Really, it shouldn’t be so difficult to figure out which eating regimen will set fire to fat while maintaining muscle. Fortunately, the International Society of Sports Nutrition just released its position paper, which combs through all existing scientific studies to report how every diet will affect your body composition. Here, we’ve pulled five of the most six-pack-friendly diets and streamlined how they’re great, as well as why they might be right (or wrong) for you—according to the hard science.
When you restrict your caloric intake, or cut out specific food groups, you do run the risk of having nutritional deficiencies, especially when it comes to micronutrients. Cutting out fatty foods, for example, could have the inadvertent effect of causing your omega-3 fatty acid intake to plummet, which could increase your long-term risk for cardiovascular disease (8).
The Volumetrics plan does not have a website, therefore there is no formal support, but it can be paired with any free online support program, such as SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal, both free, highly rated diet and fitness-support websites. For some people the big drawback to the Volumetrics approach is that food preparation, both shopping and cooking, is not optional -- you will need to have some level of comfort in the kitchen. However, the book features meal plans, and the recipes are reported as easy to follow by consumer reviewers. At least one expert says this particular approach is probably best for people who have hunger or portion-control issues rather than emotional eaters who often eat for reasons other than hunger. Also, if you're more a meat-and-potatoes kind of eater, you may get weary of a diet that's heavy on vegetables, fruits and soups.
This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.
What the diet advocate says: 'The key components of a Mediterranean diet are lots of vegetables, olive oil, oily fish and nuts, with no calorie restrictions. Combine that with cutting down on sugar, which was traditionally a rarity in the region, and you’ve got the base of the Mediterranean diet right. And if you get the base right you can eat a little of whatever else you like,' says Consultant Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
We all want a toned, flat stomach. No surprise there. But since many women are still relying on crunches to get it, we want to make one thing clear: Crunching is not the most effective abs workout. "Crunches work only the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it's important to target all the muscles of the core to get more defined abs—including lower back, hips, and upper thighs," says Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs. (Also try these 20 tricks for engaging your core and getting a sneaky abs workout.)
"Protein is great for fat loss. It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack. Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, eggs, milk and chickpeas. And if you’re finding it difficult to avoid snacks that are high in carbohydrates, try substituting them for protein shakes or bars. Remember also to opt for the lean sources of protein because some sources can be high in saturated fat."