Eating has never been so complicated! The world is full of people desperate to do something about their health, get in shape as quickly as possible and lose fat or build muscle – before summer really comes. There’s an enormous demand for nutritional advice – and if I’m not wrong about economics, there has to be a supply somewhere…
And you don’t even have to search for it: all kinds of magic diet plans are pushed right in your face through social media ads, forums, and emails. The selection is huge: ranging all the way from some dude claiming that keto is the answer to every bad thing in this world, to the girl wanting you to believe that she cured her incurable disease by going on paleo, or the guy preaching that he lost 50 kgs of fat while building 10 kgs of muscle in less than a month – all naturally, of course. The internet is flooded with bullshit, and it angers me so much to see stupid – or even dangerous – advice being sold (yeah, for money) to hopeful and desperate people…
In this post I’ll go over the top 5 most idiotic hyped up “healthy” diets – I’ll give my take on them, and tell you why I think they don’t work. I’ve done my research, but if you disagree with me, please share your thoughts in the comments; I’m eager to have a discussion – and maybe even learn something new – about any one of these diets!
With that being said, let’s jump right in!
I already know that I’m going to get some hate for this… But the ketogenic diet is nothing more than some trendy bullshit! It’s just wrong on so many levels – let me explain!
In case you haven’t heard about it yet, the core of the ketogenic diet is avoiding all types of carbs, and getting at least 95% of your calories from the other two macronutrients: protein and fats. The goal of this diet is to go into a state called ketosis, when your body uses fats as its primary source of energy (instead of carbs). Now, it all sounds great in theory: you avoid carbs, go into ketosis, and transform into a fat-burning machine. The problem is that the human body is slightly more complicated than that.
While it is true that carbs are the only macronutrient that you can survive without, the real question is whether or not you should attempt to go on without carbs. My answer is no.
First of all – and this isn’t even the greatest flaw of keto – leaving 5% of you calories for carbs means that you’ll have to avoid many fruits, vegetables, and other sources of fibers. Not all vegetables (since there are low-carb options), and not completely (since 5% is still more than 0%), but creating a well-balanced diet will become a challenge. More specifically: making sure you provide your body with a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, and fibers will not be doable each and every day on keto.
But let’s say you can figure that out somehow – you won’t, but let’s just play along for now. The second problem with keto is that it will become very hard to build – or even maintain – muscle-mass on keto. When you do resistance-training (like going to the gym), your muscles need an instant and efficient source of energy – this usually comes from your glycogen-stores that are found mainly in your muscles. Since you won’t really have glycogen-stores on keto (they empty out pretty fast without a resupply of carbs), your strength levels in the gym will go down. And less strength will mean less muscle. As an additional bonus – since your muscles store glycogen – after emptying out your reserves, your muscles will shrink and appear to be flatter.
My third point is that eating a low-carb diet will destroy your testosterone-levels – you know, the primary male hormone responsible for your manliness, your muscles, and a bunch of other things in your body. Lower testosterone and higher cortisol is not something you want to get yourself into if you’re serious about your fitness goals (or even your daily mood) – but that’s exactly what you’re getting in to if you go on keto.
And finally, the entire logic of keto is fundamentally flawed. Eating a high-protein diet (which keto implicates) will take your body out of ketosis, since your body will start converting amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to glucose. And glucose will definitely take you out of ketosis. So, to stay in ketosis, you would have to avoid carbs, keep your protein low (which comes with a whole new set of problems), and eat more fats. Not exactly what keto gurus preach…
And don’t even get me started on how bad keto is for your digestive track, your recovery, your immune-health, your cardiovascular system, or your overall hormonal balance… Just trust me on this one: it’s one of the worst “healthy” diets in terms of your overall health.
Ok, here’s another one of my “favorites”. According to the paleo diet, modern humans should eat just like cavemen (what the fuck is wrong with people??). If you get yourself into paleo, forget about most of the agricultural foods such as wheat, oats, potatoes, or rice; ditch sugars, dairy products, and peanuts; and more generally, don’t even look at any of the processed, artificial or cultivated foods.
Proponents of paleo claim that since eating like early humans is more natural, it must be healthier. What they’re forgetting is that the average lifespan of a caveman wasn’t that long… While there are many other reasons why we live longer today than our early ancestors did (on average), it cannot be doubted that agricultural and technical advancements have allowed us to have a healthier diet than any caveman could possibly dream about. So why take a step back?
Paleo is similar to keto in a sense that both restrict you from eating carbs (or at least certain types of carbs…paleo is less strict on this one). Taking wheat and oats out of your diet for example can mean give up some of the best sources of fibers, as well as certain vitamins and minerals. Giving up dairy doesn’t only mean that you’re saying goodbye to one of the best natural sources of probiotic microbes – neglecting dairy from your diet might even lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D.
But the list doesn’t stop there. In paleo – since you’re eating insane quantities of meat – you’ll likely eat too much protein (yes, that’s a thing…more on that later), too much red meat, and you’re almost guaranteed to consume way too much saturated fat. All this can cause heart-problems, an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol), and even increase the chance of certain types of cancer.
To summarize: you won’t build muscle or strength easier on the paleo-diet, you won’t lose fat faster, and you definitely won’t be healthier. Instead of trying to become a caveman, just count your calories and macros, and try eating healthy foods at least 80% of the time.
“Too Much Protein” Diet
If protein is needed to build muscle, then the more protein you eat, the more muscle you can build…right?
