The difficult part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t going for a jog three times a week or hitting the gym after a tiring day at work. It’s the dietary part of the plan that trips us up.
Depending on your individual fitness goals, it takes time to figure out what diet suits you best and provides the best results. If you’re new to the fitness lifestyle, you’ve probably been bombarded with all kinds of diets—and wondered if they really work. (Seeing Victoria Beckham advocate the Alkaline Diet makes me wonder if that’s how she’s stayed slender after giving birth to four children.) No worries, I’ve got you covered. This article is a general, easy-read overview of the more popular diets. It’s designed to bring clarity to choosing a diet—or even deciding not to bother after all.
On a regular diet, the carbohydrates we derive from food such as rice and pasta are converted into glucose – our main energy source. However, when your body is in a stage of ‘ketosis,’ the sole purpose of the keto diet, your body uses up fat reserves as the energy source.
The byproducts of converting fat into energy are called ‘ketones’ and your body uses these as alternate sources of energy. On a keto diet, you cut down a lot on carbohydrates, and introduce a whole lot more healthy fats (up to 80% of total calories) and proteins. Typically, meals include:
- Healthy oils
- Nuts and seeds
- Grass-fed meat
Generally, those who strictly follow the keto diet do notice significant weight loss, but often feel lethargic early on due to the lack of glucose in the body while the body adapts to the new diet. They also notice an improvement in mental performance. As weight goals differ from person to person, do refer to a keto calculator. Overall, it’s been known to benefit those with diet-derived illnesses such as diabetes, as the reduced carbohydrates keeps the blood sugar levels down.
A contradiction to the title, this diet brings us way back into the past… about 2.5 million years ago, when humans had to hunt for meat and pick fruit off trees. No, you don’t have to carry a club around and wear garments made of hide. But yes, you are committed to eating healthy, organic foods with no preservatives and additives. These are the foods to opt for:
- Grass-fed meats
- Wild-caught fish/seafood
- Organic vegetables
- Healthy fats and oils
All grains and processed food are strictly off-limits. Quite a challenge, when it means ditching the morning coffee at Starbucks and milk before bed—though you could incorporate moderate amounts of green tea. Crave a pint of Ben & Jerry’s now and then? Forget it… The paleo diet’s emphasis on eating clean, lean, and healthy is a huge improvement over the modern western diet. Paleo followers benefit from feeling full in between meals due to the high protein and fat intake, thus helping in weight control. Many people lose weight simply because of the limited food choices.
However, following a strict paleo diet can rack up the food bill, as grass-fed meat is much more expensive than grain-fed meat; and organic vegetables are far pricier than their conventionally farmed counterparts. Nevertheless, you are saving yourself from the curse of diet-induced diseases due to the processed food of the modern age. Imagine all the pesticides and herbicides you’ve been indirectly consuming…Yikes!
Lately there’s been a lot of hype regarding gluten-free diets. The Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban [editor’s note: and former Texas Lifestyle Magazine cover star] is a firm believer in the importance of this diet in improving athletic performance. What exactly is gluten? Simply put, it is a family of proteins that are found in grains such as barley and wheat. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin, which is the one responsible for the perceived negative health effects. Foods high in gluten include:
- Cakes, cookies and pastries
For the majority, avoiding gluten isn’t necessary. The most severe form of gluten intolerance is found in those that are diagnosed with Celiac disease, affecting 0.7-1.0% of the population. The body treats the gluten like an invader, attacking it and the intestinal walls as well. This damages the gut wall and can cause nutrient deficiencies and anemia. In such situations many people turn to gluten-free “superfoods” such as kefir, a traditional probiotic fermented milk drink. This helps to keep your gut health up and strengthen your immune system.
Whether you’re opting for any of these three diets or sticking to your own plan, finding the right food at the grocery store can be overwhelming. Make sure to do your own research and find a diet that suits your personal needs – after that all you need is plenty of discipline to follow it through.
Stewart Dunlop is the content and marketing manager at TheGoodGut – a new project devoted to maintaining gut health. Being a passionate writer, he aims to raise awareness of the importance of gut health to the overall well-being of all individuals.