Pros and Cons of Popular Diets for Your Wedding Day

by Aisha Farndon on 26/01/2016

A complete run-down of the pros and cons of popular diets (and the few universal truths that aid in weight loss)

 

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The Basics of Weight Loss

You may have heard it before, but weight loss essentially comes down to calories in versus calories out. In fact, a professor conducted a study where he lived off junk food and protein shakes but still lost weight (1).

To lose one pound, your body needs to burn 3,500 calories less than it consumes.

BUT that doesn’t account for body composition. Do you want to lose fat or muscle too? When it comes to your wedding day, we’re pretty certain you want your body fat percentage to go down to give you that toned look.

It’s All About Your Macros (Especially Protein Intake)

There’s a large movement towards flexible eating at the moment – so long as your macros are right, then you can consume whatever you like. Macros are the balance between carbs, protein and fat.

Now it gets contentious. Some say you can lose weight on carbs, others not so.

Once thing most experts accept is you need a certain amount of protein to ensure most of your fat loss comes from fat and not muscle when dieting. Most official authorities say you need at least 0.36g of protein a day per pound of body (2). When you’re restricting your calories, though, it is generally accepted that to avoid muscle loss you need to at least double that (3) - many recommend up to 1g per pound of body weight (4). So if you were 10st you’d need to consume around 100g of protein per day!

With this in mind, we review the pros and cons of the latest diets, like Diet Chef, shake diets, the Paleo diet, the low carb diet, Weight Watchers and the calorie controlled diet.

DIET CHEF

It’s simple – they have a wide range of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks available on their site. You order a month’s supply and tell them what meals you would like. The idea is that each meal is around the same amount of calories, so you can eat whatever option takes your fancy that day.

(Comments made below are based on a selection of Original Ganola, Tomato and Beef Soup, Italian Bolognese and Fruit and Spice Oat Bar. The nutritional info was: 716 calories, 29.88g fat, 95g carbs, 12.15g fibre, 27.89g of protein and 3.281g of salt.)

Pros

  • Hassle-free – no planning, preparing or cooking required.
  • Wide range of choices, including normally “guilty options”.
  • Portion control is done for you.

Cons

  • You are very likely to lose muscle mass with this diet. The protein in a typical day is extremely low at under 30g.
  • The calorie restriction is probably below the recommended 20-25% reduction for most, even with their recommended fruit supplementation).
  • Not good for those on a low carb diet as the carbs in a day’s selection were 95g.
  • It is expensive for what it is. Supermarket own-brand healthy range ready meals plus buying your own granola and snacks are around £50 - £90 per month cheaper.
  • Supermarket meals often have more protein. Tesco’s Healthy Living Range offer over 20g protein per meal versus around 14g.
  • You aren’t being taught how to control your meals yourself, meaning you may then put on more weight again.

THE CAMBRIDGE DIET

With the help of a consultant you can choose a complete meal replacement option, or opt for one a programme that include healthy eating alongside meal replacements. Depending on your starting BMI and target weight, you will start on a plan ranging from 440 to 1500 kcal per day.

Pros

  • A consultant is on hand for added motivation and to keep you accountable.
  • The extreme calorie restriction should result in rapid weight loss.
  • You may be more motivated to keep going after the initial good results.

Cons

  • You are likely to be extremely hungry if starting on one of the lower calorie stages and so may be less likely to stick to it.
  • With such severe restriction, protein intake is likely to be below minimum levels to prevent the weight loss coming from muscle as well as fat.
  • Expensive – the plan costs around £50 per week.
  • It may be hard to maintain long-term weight loss.
  • You may not have the energy to exercise

LOW CARB

This needs no introduction! Popular diets eliminate carbs to a certain amount a day. The Atkins limits you to under 20g per day in the initial stages, whilst others recommend no more than 50g for fast fat loss or under 100g for steady but more gradual fat loss (5).

Pros

  • Many people see fast results, encouraging them to keep going initially.
  • Protein intake is naturally higher as a result.
  • Reduces bloating for a lot of people.
  • Reduces risk of diabetes and insulin resistance caused by excessive carbohydrates.
  • If carbs aren’t heavily restricted i.e. up to 100g, it is possible to add in non-starchy non-vegetable carbs like sweet potato in moderation and still fall under your allowance.

 

Cons

  • A lot harder to eat on-the-go meals and snacks.
  • Many people argue that the weight loss is not due to the low carbohydrate content but due to calorie restriction and others argue it’s simply due to the fact that protein intake is naturally increased (6).
  • Some people mistakenly think they can eat as many calories as they want, so long as it’s low carb, which leads to weight gain.
  • May people crash and burn without carbs.
  • You may not have the energy to exercise.
  • People may restrict fruits, which have many beneficial nutrients.

 

WEIGHT-WATCHERS (SmartPoints)

Weight Watchers offers the No-Count approach – where you can eat as much of healthy foods as you like (the idea being you will become full before you hit your calorie intake) and the SmartPoints. The latter is restrictive on foods and only works if you don’t guzzle down 100 “free foods” from sheer boredom, so here are the pros and cons of the SmartPoints system.

Saturated fat is weighted at 9 x, sugar at  4x and protein at -3.2x i.e. protein is favoured heavily and saturated fat is seen as the “most evil”! (7)

Pros

  • You’re held accountable by online or in-person meetings.
  • The SmartPoints are weighted in favour of a good carb / protein / fat ratio so you can see at-a-glance which foods are generally better for you.
  • No food is off-limits.
  • Encourages exercise by giving you extra points for this.
  • You get weekly “splurge” points – realistic of everyday life.
  • Not too expensive.

Cons

  • There is no guarantee you will choose to eat the right combinations, just less of the “good stuff”.
  • Placing saturated fat at double the negatives of sugar may not be in line with current medical thinking i.e. good fats and protein can keep you fuller for longer.

FLEXIBLE DIETING – AS LONG AS THE MACROS ARE RIGHT

Eat what you like – so long as you hit your protein / fat /carbs ratios.

Pros

  • Very flexible
  • Encourages you to think about your diet and adopt a healthy and sustainable lifestyle
  • Lots of fitness enthusiasts take this approach online, so good support

Cons

  • You need to research the ideal macros ratio for your goals
  • Can be time-consuming working it all out and planning appropriate meals

 

Sources:

  • http://www.themarysue.com/twinkie-diet/
  • http://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/
  • http://www.completehumanperformance.com/dieting-protein-needs/
  • http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-protein-build-muscle/
  • http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-continuum/
  • http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet/
  • http://calorielab.com/news/2015/10/08/weight-watchers-pointsplus-formula/