The hamster wheel that is the diet phase is infinitely spinning. Hop onto one for a period of time, get minimal results and move on to the next. By the time you have run the gamut, the never-forgiving mirror reveals your worst nightmare – all of that time and effort has only left you right back where you started. The fat loss you may have accomplished has either returned or is on its way back.
The main aspect of any nutritional program is that no specific one will work the same from person-to-person. When you perform a regular exercise program and get proper rest, your diet is pivotal in making all three aspects come together for success. With that said, a lot of it depends on your metabolism, age, experience and fitness level.
For the purposes here, we will rank some of the more common fat loss diets – in reverse order – on a broad scale. These programs may work better for some people but they are all good choices as examples. The practicality of sticking to the diet was also taken into consideration.
The one constant in all of them, regardless of ranking, is that your food choices should be smart ones, such as grilled over fried, complex (or ‘good) carbs over simple (or ‘bad’) carbs (and trying to include them before and after your workout over other times), unsaturated over saturated fats, drinking plenty of water throughout the day and cutting down or eliminating sugar and salt.
#7: INTERMITTENT FASTING
Keeping all of your meals within an eight-hour window of the day and there are no restrictions on what types of foods that includes. The reason why this works is behind the biological science – your body enters a fasted state 12 hours after your last meal. When this occurs, it burns fat that it was unable to burn while you are in a fed state. While this is easy in one aspect (not having to worry about what you eat), it is difficult in another (having to plan all of your meals and their timing regardless of work schedule, traveling, etc.).
#6: PALEO DIET
Also known as the Caveman Diet, the thought behind this is to eat only healthy and unprocessed foods like our ancient ancestors did. Only include meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils. Stay away from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, legumes, dairy, grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils and highly processed foods. This diet will certainly improve your overall health but will not necessarily be the best for fat loss.
#5: KETOGENIC DIET
This is a difficult diet to follow and is best used for someone in the advanced category, such as a competitive bodybuilder. The key to it is to use unsaturated fats as a main nutritional source with moderate protein and low carb intake. A rough scale would be either 4:1 or 3:1 with fats being the high number and total protein and carbs the lower. The strategy behind this diet is the depletion of carbs will cause your glycogen levels to drop. When this happens, you enter ketosis and this triggers fat being burned as energy instead of protein.
#4: CARB CYCLING
Perhaps better for maintenance rather than starting off, this diet obviously allows the ingestion of carbs but on a six-day schedule regarding the amount. Break up the week with three high-carb days and three low-carb days, switching on and off daily. The seventh day is a cheat day, something that you shouldn’t go overboard with. While this sounds like an easier one to follow than some of the others, minus a strenuous exercise regimen, all of these carbs may eventually catch up to you.
#3: MEDITERRANEAN DIET
This diet is based on high amounts of plant foods, beans, nuts, wheats, oats and brown rice. In moderation, fish and poultry are allowed, but only small amounts of red meat and saturated fats. Olive oil should be the main source of dietary fat, with cheese and yogurt for dairy and fresh fruit as a dessert. Red wine is also on the ‘yes’ list, but keep it in moderation.
#2: THREE-HOUR DIET
This choice allows for a wider variety of foods and not as strict on your macronutrients (the percentage of proteins, carbohydrates and fats) as some of the others. Keep the portions sizes small-to-moderate and have your first meal within the first hour after waking up in the morning. Eat subsequent meals every three hours and make your final one of the day three hours before bedtime. Along with your laptop case, a cooler bag will become one of your regular items brought to the office every day.
#1: LOW CARB DIET
Similar to the Atkins Diet but a much healthier choice, keeping your carbs low but incorporating lean proteins will benefit you more than eating a barbequed hamburger patty without the bun. Smaller portions of complex carbs will give you more energy in the gym and it is also better to not eat any after dinner.