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.

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