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Popular modern diets, demystified

Losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions that people make every year. The best way to lose weight, of course, is through diet and exercise. But with so many different diets floating around, how do you pick the right one? Use this as your guide to navigate some of the most popular modern diets as we head into the new year.

Paleo Diet

Paleo diet on a wood table
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The main idea behind the Paleo Diet is to eat foods that humans were intended to eat by sharing the same diet as our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors. It’s also commonly called the Caveman Diet or the Stone Diet.

The Paleo Diet is a high-protein, high-fiber diet that focuses on eating lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Staying away from any processed foods is a must. Since agriculture hadn’t been invented yet, sticking to a Paleo Diet means avoiding all dairy and grains as well.

What people really like about this diet is that it’s relatively low effort to maintain. There’s no calorie counting or special recipes involved. You can pretty much eat whatever you’d like for all three meals as long as you stay within the guidelines.

Keto Diet

Foods laid out on a table that are in the Keto diet
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The Ketogenic Diet, or Keto for short, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that’s similar to many other popular low-carb diets. The idea is to put your body into ketosis, which is a metabolic state that makes your body burn fat as its primary energy source instead of carbohydrates.

There are a few different versions of the Keto Diet:

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): the most common Keto Diet. It involves very low carb intake, moderate amounts of protein, and high fat. The breakdown is usually 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): you can eat carbs only around workouts when you know you’ll burn them off.
  • High-protein Ketogenic diet: very similar to the Standard Ketogenic Diet except that you add more protein to the ratio. Instead of the standard percentages, the high-protein diet uses 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% fat. This is most similar to another famous low-carb diet: the Atkins Diet.
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): this version of the Keto Diet requires two high-carb days per week followed by five very low carb days.

Atkins Diet

Pile of almonds
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The Atkins Diet is probably the most well-known low-carb diet. It’s very similar to the Keto Diet but with a few key differences. Both the Atkins and the Keto Diets require you to extremely limit your carb intake. The difference is that the Atkins Diet allows more freedom and flexibility as the diet progresses and ultimately allows you to eat some carbs in the end.

The Atkins Diet progresses in four stages:

  • Stage 1 (induction): the most similar to the Keto Diet. This stage requires extremely low carb intake with mostly high-fat and high-protein foods. This starts the weight loss by putting your body into ketosis.
  • Stage 2 (balancing): once you start losing weight, you can slowly start to add more nuts and some fruit back into your menus.
  • Stage 3 (fine-tuning): as you approach your goal weight, start adding in more carbs to slow down the weight loss and add more balance.
  • Stage 4 (maintenance): once you hit your goal weight, it’s time to maintain it. You’re allowed to eat as many healthful carbs as you want without regaining the weight. This stage is tricky not to go too far and lose your progress.

Intermittent fasting

Empty white plate with silverware on table
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Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of attention in the past few years, most likely because of the lack of dietary restrictions. Instead of telling you what not to eat like most diets, intermittent fasting is all about when you can eat.

There are three popular methods for intermittent fasting:

  • 16/8 method: fast for 16 hours every day. For most people, it means skipping breakfast and only eating between 1-9pm, eight hours, every day before fasting again.
  • Eat-stop-eat: fast for a full 24 hours once or twice per week. That doesn’t mean going a full day without food, but rather waiting one full day before eating again. For example, if you eat dinner Monday night, don’t eat again until dinner on Tuesday. That way, you get a full 24 hours of fasting. For the other days of the week, eat normally.
  • 5:2 diet: for two non-consecutive days per week, limit your food intake to 600 calories. For the other five days of the week, you can eat normally.

The trick to losing weight with intermittent fasting is to not go crazy on the days you’re allowed to eat normally. Just because you did well and fasted yesterday, doesn’t mean you can eat an entire bag of Doritos today. This makes it hard for some people to stay on track.

Of course, as with anything that affects your health, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any diet.