a short period and the effect may not last.
The dieting program is designed to cut calories with products like shakes, smoothies and meal bars replacing two meals a day and snacks. Calories are limited to 1,200 a day, which is split into three portions. According to a 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal, the SlimFast plan lost an average of about 6 pounds over four weeks.
SlimFast products (shakes, smoothies and meal bars) replace two meals a day and snacks; which also provides the required nutrients. However, a single meal has to be prepared or eaten out everyday, other than the dietary products. The meal should be limited to 500 to 600 calories and should not exceed the limit. (source)
Downside: Most people are likely to have trouble sticking to the regimen longer than eight to ten weeks since the amount of food that can be consumed daily is limited.
Dieting should also be balanced with an exercise regimen. It is also important to note that some of the diets listed should be avoided by certain individuals with health conditions. If you are interested in following any of these programs, it is vital that you seek professional advice before beginning.