Sorry guys and gals – I’m going to make you have to read to get the answer 😉

The Beginning. 

Let’s face it. There are more diets out there than we can even count. So which one is truly the best? Most recently a group of authors and researchers (plus a little of my own research) have looked at many studies to help determine which diet is truly the most effective and best in regards to weight loss. 

This study looked at “name brand” diet interventions (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, etc.).

The Critical Elements. 

A few key things to note from this:

  • The studies DID include exercise and behavioral interventions but not all of them. Remember this is a cumulative analysis.
  • They had to have lasted 6 months, some lasted longer, and the longest lasted a  year.

Diets Assessed:

  • Atkins – Low Carb
  • Biggest Loser – Moderate carb, moderate fat
  • Jenny Craig – Moderate carb, moderate fat (customized meals)
  • LEARN – low fat to moderate
  • Nutrisystem – moderate
  • Ornish  – Low Fat
  • South Beach – Low Carb
  • Volumetrics – Moderate
  • Weight Watchers – Moderate
  • Zone – Low Carb (in phases)

The researchers that assessed these took into consideration all interventions, including exercise, and ranked them based on strength of the modifications done.

What did the results say???

So this doesn’t answer the original question, but here were the findings (after 1 year):

  1. Any diet > no diet (DUH!)
  2. Low Carb diets were only slightly superior to low fat diets (8.73 vs. 7.99kg lost)
  3. Low Carb and Low Fat Diets had nearly equal effects on weight loss in comparison to the moderate based diets.
  4. Of the individual diets, the Atkins and Ornish (10.1 and 9kg, respectively) were the most effective at both the 6 and 12 month markers.
  5. (This is my favorite one) – Behavioral Support resulted in greater weight loss (3.23kg more than using diets with no support) over the 12 month period.

Let me say, however, that it’s very difficult to make conclusive statements, hence the use of my lingo up there. There are way too many factors involved to definitively say and Scientifically say one works over the other.

What does all of this dribble mean????

It means just that. There is no “universally optimal” diet. That’s just life. The best diet is a diet that one can adhere to.

Sorry that’s not the answer many of us are looking for, but I’m going to give some better strategies below that will help with that.

So what truly is the best diet?

The best diet is one you can adhere to. Low Carb and Low fat lead to greatest long term results, but not by much, and only with named diets in this particular research. There are many other factors that make it impossible to say one is truly the best.

So how do I follow this diet?

Simple. Create habits. Let’s use ‘Sally’ as an example below. Read this scenario.

Awesome Darin: “Sally, we are going to create a habit for you in order to fix your diet long term. The first habit is to eat one serving of colorful vegetables per day for two weeks and we will build on that. Can you do that?”

Sally: “That’s it?! That’s way too easy. I can eat 5 servings per day for two weeks, can I just do that??”

Awesome Darin: “Sure, but I only want you FOCUSING on 1 serving per day”

Here are two scenarios to ponder:

Trainer gives sally a goal of 5 servings per day, she does it for two days, then by day 5, she’s down to 1 serving per day. Sally’s progress starts high, the habit is never built, and she regresses instead of progresses.

Awesome Darin only reinforces the one serving per day, Sally complies for two weeks, and she has successfully built a habit that she can now add on to.

Which do you truly think would have the most success over a year?

So the point is this. Create simple habits. FOLLOW them. Then add new ones. Make them attainable every single day. That’s the best diet out there. 

-Darin Hulslander, CSCS, Precision Nutrition Level 1 (Level 2 in progress)

Source: Patel, Karmal, ed. “ERD Research Digest.” ERD Digest 1st ser. 1.2 (2014): 21-27. Web. 21 May 2015.