What’s The Best Diet? (In terms of fat loss)
Keto, Paleo, Vegan, and more. What’s the best diet? I get asked this a lot and before you go reading this whole thing know this: HOW MUCH we eat is the most important thing to manage when trying to lose fat. WHAT we eat (aka what diet we follow) has little to do with fat loss. Other than protein is required and veggies help a lot.
What’s also important is:
- Finding what works for you.
- Dietary preferences like taste, allergy/intolerance, or religion
- Implementation, cost, and logistics of the diet
- Personal genetic variation around what’s best for your body
Putting these factors together, for example, you might have the genetics to thrive on a low-carb-high-fat diet (Keto), but let’s say you also have a nut allergy and don’t like avocados or olive oil. So the keto diet isn’t going to work for you, despite how it may be metabolically ideal.
Or you might be susceptible to iron deficiency but have never eaten red meat, nor will you ever, because of personal preferences, no matter how ill you feel with iron deficiency.
In all my years as a Nutritionist, personal preferences outweigh diet optimization.
But you came here to see my rankings so let’s get to it.
Here are the big name-brand diets i’m going to touch on:
- Intermittent Fasting
- Weight Watchers
What i’m looking for in the best diet:
- It has enough protein, because to lose fat you have to exercise, and the more you exercise, the more protein you need
- It has lots of vegetables and some fruits. They keep us feeling satisfied, fight disease, help us poop, give us glowing skin, and more
- It has healthy fats. They are good for our brains and hormones
- Has the right amount of calories. A deficit to lose fat but eating enough to feel OK and exercise well.
- It is low in saturated fat because it is linked to heart disease
- It is low in processed foods because they are linked to cancer and obesity; and they can make it difficult to stay in a caloric deficit.
This is a very high-fat, very low-carb diet. It allows a decent amount of protein but not too much since protein can be converted into carbs, and that breaks us out of ketosis. What is ketosis by the way? It’s a safe and common metabolic state for humans when food is scarce or while eating a very low-carb diet. Ketosis does not provide a metabolic advantage for fat loss. Fat loss still comes down to calories.
The Keto diet is healthy if it’s done right, because it contains a lot of vegetables and healthy fats. If we eat too much saturated fat (bacon etc.), the Keto diet is probably deadly. A diet high in saturated fat causes heart disease in most people.
Keto’s main drawback is implementation. It’s such a diversion from a typical diet, that most people find it impossible to implement. It is also not a good diet for activities that require high heart rates like HIIT classes, hockey, or rugby; because fat cannot be oxidized into energy fast enough for the high intensity required by those activities.
Keto’s advantage is that high fat intakes cause temporary malabsorption of fat. So you can eat all these nuts and avocados and instead of your body absorbing all those calories, you poop some of the calories out. But in a few weeks or months, the body gets better at absorbing the fat, and the effectiveness of the Keto diet diminishes. Combine that with the fact that it’s harder to lose weight once you’ve lost a significant amount, and this is why we see most Keto dieters return to a normal diet after a few months. I have yet to meet a person who has done Keto longer than a year.
That all said, you can do Keto part time. And in 10-20 years we may see the Keto diet be the #1 recommended diet for prevention of chronic disease. So stay tuned. But for now, Keto is not the best diet for fat loss.
For this article I’ll be speaking about 16:8 fasting, where the fast is 16 hours and the feeding window is eight hours. This diet provides no metabolic advantage for fat loss. The fast is too short for all the cool fasting benefits to kick in. The main benefit to 16:8 fasting is it can sometimes reduce night-time junk food eating. I’ve never seen it work for more than a few months though. People who have night-time eating problems have a stress coping problem. A little promise you make to yourself about not eating after 8pm isn’t significant enough to fix a real over-eating problem.
16:8 fasting reduces muscle recovery, especially in older adults who need more time to digest and metabolize protein.
No animals or animal by products. Only plants. It’s hard to get enough protein but if executed conscientiously and with some vegan protein powder, protein is adequate. Some people will quickly develop mineral deficiencies like iron deficiency on this diet, but supplements can take care of that too. It’s difficult to eat at restaurants.
The bastardized version of this diet is peanut butter sandwiches and pasta. Eating this limited fare will likely cause obesity, lethargy, and deficiency. The ideal version of veganism includes 10-20 cups of vegetables and fruit a day.
Veganism is not the best diet for fat loss.
