Common Diet Myths Explained (part 2)

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.  

Why Keto?

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.


Do you have questions about something you read in this article? Why not Ask The Instructor!

We are giving you the opportunity to have you health, fitness and nutrition questions answered by an expert member of our Gym Team. To get in touch, email your question to: grp-gymteam@groups.bristol.ac.uk and one of our team will get back to you!


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. 

Recipe of the Week: Overnight Oats

Our #RecipeOfTheWeek this week is Overnight Oats – a perfect breakfast recipe for people short on time in the morning, or who want to be able to snooze that alarm once more! It can be prepped the night before and finished off in a couple of minutes the next morning.

It’s a really simple recipe, but has huge potential for anyone who wants to get creative with flavour combinations – we’ve given you a few ideas for you to try at the end of the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 50g porridge oats
  • Milk of choice
  • 1-2 tbsp of yoghurt (natural or greek-style)
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Optional: nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, almonds or pumpkin seeds

Method:

1. The night before, put your oats, cinnamon and any nuts and seeds that you are using into a jar, bowl or mug.

2. Pour over your milk of choice until it just covers the oats.

3. Leave in the fridge to soak overnight.

4. The next morning, stir your oats and mix in the yoghurt (you can choose how much you add based on the consistency of the oats that you would like)

5. Top with the fresh or frozen fruit, plus any additional nuts, seeds, a drizzle of honey and extra cinnamon.

6. Serve and enjoy!

Some flavour combinations to try:

  • Chocolate brownie oats: use cocoa powder
  • Apple pie oats: top with stewed apple and granola.
  • Carrot cake oats: mix in grated carrot, nutmeg and raisins and top with yoghurt.
  • Tropical oats: Mix in frozen pineapple and mango and top with desiccated coconut.
  • Mocha oats: Mix a shot of coffee and tbsp of cocoa powder into the oats mixture.

Don’t forget to tag us in any kitchen creations @bristolunisport on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!