Evaluation of 3 Common Fat Loss Programmes

You may have heard of the South Beach Diet, the Blood Type Diet, and the Atkins Diet, but which is the best, and which should be avoided?

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diets original purpose was to prevent heart disease by replacing “bad fats” and “bad carbs” with good “fats and good carbs”. The diet soon became popular with dieters due to weight loss during its initial phase. Three phases make up the South Beach Diet and are what makes it different to other low carb diets, even though it is not a true low carb diet.
In Phase 1 you must cut out all High glycemic carb sources, sugars, processed carbohydrates and fruits and snacks and treats you have been used to. The objective of this phase is to ‘eliminate’ or ‘correct’ insulin resistance. The diet also replaces all fatty protein sources with lean cuts of meat, nuts and oily fish. In my opinion this phase appears to be trying to put your body into ketosis for a 2 week period to induce high fat loss.
Phase 2 reintroduces some carbohydrate foods like whole grains and low to medium Glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Phase 3 is utilized once you reach your goal. This phase emphasizes having 2 servings of wholegrains and 3 servings of fruit per day. This maintenance phase relies on the dieter having learnt the principles of the diet in phases 1 and 2 and practicing them regularly for as long as the diet continues.

How does it stack up?

The first 2 weeks would be tough for most dieters to stick to and the possibility exists for most of the weight loss to be water and even more significantly, lean mass. It is virtually a Ketogenic diet during this phase.
It would also be difficult for any athlete or avid sports person to continue training intensely through this first two weeks due to the very low carbohydrate intake. The second phase welcomes good low glycemic carbs back into the diet and would make training a lot easier.
Of the 3 diets I have reviewed the South Beach Diet is the most nutritionally balanced.
Although my biggest criticism would be that Phase Three is a bit wishy washy and there exists a chance that dieters will fall back to Phases 1 and 2 in order to keep losing weight and be afraid of adding the other foods required for maintenance in phase 3. The maintenance phase could also allow the dieter to slip back into old habits if not careful.
Having said all that I would probably choose this diet over the Atkins or Blood Type diets.

The Blood Type Diet

This diet is based on the idea that as our ancestors moved and settled around the globe so their diets were subject to different flora and fauna. Thereby resulting in their bodies eventually adapting to the local flora and fauna by way of becoming more or less acidic, producing different digestive enzymes etc and according to Dr D’Adamo resulting in the formation of different blood types.
The diet suggests that you use your blood type along with Dr D’Adamo’s research to choose the foods that best suit your ancestral/ blood type history.
If you eat certain foods on the ‘beneficial list’ you can lose weight, while conversely foods on your ‘avoid’ list could make you gain weight or worse.
In Dr D’Adamo’s introduction in his book he stresses that it is meant as a guideline only and don’t give up your favourite recipe just because it contains something on your avoid list.

How does it stack up?

I have seen first hand how it had an impact on someone wanting to lose weight. The person was a female in her 30’s who was about 35kg’s overweight and a blood type A (agrarian or vegetarian). Initially she lost about 16kg’s but then got sick of the lack of variety and the difficulty in constantly having to find different ways in which to prepare her vegetarian meals.
The theory is interesting and may have a small bearing on good food choices but our world today is extremely diverse and foods from different cultures permeate society from every corner of the planet.
There are better, more enjoyable ways and more scientifically based programmes on which you can base a fat loss nutrition plan.
How it supported an intense training regime would entirely depend on the athlete, their blood type and total Kcalorie consumption. Provided they don’t restrict Kcalories it may be able to support training. I do not know any athletes who have practiced this nutritional method.

The Atkins Diet

The infamous Atkins Diet has definitely been in the news an awful lot over the past 10 years, most recently coming to the fore again as a result of Dr Atkins passing. It is probably one of the most publicized and independently studied diets of all time!
Like the South Beach diet the Atkins diet progresses a person through a number of distinctive phases, starting with one which severely depletes carbohydrates in order to promote a ketogenic effect in the body. The absence of energy from refined/processed carbohydrates is meant to be made up from the energy of fats. Dr Atkins did draw attention to the harmful trans fatty acids that previously went unnoticed in our foods and suggest we steer clear of them.
If the books are followed to the letter the diet works for fat loss, but the danger is in people developing bad habits by increase the total saturated fat content to extreme levels.

How does it stack up?

