We are quickly approaching that time of year when we start to ponder our New Year’s resolutions. Most people have at least one goal that includes fitness, nutrition and/or weight loss thus leaving us vulnerable to the lure of fad diets.
Fad diets are weight-loss programs or supplements that promise to deliver quick weight loss with minimal effort. Fad diets are appealing to so many, as time is always a factor, but the negative implications in health and performance are not worth the risk. Fad diets are not supported with scientific research; therefore, the claims made regarding the products and/or ways of eating are not proven to be healthful or effective over the long term. The long-term use of fad diets has led to dangerous conditions that include dehydration, proteolysis (muscle protein loss), hypotension, and possible liver and kidney failure. Most fad diets are unmanageable, and the short-term weight loss is usually gained back once the person is no longer or is unable to follow the diet. Weight loss is usually water and glycogen loss, and is counterproductive to athletic performance as it can cause dehydration and early onset of fatigue. The best way to distinguish a fad diet from a healthful program is to recognize these important characteristics. Fad diets usually do the following:
- Recommend eliminating or limiting certain foods or food groups.
- Claim weight loss of greater than 1 or 2 pounds per week.
- Sounds too good to be true.
- Promise that you will not have to modify your diet at all, meaning that you can eat unhealthy foods and still lose weight.
- Have dramatic pictures, exaggerated statements and claims.
- Necessitate that you must buy the product in bulk, purchase meals or shakes, or attend seminars for the plan to be successful.
- Have studies that are not reviewed by other researchers.
There is no quick way to lose weight; weight loss is a gradual process that requires dietary and exercise modifications, consistency and patience in order to achieve long-term success. Although some fad diet are popular and may “work” for a short time, the risks far outweigh the temporary benefits.
For more information on preventing the pitfalls of fad diets, read our previous post 15 Tips to Avoid Gaining 15 by 2015.
More information can be found in 100 Questions and Answers About Sports Nutrition and Exercise by Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC.
Do you have a nutrition or exercise question? If so, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org . Questions will be answered on a monthly basis.