A popular diet that is all over the media right now that many people are trying out is the South Beach Diet. It's not quite the same as some of the other low-carb diet plans out there as it offers you a chance to include some carbohydrates in your diet, you just have to choose the right ones.
It consists of three different phases that you progress through, each one with it's own characteristics. This diet is much like the new revolutionary Atkins diet in that respect because it starts you off eating more strictly and slowly allows you to add more foods into the plan as you go along.
Generally these types of diets work well for people because it helps them learn what their bodies' can and cannot handle. The only downside is that you have to be willing to cut out a lot of the foods you are used to eating right off the bat. For some, this can be quite the adjustment and they may have digestive issues or other problems.
Phase one takes place over the time period of two weeks and helps to really kick-start your weight loss. During this time you will be eating three balanced meals along with a few small snacks. The snacks are recommended, even if you are not hungry.
This teaches your body to learn to eat more frequent small meals as opposed to two or three larger meals a day. The foods to include here will be lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu or meat substitutes and then eggs, reduced fat cheese, nuts and vegetables.
Note that at this point you are not eating fruit or any other forms of carbs. In this regard, this is very similar to a Keto diet only the fat is lower but protein is kept high.
You may find that you experience a slight drop in energy levels upon starting this phase, this is due to the fact you are removing carbohydrates from the diet. As your body adapts to this new way of eating however it will learn to utilize fat better for fuel and you will start feeling like your usual self again.
It is important that you do ensure you are taking in enough calories during this phase as you don't want to bring them too low, even if your goal is weight loss. Generally protein and fat foods are much more filling therefore this makes it a little more difficult to maintain a moderate calorie intake.
Alcohol is also not allowed during this phase, nor is any type of dessert/cake/candy.
During this phase, due to the fact your carbohydrate intake is going to be very low, you may want to avoid doing high intensity exercise such as interval training since carbohydrates are the primary fuel for this type of activity and you will likely be unsuccessful due to the fact you aren't consuming any.
After the two weeks you are on phase one you will move onto phase two. During this phase you are allowed to start introducing more carbohydrate type foods back into your diet so that will be of comfort to many. You still need to be very careful about the particular type however.
You are allowed to start eating things such as fruit, whole grain bread and pasta. The diet stresses the importance of this phase because this is where you learn to eat 'normally' again. Since this is a lifestyle approach to weight maintenance they do not advice you cut out carbohydrates forever so by teaching yourself that it is okay to eat some at this point you will transition to a more well-rounded approach.
Dieters are supposed to add the carbohydrates back in slowly, starting with including them with one meal in the day and then working up from there. If you notice that your weight loss comes to a complete halt then you know you have added too many and should cut back slightly.
Phase two of the South Beach diet lasts for as long as necessary until you have obtained your goal weight. At this point, since you are eating more carbohydrate containing foods again, you can also increase the volume and intensity of your exercise also.
Finally, to conclude the diet you move into Phase Three. This is the lifetime step where you are now equipped with the knowledge to make smart food choices but are allowed a little more flexibility.
You have to remember all the things you have learned in the first two phases and if you see your weight starting to creep up once again, immediately reduce some things again so as to gain control. At this point you can try a few more recipes, add alcohol back into the diet in moderation and make room for the occasional sweet indulgence.
The goal of phase three is to maintain your weight loss and adopt a healthier lifestyle and diet than you had before. You should still be avoiding highly refined foods as well as those containing a large amount of sugar or fat.
Thoughts On This Diet
The nice thing about the South Beach diet is how big it has become. Since there are so many people following it you are sure to find lots of help and support available to you. If you log onto the South Beach website, they have online forums and groups you can join along with a whole database of recipes that follow the guidelines of this nutritional approach.
They also offer advice for what to do when you want to eat out and how to make smart choices at fast food restaurants. The downside to this diet is that since it doesn't rely heavily on calorie counting, it is slightly less 'scientific' when it comes to weight loss.
True weight loss is going to depend largely on calories in versus calories out so even if you are eating the foods they recommend, if you are still eating too many of them for your activity level you are not going to see a weight loss.
The overall approach to the diet though is again very much on par with the revolutionary Atkins diets, in fact they are almost identical. Both methods stress the importance of the proper type of carbohydrates while emphasizing the importance of protein in the diet.
The one downside I think the South Beach has is that it doesn't talk a whole lot about fat intake and this is one macronutrient that is very essential, particularly for those involved in weight lifting as it helps to keep your anabolic hormones in check.
Add to that that it's very critical that you are taking in enough essential fatty acids in order to prevent diseases and maintain good health. So long as you are educated enough to be looking after this yourself while on this diet, it is probably one of the best diets for you to try out.
Athletes will again need to be a little more cautious with phase one as if they are exercising many hours per day they might have a hard time meeting their energy and carbohydrate requirements on the foods allowed at this time. For this reason, athletes should probably seek another type of diet that is more geared towards maximizing performance.
For those looking to lose body fat, this is a good approach as it removes the refined carbohydrates that often constitute the majority of foods that people are eating that makes them gain weight and keeps them at that weight.
For those looking to build muscle however, it can definitely be done on a diet like this but it may be slightly easier to pack on a larger volume of muscle mass on a more carbohydrate based diet (as carbohydrates are quite anabolic).
Overall Diet Rating: 4 out of 5