Possible Pitfalls of Popular Fad Diets
Especially for Active
By Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES -
Atlanta Sports Mag"Lose 10 pounds in 2
"Melt away fat 24 hours a day, seven days a
What more could you ask for? How about
seriously impaired athletic ability, kidney failure, and premature
osteoporosis? These are much more realistic results from certain fad diets and
products on the market today.
Trendy weight-loss marvels, such as Dr.
Atkins New Diet Revolution, The Zone, and Metabolife 356, entice both
aspiring and hardcore athletes with their alluring headlines and promises. It's
surprising how many intelligent athletes fall prey to these false
No matter what the sport, many athletes are
torn between body image issues and the drive to succeed athletically. This
internal conflict leads rational individuals to experiment with these
So if you find yourself hopelessly falling
short of completing that 10K or struggling to do that extra set of reps, fad
diets and products may be the culprits.
Tempted to try one of these diets? If
optimal athletic performance is your goal, here are 10 reasons to avoid these
fads at all costs:
1. Osteoporosis. High-protein diets,
such as the Atkins diet, have been shown to increase calcium excretion. Over
time, premature osteoporosis can develop and lead to a higher chance of broken
bones while training.
2. Kidney failure. Consuming too much
protein increases susceptibility to kidney disease. Both the American Heart
Association and American Cancer Society recommend a diet including only 10% to
15% of calories derived from protein. The Zone recommends 30%!
3. Ketosis. Ketosis is a dangerous
metabolic state in which your body burns fat and protein instead of glucose.
Proponents of low-carbohydrate diets actually promote ketosis as a wonderful
benefit of the plan. This condition can eventually cause organs to fail and
lead to side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, irritability, and headaches
all of which minimize performance.
4. Insomnia. Both fad diets and
associated products can interrupt normal sleep patterns. Inadequate rest can
bring about accidents during a workout due to exhaustion or weakness. Insomnia
sufferers may have impaired concentration and decreased ability to accomplish
daily tasks, let alone strenuous workouts.
5. Loss of muscle mass. The Hollywood
48 Hour Miracle Diet pledges that "in just 48 hours you will cleanse your body
and lose up to 10 pounds." Similar liquid and semi-starvation plans promising
"rapid" or "effortless" weight loss lead to insufficient caloric intake. The
outcome is loss of water, muscle, and organ tissue with little to no fat loss.
So not only will you struggle to build new muscle, but you will actually lose
strength and lower your metabolism.
6. Dehydration. High protein intake
causes excess urination resulting in dehydration. Dehydration impairs
temperature regulation so your body is unable to cool itself efficiently, thus
decreasing stamina and increasing recovery time. Severe dehydration jeopardizes
mental concentration, muscular strength, physical work capacity, and increases
the threat of heat exhaustion.
7. Increased risk of injury. Nutrient
and caloric deficiencies can decrease alertness and stamina, enhancing your
risk of injury. A less obvious cause of injury is the caffeine, ephedrine, or
other stimulants that many diet aids contain. These elements create a false
perception of increased energy, causing you to push yourself harder than you
should, potentially harming joints or muscles. Since 1994, the FDA has received
more than 800 reports of serious adverse effects associated with use of
products containing ephedrine, such as Metabolife 356.
8. Nutritional imbalances. Diets like
Sugar Busters! suggest avoiding certain foods, including potatoes, rice, and
carrots, all of which are packed with nutrition. An imbalanced diet that lacks
key nutrients will prevent you from performing at your peak.
9. Reduced endurance. With most quick
weight loss plans, glycogen and water are the first materials to be depleted.
This deficit can be disastrous to performance and health, as you will lose
energy to power muscles, leading to fatigue and lethargy.
10. Compromised immunity. Nutritional
deficiencies can make you drastically more vulnerable to both minor and major
illnesses. These sick days equate to loss of conditioning, missed trainings and
skipped events. Many supplements claiming to be "herbal" or "natural," such as
Herbalife, may also interfere with certain medications. Just because something
is all-natural does not mean it is safe. After all, cyanide occurs
Fad diets have quickly taken over the
booming weight loss industry with their persuasive claims. The initial weight
loss you experience with these plans is usually only temporary, and the
consequences will catch up to you.
"The safest and most effective way to lose
weight is to reduce calories and increase physical activity," says Suzianne
Ellington Garner, public health advisor in the Division of Nutrition and
Physical Activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The fact is the majority of people who are
attempting weight loss are not using the correct method to achieve or maintain
You work hard to reach your athletic goals.
Why invest your hopes and money in feeble empty promises? Rather, stay
competitive and make your health, not your appearance, one of lifes top
priorities. Know that when you hear about a new miracle diet that sounds too
good to be true it probably is.
Valerie Applebaum is a certified health
educator with a Masters degree in Public Health. Through speaking, writing, and
web communications, she has focused her career on educating others on healthy
behaviors that will enhance both physical and emotional well-being.
The author included the following
addendum to this story, in light of recent research on the subject of
'High-protein diets Whats
the big deal?'
Of all the trendy fad diets available today,
the high-protein/low-carb programs are by far the most popular, not to mention
the most controversial. From magazines to newspapers to television, these diets
are the subject of heated debates.
Interestingly, new studies have been
conducted indicating that these diets may not be as dangerous as once thought.
The July 2002 issue of the American Journal of Medicine highlights a
study recently carried out by Duke University Medical Center which reveals
Preliminary research results indicate that a
low-carbohydrate diet can lead to significant and sustained weight loss. Even
more surprising, the analysis shows that patients cholesterol levels
improved by the end of six months.
A similar study performed at the University
of Cincinnati concludes that individuals who follow a high-protein diet for six
months may lose more weight than those on a standard low-fat diet, and they
appear to experience no cardiovascular problems as a result.
Keep in mind that both of these studies
emphasize that the long-term effects of these diets still remain unknown.
When all is said and done, the choice is
yours. If youre thinking about trying a high-protein diet, do some
research and make an informed decision about which plan is best for you.
If you decide that high-protein is the way
to go, follow these tips to protect your health:
1. Check with your doctor before starting
any new diet
2. Try it for the short term only six
months or less
3. Drink ample water to avoid
4. Monitor your blood pressure regularly
5. Take a daily multivitamin
6. Do not diet when pregnant or