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.
Yet it’s an incredibly well-rounded way to lose weight that ditches gimmicks and doesn’t require calorie or macronutrient counting as other diets do. And with the emphasis on healthy fat, it’s satisfying, too. That said, the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Diets ranked the Mediterranean diet as No. 1 for Best Diets Overall and it ranks 17 in their list of Best Weight-Loss Diets. (3) The reviewers note that it’s not a slam dunk, and all depends on how you eat. Even healthy diets like the Mediterranean aren’t free-for-all eating plans.
When it comes to condiments, mustard is about as healthy and low cal as it gets, and the pungent yellow stuff that contains about 5 calories per teaspoon has also been found to stimulate weight loss. Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that eating just one teaspoon of mustard can boost the metabolism by up to 25 percent for several hours after it’s been consumed. Researchers attribute this to capsaicin and allyl isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that give the mustard its characteristic flavor. So instead of reaching for the sickeningly sweet ketchup, make sure you have mustard on hand at your next BBQ.
That’s because the DASH Diet has been proven to work, says Reshmi Srinath, M.D., an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. One study found that people who followed the DASH Diet had lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels than those who consumed a typical American diet or an American diet infused with extra fruits and veggies.
Also, if you listen to Dr Bernstein talk about his childhood (he is well into his 80’s), the “original” recommended diet was only ketogenic in the sense that it was high-carb and caused keto-acidosis, which he describes as almost killing him as a teenager. He still considers the ADA recommendations as ketogenic for this reason (you only have to listen to him a short time to hear him railing against the ADA).
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.

Klein S, Sheard NF, Pi-Sunyer S, Daly A, Wylie-Rosett J, Kulkarni K, Clark NG. Weight management through lifestyle modification for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: rationale and strategies. A statement of the American Diabetes Association, the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:257–263. [PubMed]
Shortly after World War II, Ancel Keys and colleagues (including Paul Dudley White, later President Eisenhower’s heart doctor) organized the remarkable Seven Countries Study to examine the hypothesis that Mediterranean-eating patterns contributed directly to improved health outcomes. This long-running study examined the health of almost thirteen thousand middle-aged men in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, and then-Yugoslavia.
Full disclosure: I have followed a low-carb diet for nearly a decade and find no problem adhering to it. I’ve lost weight and all my cardiovascular biomarkers have improved. Moreover, I’ve studied the science and history behind low-carbohydrate diets, so beyond my personal experience, I bring an evidence-based perspective. (Previously, for 25+ years, I adhered faithfully to a “mostly plants” regimen of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, including my own homemade 7-grain bread, while exercising religiously. Yet during that time my blood lipids were unhealthy, and I never could shake an extra 10-20 pounds.)
The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
As always, I encourage you to speak to your own doctor about whether or not this diet may be right for you. And, if you decide to go for it, be sure to check in with your doctor regularly to make sure your body is responding well. Those patients who do respond well to the diet will be rewarded with less symptoms and may even be able to completely get off of their medications.
Based on long-overlooked DASH research and developed into a weight loss plan by the foremost DASH dietitian and leading nutrition expert, Marla Heller, MS, RD, this effective and easy weight loss program includes menu plans, recipes, shopping lists, and more. Readers will enjoy a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, lean meats/fish/poultry, nuts/beans/seeds, heart healthy fats, and limited amounts of whole grains. The result: improved metabolism, lower body fat, improved strength and cardiovascular fitness, without counting calories. And, of course the DASH diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure without medication!
A study with an intent-to-treat prospective design was published in 1998 by a team from the Johns Hopkins Hospital[19] and followed-up by a report published in 2001.[20] As with most studies of the ketogenic diet, there was no control group (patients who did not receive the treatment). The study enrolled 150 children. After three months, 83% of them were still on the diet, 26% had experienced a good reduction in seizures, 31% had had an excellent reduction and 3% were seizure-free.[Note 7] At twelve months, 55% were still on the diet, 23% had a good response, 20% had an excellent response and 7% were seizure-free. Those who had discontinued the diet by this stage did so because it was ineffective, too restrictive or due to illness, and most of those who remained were benefiting from it. The percentage of those still on the diet at two, three and four years was 39%, 20% and 12% respectively. During this period the most common reason for discontinuing the diet was because the children had become seizure-free or significantly better. At four years, 16% of the original 150 children had a good reduction in seizure frequency, 14% had an excellent reduction and 13% were seizure-free, though these figures include many who were no longer on the diet. Those remaining on the diet after this duration were typically not seizure-free but had had an excellent response.[20][21]
In 1993 Oldways created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the WHO – as a healthier alternative to the USDA’s original food pyramid. Today, the Mediterranean Diet is more popular than ever, with new research every month documenting its benefits, and chefs and home cooks alike embracing Mediterranean ingredients and flavors. Starting at the base of the pyramid, you’ll find:
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
With fats being my main source of calories, my body and energy levels have never been better. When I educated myself on it and understood the science behind it, it was clear to see why my joints started feeling better, and ailments started to go away. I now have more “oil” lubricating my cells so they’re more receptive/flexible/malleable to the nutrients in my foods. People can loose weight very fast, but honestly the first 10lbs or so is a lot of water weight so that’s really nothing to write home about.
In this single-arm, 4-month diet intervention, an LCKD resulted in significant improvement of glycemia, as measured by fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c, in patients with type 2 diabetes. More importantly, this improvement was observed while diabetes medications were reduced or discontinued in 17 of the 21 participants, and were not changed in the remaining 4 participants. Participants also experienced reductions in body weight, waist circumference, and percent body fat but these improvements were moderate and did not predict the change in hemoglobin A1c in regression analyses.

