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Conquer Food Fads

Blog by squad nutritionist Julia Blanton

With fad diets constantly coming and going, the simple act of choosing what to eat can leave us bewildered, overwhelmed, and frozen. Rather than making a few small changes, we find ourselves drowning in information and unsure how to take the first step. So, how do we navigate this ever-changing landscape of nutrition advice?

While every food fad has something of value, they are often too extreme, unsustainable, or more focused on selling you a product than actually improving your health or athletic performance. The key is extracting the value of the diet without getting caught up in the hype.

One example of a fad that has run full course is the gluten-free fad. It is estimated that only 1% of the population has celiac disease and must truly avoid gluten. A handful of others, with autoimmune conditions, also tend to steer clear of gluten. However, taking gluten out of the diet used to be very beneficial to all people because it meant avoiding most processed foods. Unfortunately, following the typical progression of fad diets, processed food marketeers caught on and now there are gluten-free cakes, pretzels, crackers, pasta, pizza, and much more. Did you know there is even gluten-free water and shampoo?!

Gluten-free alternatives can be liberating for those who truly must avoid gluten, but in most cases these processed food products are no better than the original versions. The takeaway is: we can all benefit from reducing how much gluten we consume (less hamburger buns, pastries, Goldfish, and Oreos), as  long as we replace these foods with fresh unprocessed alternatives, not simply a gluten-free version of the same thing. As for water and shampoo… did water ever have gluten, and do people eat shampoo?

Another fad diet, which is just gaining momentum, is the keto diet. The basic parameters of the keto diet are: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. This puts body into a metabolic state called ketosis, whereby the body becomes very efficient at burning fat and ketones for fuel. Originally this diet was created to treat children with epilepsy. Now it is becoming the hottest trend in weight loss. The keto diet is also celebrated for massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, a huge benefit for those with type-2 diabetes. The greatest value of the keto diet is it eliminates sugar, processed foods, sugary beverages, and alcohol (no wonder it helps people with weight loss and type-2 diabetes). Also, fats are satiating so people do not feel hungry on this diet. Due to a relatively simple set of guidelines, the keto diet is easy for people to understand and follow.

Of course, there are a few downsides to the keto diet. During the first few weeks many people experience fatigue, brain fog, insomnia and diarrhea. Such side effects can be challenging for any person, but especially for athletes, whereby it would impact training and performance. In the long term, ketosis can be hard on the kidney and liver. Perhaps one of the more superficial, but convincing downsides is keto breath, perpetual bad breath. Another big concern with the keto diet is the quality of fats people are consuming. With 75% of the diet being fat, keto followers should be sure opt for grass-fed beef, grass-fed butter, pastured chicken/eggs, wild fish, and cold pressed oils over conventionally raised animals and oxidized, low quality fats. Lastly, the keto diet is very strict and for most people not sustainable, which means results can be short lived.

We are still in the early stages of the keto trend, but it won’t take long for the processed food industry to catch on and before you know it, you will see  “keto cookies” in the grocery checkout line. The takeaway is: we can all benefit from reducing sugar, alcohol, and processed foods, and eating enough fats to curb hunger and boost satiety.

Before you dive headfirst into the next fad diet, take a critical look and avoid getting caught up in extremes, hype, and the financial pitfalls of over-priced items specially formulated for your new diet. Instead, extract the value (reduce sugar, increase vegetables, cut back on processed foods, etc) and incorporate these select changes into your life.

Contact Julia for a complimentary consultation to learn more about sustainable nutrition and lifestyle strategies for long term results and use code TRICOACHMARTIN to get 10% off her 4-week coaching package.

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