Exploring The Diet Dilemma and Popular Diet’s
In the ever-changing climate that is the world of fitness, there is a new so called “diet” that is groundbreakingly successful arising on a daily basis. Before I go into the intricacies of some of the more popular diet approaches, there are a few questions that need to be asked.
What is a diet?
A diet can be described as the customary amount and kind of food and drink consumed by an individual on a daily basis. The term can also be used more narrowly to describe a set regimen of food consumed by an individual on a daily basis in order to reach specific individual needs.
Does everyone need one?
In reference to the definition given above, everyone has a “diet” per say, but does everyone need to be meticulously tracking food and worrying about what they are eating? Most certainly not, so long as you are conscious of your output in terms of caloric expenditure (how active you are), are not over/under eating and are making healthy choices in regards to your food choices in order to gain a balanced, nutritious diet, then you will not to be excessively compulsive with your approach to your food. Tracking calories using apps such as Myfitnesspal are a great, simplistic way to become more conscious of your food choices and caloric intake.
Almost all diets are based off of specific goals, these are typically weight loss/gain or improved general health. However, there are numerous “diets” that are exceptionally unhealthy, which essentially starve your body of the nutrition it needs for everyday function, this can lead to vitamin deficiencies and health complications down the line. Other “diets” are dietary approaches to food intake that will facilitate a caloric deficit, there are many different options when it comes to dietary approaches however the only way to choose what one is right for you is to fully understand what it entails, then assessing its feasibility in your everyday life to see if it is sustainable. Below are the various diet approaches that will accommodate a healthy approach to weight loss and are subjective to individual needs:
Intermittent fasting –
An extremely versatile approach towards facilitating a caloric deficit, intermittent fasting requires the individual to reduce the time in which they consume their daily calories to a specific time frame e.g. 12pm-8pm. This in turns reduce the time available in which to eat food, this will make the volume of food they are consuming feel significantly larger due to the reduced availability of late/early meals and reduced risk of snacking. The time in which fasting occurs is subjective to the individual and their daily lifestyle e.g. working times, training times etc. This approach also allows for variability with food and freedom to eat without feeling one is necessarily “dieting”. This method is portrayed typically in fitness articles/ marketing ploys as one that has multiple health benefits such as metabolism boosting etc, these claims have very little scientific evidence to support them, the primary function of this approach, (like all of the dietary approaches discussed in this article) is to facilitate a caloric deficit.
Calorie tracking/ macronutrient plans-
In my opinion, the most efficient and effective way of creating a sustainable caloric deficit that can be versatile to any set of individual needs. My preferred method of tracking calories and macronutrients is to use the Myfitnesspal app, this will allow a run down of vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and overall calories based on a daily food logging. The app has a vast database of foods that can be logged with a barcode scanner allowing for accurate logging of food items. This method allows people to have calorie targets/ restrictions, having visual figures to work off may appeal specifically to certain demographics that like to quantify their actions. This method also allows one to understand good nutrition in a general consensus e.g. how calorically dense certain food can be etc. This method is useful as it allows the individual to understand and quantify a caloric deficit.
This dietary approach is based off the “hunter-gatherer” approach used by early humans to acquire food, avoiding all processed foods and everything that isn’t killed or grown. This diet, when used correctly is a great way to get a healthy, varied diet through the consumption of whole foods that are rich in vitamins and various other nutrients. This dietary approach has a significant downside, due to the prohibition of dairy and most starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, rye and grains, carbohydrate sources may be limited, along with a possible calcium deficiency (due to the lack of dairy). This diet is somewhat limited and may not be suited to most due to it being restrictive on food and thus may not be suited to the vast majority of people, especially those with specific dietary requirements and health conditions. Finally, as mentioned, the function of this diet is to facilitate caloric deficit through the removal of calorically dense foods, such as junk food, dairy etc etc.
An exceptionally popular dieting approach, the ketogenic diet is one that requires the reduction of carbohydrate intake significantly. The body stores glycogen (a carbohydrate in its simplest chemical form) in the muscle cells and also in the liver, thus a reduction of carbohydrate intake will lead to reduced intracellular glycogen and water. Due to the body’s lack of intracellular glycogen, the body then goes into a metabolic process called gluconeogenesis, where the body endogenously produces glycogen from lactic acid, glycerol and the amino acids glutamine and alanine, this process is carried out primarily in the liver. If endogenous glycogen is reduced further, the body then undergoes ketosis, which is a metabolic state in which the body metabolizes fatty acids as an alternate energy source to glycogen. Many use this diet, although many do not understand that carbohydrates should not be cut out altogether and are needed in small dosages for certain functions. This diet has also been linked loosely to increased neural capacity as ketone bodies have been shown to pass the blood-brain barrier in order to provide an alternative energy source to the brain. This diet would not be recommended to those with diabetes due to the demand for a certain blood-glycogen level. Some people also experience early symptoms of what is called “keto flu” which usually subsides within a few days and can come in the form of dizziness, headaches, insomnia nausea etc. Long term concerns with this approach include kidney stones along with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
By Tireoghain O’Neill