The thing some people miss on their way to becoming vegan, is that you can eat a ton of fruit and veg AND a little bit of steak and your diet becomes optimal. You don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) eliminate an entire food group (meat). Some people have a difficult time with these little “gray areas” or nuances with nutrition, so they go all one way or the other.
No plants. Just meat. Vitamin C deficiency usually occurs (unless we eat a lot of organ meats) and thus collagen cannot be made fast enough. Gums and lips crack and bleed. If you are thinking, “That’s scurvy!” you would be correct. The only time to try this diet is in a food elimination experiment, where after three weeks you introduce some foods and see how you react.
The carnivore diet is not the best diet for fat loss.
Vegan, but allows dairy and maybe eggs. Obviously it makes it easier to get protein but iron deficiency is still common here.
I’d say this diet comes in 2nd or 3rd place.
This diet doesn’t have hardcore rules, but it’s your basic “Meat, veg, potatoes” kinda diet, where the meat is often fish, and the carb portion is about 1 cup (instead of 2-4 cups in the typical Western diet).
There are also consistent intakes of nuts and olives which provide essential fats.
Furthermore, there is a culture implied with this diet, that the food is grown close to home and meals are home-made (not processed). Slow eating is also encouraged. Over-eating is discouraged (in Europe generally speaking, as opposed to the USA where over-eating has become somewhat of a sport). Studies on the Mediterranean diet show the lowest levels of chronic disease. There is a lack of large-scale studies on keto or paleo diets unfortunately, or we might see similar benefits in these diets too.
This is the best diet for fat loss.
The main benefit of this diet is the group meetings, which are incredibly significant. This is in spite of what is an absolutely horrendous nutrition system of reducing food to a point system. Why not just teach people to count calories? That can’t be any more complicated than points.
I used to slam this diet for ignoring protein but they recently made protein a bigger priority.
When people reach their goal, they often stop going to the meetings, removing the very thing that helped them lose the weight. They never learned how to eat healthy (in my practice that’s the main goal – face your demons and learn how to eat).
- Nothing processed: Not even bread or dairy products other than unpasteurized milk, which is a food poisoning risk.
- No grains for fear of inflammation. That means no corn!
- No legumes because of their “anti-nutrients” (chemicals that pull minerals out of our body). This is a bit extreme. Certainly a daily serving of black beans or peas isn’t going to cause a mineral deficiency
- Lots of vegetables
- Lots of protein
- Healthy fat from nuts, seeds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil
No deficiencies are created with the Paleo diet.
The bastardized version of Paleo has people (usually men) eating way too much protein, too much saturated fat, and an suffering through an inappropriate restriction of carbohydrates and fruit. This is incredibly ironic since the group that made Paleo popular need a lot of carbs for optimal performance: Crossfit! Remember, we need a decent amount of carbs in our diet to perform high intensity exercise.
So overall, the Paleo diet is awesome because it doesn’t cause any deficiencies and it’s easy enough to implement if you can live without pizza, crackers, hummus, Bran Buds cereal, and milk. It’s unnecessarily restrictive against legumes, bread, and dairy but those rules made it easy to understand. Often, people lose weight on Paleo because they aren’t allowed to eat their favourite junk foods. The Paleo diet is the second-best diet or fat loss.
A few years ago, I went Paleo for seven weeks to see if it reduced joint pain. It did not. But it did reduce muscle stiffness which was interesting. I ate a lot of olives, cashews, and pears for my treats.
Here it is, my ranking of the best diets for fat loss!
The Others? Well, if they work for you, then I have to support them.
- The more you restrict a food, the more likely you are to crave it
- There are genetic tests for certain nutrition abilities, and it can sometimes inform us on what diet approach to follow. Sometimes it’s a waste of money. I offer nutrigenomic testing if you are interested.
- You cannot make a person follow a diet
- Many people claim to follow a diet but actually only follow it 80-90% of the time
- People who have lost more than 50 lbs and kept it off all have these things in common:
- The track their eating somehow
- They exercise at least 3.5 hours a week (about 30-60 minutes a day)
- They eat a lot of vegetables
- They rarely run out of groceries
- They do not let others influence their eating
Reach out to me if you need help! [email protected]
Want to take a deep dive into how fat loss works? Check out my online course “How Fat Loss Works” https://kylebyronnutrition.thinkific.com/courses/how-fat-loss-works
Want to work with us? Book a session from this page on my website: www.kylebyronnutrition.janeapp.com
Please discuss with me or your doctor before adopting a new diet.