Unlike diets of the ‘90s and early ‘00s, where the focus was on lowering calorie intake and eating excessive amounts of seemingly random foods (remember the grapefruit fad diet?), the following three diets are more concerned with macronutrient intake, reducing processed foods and boosting your consumption if whole foods.
This format is healthier and more beneficial for our minds, muscles and bodies. Use the following information to figure out which one will help you reach your fitness goals.
Good for: Short-term detoxing and re-introducing foods
General intake: Whole foods; no dairy, added sugars (real or artificial), grains or soy
One of the greatest benefits of this diet is the sheer amount of resources available to you from The Whole30® Program alone. The Whole30® downloads page allows you to access a shopping list, additives cheat sheet, meal template, produce guide, pantry stocking guide, meat guide and much more—all for free.
Not to mention, as a popular diet, you can search #Whole30 on Instagram and find thousands of photos of Whole30-approved meals that are creative, fun and most importantly, realistic.
In addition to the general intake rules, there are a number of others that you must follow for the 30 days: No alcohol, legumes, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods or junk food—this includes treats made with “approved” ingredients. A muffin is still a muffin—even if it’s made with coconut flour. This diet is about making lifestyle changes to rewire your brain to not want these foods.
What’s more, the creators don’t want you to step on the scale for the duration of your diet: “The Whole30 is about so much more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, lifelong benefits this plan has to offer,” according to the Whole30® official rules.
Because the program is so comprehensive in terms of what you can’t eat, after the Whole30, it’s recommended to add foods back into your diet slowly. This allows you to see how they react within your body. If bread is causing stomach pain, for example, you know it’s likely not something you should eat. This is a smart and simple way to determine what’s good and not good for your specific needs.
2. Paleo Diet
Good for: Boosting nutrients, building muscle
General intake: Low carb, high protein and moderate fat
With a high-protein intake, one of the largest benefits of the paleo diet, in terms of fitness, is the prospect of feeding your muscles more effectively—especially if you know you typically do not reach your daily protein requirements (.8 per kilogram of body weight). Plus, that number goes up when your activity level increases, or when you’re trying to build muscle.
One of the staples of this diet is no added sugar, which is also extremely valuable because sugar has been proven to damage our bodies. It’s also not the natural way for our bodies maintain blood sugar (glucose) levels:
“We do not need to eat sugar to maintain blood glucose level… Until relatively recently, our dietary source of glucose was derived from complex carbohydrates, principally from grains,” according to “Toxic effects of sugar: should we be afraid of fructose?”
While paleo doesn’t allow for grains, you can rely on starches like sweet potato and squash instead, keeping added sugars far away from your diet. Because of the focus on whole foods, you’ll also be getting more fiber and iron, along with a wide range of other antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Because it’s become such a popular lifestyle, many well-known brands have created paleo-friendly options, making it easier to indulge while sticking with the diet.
To get started with a paleo diet, check out our free, 3-day meal plan for beginners.
Good for: Losing weight
General intake: Low carb, high fat
The ketogenic diet, also called the “keto diet,” stems from a natural process within the body. Ketosis happens in survival situations, when food is low and your body needs energy to live. When this happens, the body produces ketones, the product of broken down fat from the liver.
Under normal circumstances, our bodies live off of glucose, the broken down form of carbohydrates. With this low-carb diet, your body instead turns to its second favorite source of energy, fat, and becomes much more efficient at burning that fat.
This change in fuel sources can often lead to quick weight loss: in a 69-person study of overweight or obese men and women, those who ate the low-carb diet had 4.4 percent less fat mass than those who didn’t.
If you have fitness goals to build muscle and strength, the keto diet can be a good option for you as well because it’s a “protein-sparing” diet. With plenty of fat to use for energy, the body doesn’t need to use protein to generate glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis. This keeps your protein in tact for repairing muscles.
The goal is to have a calorie intake with 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs, according to Authority Nutrition.