One of the main mistakes I see is people literally overdosing themselves with protein, thinking that you can’t overdo a high-protein diet. They get this idea from supplement companies eager to sell an extra bucket or two of protein powder, or from professional bodybuilders and strongmen who eat twice as much protein as a normal person can handle (spoiler alert: they’re on steroids, so the way their body processes food is different).
In reality, you should aim to eat about 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight every day. If you eat significantly less, you’re body won’t have enough resources to build – or maintain (if you’re on a cut) – quality muscle mass.
But what happens if you eat more? Like a lot more?
Well, an extremely high-protein diet is bad for you in many ways:
- It messes with your digestion system – causing bloating, incomplete digestion, diarrhea, nausea, and possibly even chronic diseases in the long-run
- It’s especially hard on your kidneys and liver, making them work overtime
- It can cause dehydration with the full spectrum of side-effects (headache, irritability, mental fog, etc.)
- Protein is probably the most expensive macronutrient per gram, so you’ll be spending an unnecessarily large amount of money on your food
Now, you have to understand that if you’re not on steroids or other PEDs, your body can only build so much muscle a day. Eating more protein – more than your body can process – won’t help you in any way. If anything, it’ll either turn into body-fat or shit – right after contributing to all those nasty side-effects that we talked about.
So, instead of gobbling down all the protein you can get your hands on, aim for a daily protein-intake of about 2 grams per kg of lean bodyweight. If reaching that target through your diet alone is a challenge (or if you just want to mix things up a bit), I’d highly recommend this high-quality whey protein isolate from Legion Athletics (use coupon-code: VIKINGFINITY for a nice little discount).
The No-Fat Diet
A few years back, I met a girl who was trying to lose fat. I avoid eating anything that has fats in it, because if I don’t eat fats, I can’t gain fat. – she told me; but it just doesn’t work that way. Eating fats won’t make you fat. Sure, eating too much fat will make you fat – but that’s true for just about anything: eating too much of anything can make you fat! You know, calories…
You can only stay alive a certain amount of time without eating fats – the exact time depends on your current body-fat levels. But you have to realize, that even if you have a lot of body-fat, it isn’t healthy to go on a no-fat diet: it won’t help you lose fat faster, but it will mess up a lot of other things in the meantime.
Besides a number of vital bodily functions (like creating cell membranes, protecting your organs, and stuff like that), your body needs fats to absorb all those fat-soluble vitamins and produce hormones (including testosterone among many others). Simply put: you need to include fats in your diet, there’s no way of going around that!
Now, it is true that fats have the highest number of calories per gram out of all the macronutrients. So you definitely don’t want to overdo it and base your entire diet on fats. But instead of condemning any macronutrient as evil, do your research and create a balanced, healthy, and sustainable diet that’s in-line with your goals!
One of the stupidest thing that desperate dieters do is go into starvation-mode, thinking that they’ll get in better shape faster that way. Again, it’s more complicated than that…
If you starve your body (anything that’s over a 30% caloric deficit is starvation) for longer periods of time, the first thing that you’ll notice is that you’ve dropped a noticeable amount of weight within the first few days – making you believe that your diet is working. But that weight is mostly just water-weight and glycogen, and that incredible speed of shredding down your kgs isn’t sustainable for more than a week or two.
If your only goal is to lose weight, then sure, by all means put yourself on a starvation diet…and make sure you stop building muscle…and go use the toilet…and get a haircut…and while you’re at it, maybe cut an arm off or something (ok, don’t take that last one seriously…but you have to admit, there’s no faster way to lose weight)…
But I’m guessing you don’t only want to lose weight – you actually want to lose fat. Well, then starvation diets aren’t for you. Starvation diets will burn a lot of fat in the short-term, but starving your body will make it hard to get into peak shape in the long-term for the following reasons:
- You’ll burn a lot of muscle – not only making you look a lot worse, but (since muscles burn energy) also slowing the rate at which your body can burn fat
- Your body will quickly adjust to your new caloric intake, slowing your metabolism, and making it harder to burn fat (sure, you can technically starve yourself even more drastically…). Oh, and once you’re done dieting, you’ll pack on weight like never before
- You’ll start experiencing hormonal imbalances, causing you to burn fat slower and lose muscle faster
- Starving is also a mental battle – one that you can’t win in the long-run, so eventually you’ll give in to one of your crazy cravings, start skipping the gym, or do something else that will erase any short-term progress you might have made so far
Not to mention that starving is unhealthy in every other – non-fitness related – way possible. If I still haven’t convinced you and you want to look like a lifeless toothpick, then I have nothing more to say. But otherwise, let’s take a look at the alternative.
Instead of starving yourself, aim for a maximum of 20%-25% caloric deficit (you can find the best calorie-calculator here), and make sure to implement a well-planned refeed-day (NOT a cheat-day) at least every 2 weeks. Hit your macros every day, keep your training on point, and – most importantly – track your progress! After the first 2 weeks (when you’re done with losing water and glycogen), you shouldn’t be losing more than 1 kg of weight a week (but losing less than 0.5 kg also means that you should adjust your diet).
There you have it, these are the top 5 trendy “healthy” diets that aren’t really that healthy at all. Instead of doing something that a random dude (who might even be on steroids) on social media recommended, do your research and create a diet-plan for yourself. The basics aren’t rocket-science, and the basics are enough to get you on the right track towards your goals.
If you need an extra boost of motivation or if you just want to follow my fitness journey, feel free to check out my Instagram – I post regular photos and fitness-updates, random thoughts, and also special discounts to all of my favorite supplements! Also, if you enjoyed reading this article, please let me know in the comments, and make sure to follow my blog!