Which diet should you choose?
Ever suffered from information overload when deciding what diet to try?
What can we believe when the advice seems to change from one day to the next?
Are you confused.com?
In a previous post we looked at the ‘Low Carb’ and the ‘Low Fat’ diets – digging into the merits and flaws of each. In this post we will be looking a little more closely at the ‘Alkaline Diet’, the ‘Paleo Diet’, the ‘Keto Diet’…
The Alkaline Diet
What is it?
This diet makes the odd claim that a diet rich in alkaline foods can reduce the risk of getting Cancer by raising the pH of our bodies. This diet recommends a high intake of fruit and vegetables, but also severely limits portions of grains, dairy, meat and fish – usually understood to be very healthy.
The Alkaline Diet Myth-Buster
There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that alkaline-rich foods can combat the risk of Cancer. Aside from this, our bodies naturally regulate the pH levels within our body to within a specific range (7.35 – 7.45) regardless of our diet.
The limits put on grains, dairy, meat and fish, could potentially have the effect of increasing your risk of some vitamin deficiencies and may also lead to protein deficiency – particularly if you are someone who exercises at a high intensity regularly.
This diet would not be suitable for anyone aiming for muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) – the advice to achieve this training outcome is to eat four to five meals a day, each containing 20 – 30 grams of protein.
The Ketogenic (‘Keto’) Diet
What is it?
The Keto diet is the ‘ultimate’ low carb diet. In this diet, the amount of carbs allowed is limited to 5 – 10% of total daily intake. For comparison, the average diet in the UK (based on 2,000 calories per day) will comprise an average of 50-60% carbs! Unlike many other diets that we have looked at, The Keto diet also suggests that fats will make up a huge 60 – 70% and the remaining 20 – 30% will be protein.
The idea behind this diet is that a very low glucose (carbohydrate) intake will result in a depletion of glycogen (sugar) stores within the body and as a result the body will instead use fat to produce ketones, which can be used for energy. More fat burn = more fat loss!
The Keto Myth-Buster
Whole foods (foods like whole-wheat bread, pasta, potato and grains) are avoided in this diet. These foods provide the majority of our fibre intake, and therefore the lack of fibre in this diet can have negative impacts on the body – it is particularly responsible for the frequent unfortunate side effect of diarrhoea as fibre is what makes sure our poo stays healthy!
Regardless of the proportion of fats, to carbs, to proteins, this diet will still only be effective in producing weight loss (also known as ‘fat loss’) if the calories expended exceed the calories consumed over the course of the day or week (e.g. calories in vs calories out). Fat loss may be rapid at the start, but this rate is unlikely to be maintained long term and weight regain is common.
In addition, for those training regularly this diet may not provide enough carbohydrate energy in order to train at your best. A recent study found that the athletic performance of cyclists and runners was reduced after just four days on a ketogenic diet, compared with those on a high carb diet.
The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) Diet
What is it?
The Paleo diet priorities lean protein sources, and other foods that would have commonly been available to our ancestors during hunter-gatherer times. This primarily focuses on lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and seeds. This diet claims that our digestive systems are not well adapted to eating ‘modern day processed foods’ and that the ‘basic diet’ of our ancestors would be better for our health – specifically our gut health. It heavily restricts entire food groups (mostly grains and dairy) which are usually considered to be a healthy part of a balanced diet as they a good sources of fibre, resistant starch, proteins, calcium and vitamin D.
The Paleo Diet Myth-Buster
Research shows that resistant starch is actually associated with improved markers for bowel health, which disagrees with the ‘science’ behind the Paleo Diet. In addition, research has found raised levels of a particular blood biomarker for heart disease in people following a Paleo diet – likely a result of the fact that the paleo diet is high in saturated fat.
The Paleo Diet, like all diets, will only work for weight loss (fat loss) if the overall foods consumed in a day, or a week, result in a calorie deficit – so taking this as an oppotrunity to eat steak every day may not get you the results that you desire! Finally, this is an example of another diet that is very carb-lacking, so it is not ideal for individuals who are training regularly, at a high intensity.
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Disclaimer: if you have any pre-existing medical condition, or are pregnant, please seek the advice of your GP before starting any self-administered diet.