We all have that one friend. She’s transformed from frumpy to fit & fabulous. We want to know her secret. Chances are she is a die-hard diet fan with a devotion rivaling religion. Three popular plans that inspire such fervor are Atkins, Paleo, and Dukan. We took a look at the pros and cons of each of these high-protein regimens.
Atkins: State of Ketosis
Developed by Dr. Atkins in 1972, this low-carb diet was one of the first mainstream diets that bucked conventional low-fat=weight loss wisdom. The theory is to control your carbs in a revised 4-phase plan.
Atkins believed that by limiting carbohydrate consumption, the body would have to burn stored fat for fuel, putting the body in a state of ketosis. Sugars and starches like potatoes, white bread, and rice are off-limits, while protein and fat like chicken, meat, and eggs get the thumbs up. When fat is burned, pounds are shed, or so the thinking goes.
THE RULES: Eat unlimited amounts of lean protein. A very moderate amount of carbs, which come from vegetables. No refined carbs, legumes, wheat or sugar. Fat is acceptable.
PROS: The initial weight loss tends to be fairly rapid. You can eat unlimited amounts of food, so you’ll never be hungry!
CONS: Keeping track of the “net carbs” in phase 1 requires diligence. More important, inclusion of high-fat processed meats is particularly troubling. Side effects may include bad breath (due to ketosis), constipation (because of a lack of fiber), dizziness, lethargy, and insomnia. Long term effects of a low-fiber diet have been shown to include many gastrointestinal diseases, including colon cancer.
EXERCISE: No precise exercise is mandated, though the Atkins website touts the “numerous benefits” of exercise, including improved mood and mental focus, help in managing weight, and prevention of chronic health problems.
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Protein and fat, with limited vegetables. In this phase, you’ll see a dramatic drop in weight as your body kickstarts in response to reducing carbs – no more than 20 “net carb” grams per day. This phase lasts a minimum of two weeks.
Addition of certain vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds is allowed, slightly increasing carb intake without stopping weight loss. The longest stage of the diet, you will stay here until 10 pounds from weight loss goal.
Pre-maintenance stage adds 10 grams of carbohydrates to your diet each week, including starchy vegetables and some whole grains. If weight loss stops, cut carbs again, just enough to maintain a steady weight loss until goal is reached.
Lifetime maintenance stage – carb intake of 45 to 100 grams per day.
Think lifestyle NOT diet.
◗ Serve your meals on smaller plates.
◗ Fill that plate . of the way with colorful veggies.
◗ Eat a wide variety of foods.
◗ Don’t eat in front of the TV or in the car – savor your food! Chew your food slowly, and be mindful of every morsel.
◗ Reduce portion size.
◗ Eliminate processed foods.
◗ We can’t say this one enough: exercise, exercise, exercise!
Paleo: Most Natural
The claim of Paleo is that this is man’s “original” (and therefore best/ most natural) diet, and that we are designed to eat this way from an evolutionary standpoint. It has stood the test of time, having been around since the Stone Age. It gained popularity in the last few years, becoming the most googled diet of 2013. The goal is to remove all processed food and any food that causes inflammation.
Beyond weight loss, the Paleo diet also claims to control and perhaps even prevent the “diseases of civilization,” including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, aiding us in living healthier lives.
The theory behind the plan is that our over-processed, carb-heavy modern western diets are the cause of many of our ills. Returning to the eating habits of our ancient ancestors – pre-junk food – could rebalance our health.
AN ARCHAEOLOGIST WEIGHS IN: Does the Paleo diet make scientific sense? You may change your mind when you watch this Ted Talk debunking the Paleo diet: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/ Debunking-the-Paleo-Diet Christ
THE RULES: Eat what the cavemen, (or cavewomen) ate – lean meat and seafood, nuts and seeds. Get fat from healthy sources, such as avocados and coconut oil. Enjoy unlimited vegetables as long as they aren’t starchy. Avoid dairy, grains, processed food, sugar, legumes, and alcohol.
PROS: Focus is on quality nutrients, so your body will benefit from eating whole, clean foods.
CONS: Could result in nutritional deficiencies if a variety of foods aren’t consumed.
EXERCISE: The Paleo diet doesn’t suggest any particular exercise, although exercising like a caveman should probably be in the rule book.
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dukan: Strict RULES
Developed in 2000 by the French doctor Pierre Dukan, this low-fat, protein-rich diet gives you a 4-stage plan to shed extra pounds – with the promise of keeping it off. Be ready to follow the plan to a T as there are lots of specfic dos and don’ts on this program.
THE RULES: Eat unlimited foods from an approved list. Low fat. Almost no carbs. High protein.
PROS: Rapid weight loss.
CONS: Dukan is very rigid when it comes to the rules, with even the smallest slip-up deemed “destructive.” Allows for diet soda and artificial sweetener, which enables you to lose weight, but isn’t healthy. Could result in nutritional deficiencies if the Attack and Cruise Phases extend for a long period of time.
EXERCISE: Walk 20 minutes a day, working up to 30 minutes.
CELEBRITY DEVOTEES: Jennifer Lopez, Kate Middleton, Penelope Cruz
STAGE 1 (Attack Phase)
Only low-fat protein, water, and 1ó tablespoons of oat bran are allowed. The good news is you can eat as much protein as you want, such as meat, fish, tofu, eggs, or fat-free dairy. In this stage, you eat no vegetables. No fruits. No grains. Nada. This can last up to ten days but usually runs between one and four.
STAGE 2 (Cruise Phase)
This is your weight-loss phase and will last until you achieve your target weight. In this stage, you alternate days: one day is the same as the attack phase and the next is a Vegetables + Protein day. Vegetables cannot be starchy or high in carbs, such as corn, carrots, or peas.
STAGE 3 (Consolidation Phase)
This phase helps your body readjust to your new weight. Your daily allowance is Vegetables + Protein, plus a piece of fruit, two pieces of whole-grain bread, and 40 grams of cheese. Also eat two servings of starch (such as brown rice, beans, or pasta) a week.
*ONE DAY A WEEK you must follow the diet of the attack phase. For every pound you lost, follow Stage 3 for five days.
STAGE 4 (Stabilization Phase)
During this life-long stage, it’s recommended that you follow the diet of the attack phase one day per week. The other six days, eat moderately, listening to your body and choosing the foods your body has grown accustomed to eating.