What the diet guru says: According to David Zinczenko, author of The 8-hour Diet, eating all your meals within a set window is the key to burning fat. ‘By carving out an eight-hour window in which to eat to your heart's content, you'll burn your body's fat stores effortlessly. The science is actually simple: for several years, researchers have been producing remarkable weight loss results in people using "intermittent fasting". In this case, fasting is about eating whatever you want, but staying within a sensible eight-hour window. This gives your body the chance to burn away your fat stores for the energy it needs.’


You can certainly still eat red meat once in a while, but choose leaner cuts. Lamb is often the red meat of choice in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. You might like to try: Kofta Kebobs; Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Quinoa; or Moussaka (Greek eggplant and lamb casserole). For special occasions, I highly recommend Leg of Lamb with Potatoes.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
Chronic stress may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger and result in weight gain. If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, even altering small things – such as posture – may immediately affect your stress hormone levels, and perhaps your weight.
Drink lots of water. This is especially crucial on a low carb or keto diet. Why? When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores the extra as glycogen in the liver, where they are bound to water molecules. Eating low carb depletes this glycogen, which allows you to burn fat – but it also means you are storing less water, making it easier to get dehydrated. Instead of the traditional recommendation of 8 cups of water per day, aim for 16 cups when following a low carb lifestyle.
Great article! Sustainability is key and Keto diet is extremely restrictive compared to others. Many of the comments I see don’t understand the importance of many years of research before stating something has a “significant difference” than the recommendations that are already in place. Also, understanding the pro/carb/fat balance in each meal instead of focusing on just carbohydrates. We have practiced the same modified Mediterranean diet at my practice where someone can enjoy life, eat complex carbohydrates and years later they are still successful and hundreds of pounds have been lost for good 🙂 Thank you for the reminder (and the comparison of Adkins supported research).
Slice a 6-inch French baguette roll (3-inch diameter) in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the halves with 1/3 cup 33% reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese and bake in toaster oven at 250 degrees for four to six minutes, until cheese is just beginning to melt. Meanwhile, slice two large red tomatoes in 1/2-inch slices. Remove baguette from toaster oven, sprinkle with a little dried basil and dried oregano if desired. Top with tomato slices. For dessert, serve one frozen strawberry milk Popsicle left over from Monday's dinner (8 ounces fat-free milk mixed with 1 tablespoon strawberry drink mix, then frozen).
Bulk buy and cook. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the best of both worlds. Buying your food at bulk (specifically from wholesalers) can reduce the cost per pound tremendously. Plus, you can make ahead food (bulk cook chicken thighs for pre-made meat, or cook entire meals) that are used as leftovers, so you spend less time cooking.
We do recommend everyone eat something every 4-5 hours to maintain a healthy metabolism. If your meals are more than 4-5 hours apart, a snack consisting of a protein and a carbohydrate is a great choice. The protein will help fill you up quicker and keep you feeling satisfied between meals. The protein also has a slower effect on your blood glucose than most carbohydrates, so when paired with carbohydrates, your blood sugar will not spike nearly as high. We recommend eating a protein with every meal and snack.
Eating low-carb paleo means removing items like rice, pasta, and legumes from your diet completely, but the carbs you eat will be from vegetables like fruit, beets, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens, such as spinach and kale. The diet also cuts out processed food plus foods allowed on other low-carb diets, including milk and cheese, and some people have an easier time sticking with the diet when more carbs are included.

The ketogenic diet — or the “keto” diet for short — has been around for decades. Most popularly, doctors have assigned the keto diet to help control seizures in people with epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. But in recent years, people have begun turning to the diet in hopes of losing weight and, in some cases, better managing type 2 diabetes. Studies show that metabolic processes are altered when people consume a diet high in fat, such as meat, and low in carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta. The body shifts into a natural metabolic state called ketosis, during which it burns fat rather than carbs for energy, according to a February 2014 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Although carb intake varies depending on which version of keto is at hand, people following the plan typically limit the intake of carbohydrates to less than 5 percent of their daily calories, notes the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”
There are three instances where there’s research to back up a ketogenic diet, including to help control type 2 diabetes, as part of epilepsy treatment, or for weight loss, says Mattinson. “In terms of diabetes, there is some promising research showing that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control. It may cause a reduction in A1C — a key test for diabetes that measures a person’s average blood sugar control over two to three months — something that may help you reduce medication use,” she says.
×