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Posted On: 25 July 2020 09:00 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:07 pm

Do crash diets work?

Greg Dagnall
Greg Dagnall
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Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Qatar that started in March 2020, and the shutting down of malls, gyms, beaches, parks, and pretty much everything except the essentials, we’ve pretty much been sitting at home and a lot of us have gained some unwanted pounds. Yes, some people have been great and stuck to their diet and exercise regimes even while being at home; hats off to them!

Generally, though, most people have been complaining of the weight they’ve gained in the past four months or so. For a quick fix, some of these people have turned towards crash diets to shed those extra pounds because they believe, these diets will help them lose weight fast.

What these people may not know is that crash dieting is not a positive way to lose weight. Yes, when you’re on a crash diet and eating a low-calorie meal plan to lose weight quickly, you’re bound to see results, but do crash diets actually work in the long run?

Why crash diets don’t really work?

Diets require a calorie deficit

(fewer calories than you actually need) and crash diets require you to eat as few calories as possible. While dieting, controlling your appetite is the hardest thing, so if you’re eating minimal calories, this becomes much harder. As a result, you’re more likely to binge eat, ruining any progress that you have made and can even lead to eating disorders. Frost et al. (1991)

Long term habits don’t develop

When you’re on a crash diet, you don’t develop any habits which are essential for long term weight loss. This means that when you finish the diet, you’ll go back to your old habits and the weight will return very quickly. Westenhoefer et al. (2004)

You’re losing essential macro-nutrients

Crash diets usually require you to eat one type of food. For example, there is the celery diet, the potato diet, the carrot diet, and many more, etc. This means that you’re missing out on essential macro-nutrients like protein (lack of protein will negatively affect your immune system) and fat which is unhealthy and will not help appetite control. (Kwashiorkor) – Williams (1935)

You’re losing more glycogen, than fat

Crash diets promote the fact that you lose weight quickly. This can be true, but the weight lost is not actually fat. Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, fruit, etc.) produce glycogen which is stored in the body. Most crash diets leave out carbohydrates, so your body loses a lot of its glycogen. The average body stores 800 grams of glycogen and each gram holds 3 grams of water. This means you could lose up to 3.2kg in weight, but this will be from glycogen loss, not fat loss. This is something the crash diet industry will probably not tell you! McArdle, Katch & Katch (2009)

How to lose weight the right way!

So, if you’re thinking of losing weight, crash dieting is definitely not the way. The best way to lose weight is to exercise, eat in moderation and do portion control.

Slow and steady is the way. Not crash, boom, bang!!!

Written by Greg Dagnall

Greg is an evidence-based nutritionist, as well as a fully-qualified personal trainer. He’s passionate about helping you achieve your aims by delivering bespoke services that help you create your diet and training regime, one that suits you and your lifestyle. Greg believes there are no quick fixes or magic pills when it comes to diet and fitness. You will have to be dedicated to your goals, prepared to be patient, to change for the long term and not the short term.

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