The Atkins diet has cemented it’s place in the dieting world courtesy of Dr Atkins hard work and good marketing.
Studies suggest however that the reason it works is due to the satiety index of the protein in the diet causing the person to eat a reduced amount of Kcalories without feeling hungry because of low blood sugar levels. Those who are against the Atkins diet almost solely focus on the fat content of the diet.
It is definitely not a diet an athlete should follow and I cannot imagine a persons physical ability or performance being affected positively with the Atkins diet due to possible limitations in essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and of course carbohydrate.

Summary

Generally I found the all the above diets had the common thread noted in various Nutrition texts and studies, of being lower in Kcalories and while they may be of short term benefit under the guidance of a professional, none of the diets would be considered by me to be easily adhered to by the ‘average joe’ and definitely would in no way support the efforts of a sports person or athlete.
They all advocate the use of more natural foods and less man-made/ refined or processed foods, however they are all also capable of causing deficiencies in various nutrients.
High profile advertising and celebrity testimonials seem to take the place of good scientific studies in the promotion and survival of these diets. The Atkins diet has been researched quite a lot but with mixed results coming from the studies.
It comes back to the point that a person, athlete or not, should take carefully considered advice from a dietitian or nutritionist rather than buy a book, skim read it and try to put it into practice. Therein lies the danger inherent in all these diets.

Intelligent Nutrition: a foolproof, easy guide to eating well

Great nutrition is simply eating in a way that will improve and support the way your body looks, feels and performs.

We all essentially know what’s good and bad for our bodies – let’s face it, it’s not brain surgery! What really counts is putting some key principles into practice. With that in mind, here are a few simple and effective rules that will see fast changes in your body composition and the way you feel.

Eat every 3 hours.

This may sound like a lot but I’m not talking about a huge meal, some can be smaller snacks.
Eating this way will encourage a nice even blood sugarlevel helping to avoid energy slumps in the day and will also drastically reduce your body’s inclination to store the calories you eat as body fat.

Include good lean protein in each meal.

This not only keeps you full longer, but also helps repair the tissue damage that has occurred with your enthusiastic training regime. If you don’t have time to cook eggs or grill chicken breasts there are good quality protein powders available.
Go for one that is 100% whey protein and doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners or added sugars. Of course real food is always better, but sometimes our schedule just needs that little bit of flexibility that the protein shake has to offer!

Include vegetables with each meal.

The more the merrier! Vegetables are great providers of fibre, which are vital to our digestive system they also give that feeling of fullness without adding a huge amount of calories and are loaded in great nutrients. Really, there is nothing they can’t do!

Include a good balance of healthy fat in your diet.

There are 3 types of fat, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Eating these in the appropriate balance can dramatically improve your health and wellness and actually help you lose fat. You will get enough saturated fat from the protein that you eat (e.g., chicken, eggs and red meat). Monounsaturated fat will come from nuts, avocado, and olive oil. These you can easily work into your meals, for example a little olive oil in stir frying, a sprinkling of nuts on your morning porridge. And finally polyunsaturated fat which comes from flaxseed and fish oils. Even if you eat fish on a regular basis, I think everyone benefits from taking a good quality fish oil supplement once or twice daily.

Keep away from sugar!

I am not just talking about that tsp of sugar in your coffee or lollies from the dairy, I am also including refined carbohydrates like white flour, pasta, anything from a bakery… basically anything that comes in
a packet! Certainly there are times that these can be useful for athletes, but for most of us, even post-work out these should be avoided!

Only drink calorie-free beverages.

There is nothing wrong with the odd coffee, and there is plenty right with green tea and water (ideally 2 litres per day). But drinking alcohol or soft drinks (this includes sugar-free diet drinks) will only retard your progress in becoming the best physical and mental specimen you can be. There have been some studies supporting a small amount of red wine for good health. With this in mind I would be persuaded to accept 1-2 glasses a week for medicinal purposes!

Unprocessed organic food.

Ideally, stick to unprocessed organic food as much as you can. Eating food as close to its natural state as possible will only enhance the amount of vitamins and nutrients you’ll get. I’m not suggesting that you eat boring steamed vegetables all day every day…be inventive with herbs and spices to maximise and enjoy all the flavours that good food has to offer. You’ll be surprised at how flavoursome your food will become once you get off the processed food wagon and your body starts responding to food as it should…