Fad Diet Friday – Inaugural Edition

Oh the fad diet! A quick fix! The latest concoction or solution to trick your body and lose some of that weight you have been wanting to lose. Many of you have been there and tempted by a well-marketed diet plan. Maybe it was a 1a.m. moment of weakness with a “Hollywood Diet” infomercial. Regardless, while fad diets may come in all shapes and sizes and some may sound very convincing and scientifically derived, they typically are not. Typically fad diets invoke some time period of very strict caloric restriction while emphasizing the intake of a single food or limiting of certain nutrients.

For the next few Fridays, I will go through and emphasize a fad diet and point out all of the problems with the diet program. In general, it is important for you to understand a few things about nearly all fad diet programs.

  1. Fad diets typically do a very nice job of stimulating weight loss in a brief period of time. However, remember that the number on the scale tells you nothing about what is being lost. In many scenarios, a sizable proportion of the lost weight occurs as water weight due to reduced intake of fluids as well as decreases in glycogen stores. When caloric intake is restored this weight comes back very quickly.
  2. You will lose some fat, but you will also lose fat-free mass. In fact, a review article on diet and weight loss studies concluded that approximately 25% of the lost weight occurs as fat-free mass (Weinheimer, Sands, and Campbell 2010) and another study illustrated that if protein intakes are not adequate while maintaining an energy deficit that a significant proportion of lost weight will be fat-free mass (Pasiakos et al. 2013).
  3. An excellent study in 2011 demonstrated that during periods of intentional weight loss followed by regaining of the weight that each cycle resulted in progressively less fat-free mass (Beavers et al. 2011). This pattern is problematic and sets the stage for future difficulty in losing weight, but more importantly maintaining that weight loss as less tissue is present to drive movement and stimulate significant calorie burning.

Briefly, very few shortcuts exist to healthy, sustained weight loss. While fad diets are popular options due to their ability to quickly stimulate weight loss, the weight that is lost oftentimes creates a cycle that ultimately makes weight loss harder to maintain.  Now if you are looking for results that will stick, reach out to our staff of N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainers and we’ll go over every single detail with you to get you on the right track and get you permanent results!

-Dr. Chad Kerksick is an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Lindenwood University with a PhD in Exercise, Nutrition and Preventive Health. His research and expertise center upon study the impact of exercise and nutrition interventions on health and performance. You can follow him on Twitter at @chadkerksick.


Beavers, K. M., M. F. Lyles, C. C. Davis, X. Wang, D. P. Beavers, and B. J. Nicklas. 2011. “Is lost lean mass from intentional weight loss recovered during weight regain in postmenopausal women?”  The American journal of clinical nutrition 94 (3):767-74. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.004895.

Pasiakos, S. M., J. J. Cao, L. M. Margolis, E. R. Sauter, L. D. Whigham, J. P. McClung, J. C. Rood, J. W. Carbone, G. F. Combs, Jr., and A. J. Young. 2013. “Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial.”  FASEB J. doi: 10.1096/fj.13-230227.

Weinheimer, E. M., L. P. Sands, and W. W. Campbell. 2010. “A systematic review of the separate and combined effects of energy restriction and exercise on fat-free mass in middle-aged and older adults: implications for sarcopenic obesity.”  Nutr Rev 68 (7):375-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00298.x.