Happy New Year friends! I don’t know about you, but I have never been more excited to see the dawn of a new day and a NEW YEAR! It’s left me feeling a huge sense of renewal and rejuvenation. What about you?
And what about your New Year’s resolutions? I bet someone reading this post has a goal to lose weight whether it be by way of a diet, exercise, or both. Am I right, or am I right? Well, I thought it might be super helpful to try to unpack and demystify the topic of diets. Diets can be so confusing and overwhelming since some have trendy names and/or various food restrictions. It’s hard to know what’s what and decipher what may be best for you.
So here’s what I’m going to do, and not going to do in this post. I will: talk about the main diets based on macronutrient composition. I’ll explain what they are, plus the advantages and disadvantages of each diet. But here’s what I’m not going to do: advise which one is best for you. Why? Because only you can decide what’s best for your body. However, I recommend that you use this information in tandem with a consultation with your doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, or nutrition coach to determine which diet may be best for you and your lifestyle. Sound good? Ok, let’s get to it!
What are Macronutrients?
We have to lay the framework otherwise the rest of this won’t make a bit of sense! Macronutrients are the pillars that make up your diet. You know them as Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates. Your body needs each of these components to thrive and function appropriately. When it comes to diets, some vary the macronutrient composition. Think low carb, high fat, high protein, etc. It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a specific macronutrient composition, and that includes how it will impact your body. That means it’s not good enough to observe how a diet has worked for someone else and assume it can work for you in the same way. You owe it to yourself to understand how a specific diet will impact your body especially since every body is different.
Now, onto the diets!
Low Calorie Diets
What It Is:
This is exactly what it sounds like–a diet based on limiting your overall caloric intake. Usually, the daily total calories are around 800-1,200 kilocalories per day.
- This type of diet helps to facilitate weight loss, which is always based upon calories in vs. calories out. If you eat fewer calories than you burn (via exercise and everyday activities), weight loss occurs.
- If used by overweight and obese individuals, health markers like blood pressure and cholesterol levels may improve with this diet due to fat reduction.
- You may experience a decrease in athletic performance, and difficulty recovering from athletic performance (due to decreased calories).
- It could be harder to stick to this diet due to hunger and boredom with fewer food options.
- It’s hard to consume adequate micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) due to calorie restrictions.
- You could lose muscle mass if you’re already lean (but resistance training and protein intake can help mitigate that).
Low Fat Diets
What It Is:
A diet based on limiting fat intake. Specifically, fat intake is set at 20-35% of total caloric intake.
- Total and LDL cholesterol may decrease.
- Individuals can lose weight and body fat if caloric intake is reduced.
- There’s a reduction of hyperpalatable foods (a.k.a junk foods, which are typically highly processed and easy to overeat).
- There are fewer food choices available and may exclude healthy foods with essential fatty acids and omega-3 sources like oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, etc.
- Certain sex hormones (e.g., testosterone) rely on fat intake. Without it, those hormones may decrease.
- There could be a possible increase in triglyceride levels in the blood (if you are replacing healthier fats with starchy or refined carbohydrates).
Low Carb Diets
What It Is:
A diet based on limiting carbohydrate intake. Typically, carbohydrate intake is set at 40% or less of total caloric intake.
- Can be beneficial for weight loss and fat reduction.
- Your HDL cholesterol may improve.
- Helps to decrease intake of hyperpalatable foods (which are typically high in carbohydrates).
- If protein intake increases, then satiety may increase, and caloric intake may decrease.
- Probably not the best diet for competitive athletes who rely on carbs to fuel their performance via the anaerobic system.
- In addition to macronutrient composition, you must be mindful to select foods that provide adequate micronutrients too.
What It Is:
A diet based on limiting carbohydrate and protein intake while keeping fat intake very high. This leads to a metabolic state of ketosis in which the body uses ketones as fuel. Specifically, carbohydrate intake is less than 5% of total calories, protein intake is 20-30% of total calories, and fat intake is 65-75% of total calories.
- May decrease cardiovascular disease risk.
- Originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy to reduce seizures.
- May lead to lower caloric intake and weight loss due to satiety from protein and/or ketones, and reduced intake of highly processed foods.
- Due to the high fat intake, total and LDL cholesterol may increase. Regular blood tests and consultations with a doctor are recommended.
- Side effects at the start of the diet include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and/or dizziness.
- Can be hard to maintain due to food restrictions.
High Protein Diets
What It Is:
A diet based on a high protein intake. Typically, protein intake is usually more than 25% of total calories.
- This diet can help with weight loss and fat reduction due to increased satiety and reduced caloric intake.
- Blood sugar and cholesterol levels may improve due to weight loss.
- When combined with resistance training, you can build muscle mass.
- Extremely high protein diets can be dangerous for individuals with kidney disorders or liver issues.
- You must make a concerted effort to include fiber-rich foods (which help with digestion) within your diet.
- You must be mindful to select quality protein (i.e., minimally processed instead of processed) to avoid the risk of colon cancer.
I hope this gives you a high-level overview of the various diets that are based upon macronutrient composition. Perhaps one of these appealed to you. If not, definitely stay tuned because I’m doing a follow-up post about diets based on food choices!
Although I can’t advise which diet is best for you, I can highly recommend that you choose a diet that: 1) you can stick to, 2) fits your lifestyle, and 3) enables you to enjoy the food that you eat (after all, I’m a firm believer that healthy food can and should taste good)!
And even if you don’t choose one of the diets listed above, I encourage you to start thinking about how and what you’ll eat this year. In fact, check out this post for some tips! If you have questions, comment below and I’ll get back to you. Have a good one and make this your healthiest year ever!
Mrs. Traylor is a Fitness Instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, wife, and momma who provides actionable advice for positive lifestyle changes with fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Read about Wendy’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter here!