11.jpegA diet that has been floated about in the USA since February 2008, but has been available in Canada for 10 years and in Europe for 20 years is called the “Ideal Protein Diet.” It was developed by a French doctor, Dr Tran Tien Chanh, initially intended for French Olympic athletes, allowing them to drop weight quickly.

There are four phases to this diet. The first phase is an Induction phase, where carbohydrates are limited to a tiny amount a day. Three pre-packaged protein meals are used daily, as well as additional protein of your choice. It lasts until 90% of your weight loss is achieved.

The second phase (a minimum of two weeks or until all weight loss goal is achieved) allows a pre-packaged protein meal to be replaced with one of your choice. Carbs are still severely limited. Phase three allows a 14 day gradual re-introduction of healthy carbs and fats in the morning only.

Weight loss has been dramatic in some people (3-7 pounds weekly) as it did with the Atkins diet, though the Ideal Protein diet does not advocate as much protein.

The theory is simple: cut out carbs and the body is forced into burning fat stores to provide energy. By cutting out carbs, blood sugar levels remain more stable throughout the day, giving the pancreas a rest. It’s also supposed to reduce fat loss, enhance muscle tone and promote cellulite reduction.

While all this sounds lofty, let me throw some caution into the winds of excitement. Much of the weight loss of a low carb diet is because it depletes healthy glycogen (the storage form of glucose) stores in your muscles and liver. This leads to dehydration, causing a significant weight loss in the first week or two of the diet, usually falsely interpreted as fat loss.

The diet founder says people do not get tired on this diet, but many do, and there are good reasons for that. Depletion of muscle glycogen causes fatigue, as it’s the fuel of choice for muscles. Without being able to contract the muscles properly, exercise becomes a miserable experience. This all leads to time away from the gym, a decrease in your basal metabolic rate (fewer calories burned) and ultimately saggy muscle tone.

Another danger is a state called ketosis, which is one of the body’s last-ditch emergency responses and deliberately inducing this state can lead to nausea, dehydration, headaches, light-headedness, irritability, bad breath, and kidney problems.

With mixed reviews among the experts, where does good for you end and danger begin? It appears that being in ketosis for 14 days seems to be fine but it’s not ideal for the long-term. Phase 1 of this diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake, leading to that rapid weight loss which so encouraging. It’s easy to see that many would want to continue on the “Induction Phase,” especially if severely overweight. However, at this point they may run the risk of placing an extra burden on the kidneys. In ketosis the body deflects protein and releases nitrogen into the system, making the kidneys work harder to keep up with excessive urinary water resulting from sodium loss.

Supporters of the Ideal Protein diet overly concentrate on the fat burning capability of this diet, while not placing emphasis on the long-term side effects of nutritional deficiencies from low calorie intake and problems from pancreatic alteration. 

Additionally, the Ideal Protein company only supplies the products to people who start their own “diet business”, making sellers little more than a supplier of product without being competent nutritionists. If something goes wrong, how will your “diet guru coach” cope with a real health problem?

Every credible nutritionist will tell you than a diet program which reduces weight permanently and in a healthy manner involves gradual weight loss – an average of 2-3 pounds a week. This diet program must also retrain your eating habits so that you’ll not easily fall back into behaviors that made you overweight in the first place.

Instead of a costly diet, try regular exercise, healthy whole foods and smaller portions. There is no magic bullet – only dedication to long-term health. It’s not as popular as the latest fad diet, but it’s healthy and never fails to work in the long run.