Get the Skinny on 2 Diet Trends

Ketos and Macros

Natalie Hollingshead Jan 9, 2019

Fad diets typically restrict fatty foods and processed sugars, so when a popular diet allows bacon and butter — like the keto diet — or permits a doughnut here or there — like the macros diet — it’s hard not to take notice. Especially if you picked up a few pounds during the holidays.

But all structured diets have pros and cons, so it’s best to proceed with caution before you jump on any diet bandwagon, says Anne Pesek Taylor, registered dietician and Nutrition Care Services wellness dietician at the University of Utah.

The Ketogenic Diet

High-fat meats, bacon, butter and more are kosher on the ketogenic diet, which focuses on low carbohydrates and high saturated fats. Originally used as a diet for children with epilepsy, the keto diet is touted as a way to shed pounds without deprivation.

On a true ketogenic diet, the body goes into ketosis, where fat is used for energy instead of glucose, Taylor says. As fat breaks down, acids called ketones are produced.

“The initial short-term weight loss is predominately water weight,” she says. “The longer-term weight loss likely comes because of calorie restriction.”

One upside of the keto diet is people tend to feel more satiated because of their high fat intake. But Taylor doesn’t recommend the diet because of the potential risks to cardiovascular health. And because it restricts fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains, it’s lower in fiber and plant-based foods.

Recently, the former president of the American College of Cardiology advised against the keto diet for the potential increased chance of death, particularly related to cardiovascular health.

For a more balanced approach to ketosis, Taylor suggests choosing leaner animal products instead of fatty cuts, like flank instead of ribeye, and opting for healthier fats.

Regardless of whether people are going on the true ketogenic diet, I’d still recommend regular cholesterol screenings, so people can make sure their lipids are not undergoing a negative change,” she says. 

Macros Counting

The premise behind macros counting is that feeding your body its ideal macronutrients makes it more efficient. Dieters use target macros, such as 50 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 25 percent fat, and adjust the ratios depending on body type, goals and activity level. The idea is that almost any food can fit into a macros counting diet, as long as it fits your macros. Find a free macro calculator online or hire a consultant to find your target mix.  

Macros counting is popular among Cross Fit enthusiasts and body builders and has spread like wildfire on social media. Because it involves tracking calories and food intake, people may lose weight — but Today’s Dietician magazine says macros counting has no weight loss advantage compared to any other calorie-counting plans. Plus, many online macros counting services have inaccurate nutritional information and sell pricey meal plans. 

A Better Way

If you want to lose weight, Taylor recommends skipping structured or restrictive diets altogether and meeting with a nutritionist to come up with a long-term, sustainable plan.

“For any long-term weight loss, the key is creating an eating pattern that feels enjoyable and sustainable for the individual, and that looks different for everyone,” she says. 

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