The promise: You'll burn more calories by digesting protein, and, because protein takes a while to leave your stomach, you also feel fuller longer. The problem: By consuming 30 to 50 percent of your calories in bacon, eggs or even tofu, you won't get the carbohydrates you need. The risks: Breaking down too much muscle and fat for fuel can lead to the production of ketones, which can cause nausea, bad breath, headaches, muscle soreness and, over time, kidney stones, gout and even kidney failure.
The promise: You can lower the risk of your getting heart disease and improve your cardiovascular function—all while slimming down.
The problem: When you drastically cut calories, your body adapts by learning how to do more with less.
The risks: Eating just a little bit more than your strict low-calorie usual (say, during a stressful business trip) makes you more likely to put on pounds—and, worse, it's tougher to get rid of them.
The mistake: Actually, you can, say registered dieticians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, aka the Nutrition Twins. Yes, carbs are often maligned for their almost addictive pull and simple white carbs have been linked to weight gain, diabetes, inflammation and heart disease.
Other potential unpleasant side effects include constipation (from a fiber deficit), intense fatigue and weak bones (animal protein can increase blood acidity, leading your body to use its calcium to neutralize it). It lowers your metabolic rate, holds on desperately to fat stores and takes longer to execute basic functions like breathing; it literally slows down to survive, says Sasson. You're also at a higher risk of losing muscle and bone mass (and testosterone, if you're male). The Nutrition Twins also suggest putting olive oil in a spray bottle so that a little will go a longer way.
Consuming massive quantities of the foods that make up these diets—vegetables, fruit—can lead to uncomfortable bloating as well as severe diarrhea.
But this food group remains the most efficient fuel source for the body, explains Sasson (who is, by the way, a fan of lean protein). So even though high-protein, low-carb diets are preferred by some fitness buffs, the American Heart Association specifically advises against them.
And unless you're following this eating plan under the close supervision of a doctor, Sasson says, you will likely end up deficient in essential nutrients. Further, what are leaving your body aren't "toxins" (your body naturally flushes out excess nutrients, as well as chemical substances) but the effluvia of an out-of-whack gastrointestinal system that's both overloaded with water, simple carbs and fructose, and deprived of solid matter. But most would also agree that a week's worth of these foods (in the absence of any others) is an impractical way to lose weight. But, while initial research on the link between cutting calories and adding years seemed encouraging, the latest studies are much less convincing. If you don't supply your body with adequate amounts of carbohydrates, it's forced to use energy from muscle as well as fat.
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