From celebrity-endorsed to science-backed, finding the best diet for your body and lifestyle can be an exercise in frustration—definitely not the kind of exercise you need right now! To make your search easier, we've pulled together the 10 most popular diets based on which ones have consistently ranked highest on the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, WebMD, and other current diet lists. Just know this: It's not about finding out which diet is the most popular overall but which one fits your goals and lifestyle the best. After all, the best diet for you is the one you can stick with (and enjoy)!
Here's the thing: Working out isn't enough on its own to make weight loss happen. There's so much else that goes into weight loss and body fat loss; in fact, exercise isn't even technically necessary in many cases. If you want to lose weight—and it's totally cool if you do and totally cool if you don't—adopting healthy eating habits has got to be step numero uno. To get technical, you need to create a calorie deficit, which means using more calories in a day than you consume—and the consumption part plays a much bigger role in that than burning calories in the gym, or while carrying your groceries home, or any of the other myriad ways you put your muscles to work each day. Other lifestyle habits, like sleep and stress management, and health conditions (think thyroid issues, to name just one of many) also affect your weight. Point is, weight loss is a complicated and extremely personal journey that doesn't look or work the exact same way from one person to the next.
Diet.com is lauded far and wide for their individualistic approach to dieting. As most legitimate weight-loss plans for women will testify, a cookie-cutter diet is rarely successful as every body type, lifestyle, and individual is different. Diet.com embraces those differences and tailors its healthy weight-loss plans to fit your specific needs. Here’s how it works:
HIIT gives you a well-rounded workout while burning a ton of fat and calories. “HIIT workouts can vary greatly, from 500 calories per hour to 1500-plus calories per hour for an 180-lb man,” says Ryan. “HIIT workouts are great because of the intensity of each exercise as well as the variation of exercises and reps.” Pairing any body-weight movement with a weighted movement and a traditional cardio element and you have the perfect recipe for an amazing fat-burner.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
There’s a reason CrossFit has become such a booming part of the workout industry — it works, so long as you don’t overdo it. Workouts are varied — you may be doing anything from kettlebell swings to rope climbs and box jumps to front squats — and the routines are designed to be short and intense. The most important thing to find when looking for the box (CrossFit slang for “gym”) that fits you best: a well-informed coach who can explain and modify the moves, and make sure that you don’t push yourself to the point of injury. Here are a few things to keep in mind before every WOD, and here are 11 of the best CrossFit gyms in America.
For the biggest fitness gain/weight loss bang for your exercise buck, combine the two, doing your strength training first and finishing off with your cardio. An American Council on Exercise study on exercise sequencing found that your heart rate is higher—by about 12 beats per minute—during your cardio bout when you’ve lifted weights beforehand. That means more calories burned.
“Starting slow and working your way up is better than overdoing it and giving up,” says Gagliardi. “I like the idea of attaching the new behavior of taking a walk to an existing behavior.” An easy way to approach it: Commit to going for a quick 10-minute walk after dinner, and slowly increase the time as you become more comfortable with daily movement.
What the expert says: ‘This is something that is used for athletes as part of their training. While it can lead to weight loss, carbohydrates are an energy source for the body, and restricting them can lead to headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. You would be better to find the level of carbohydrates your body needs by eating normal portion sizes and a balance of all food groups.’
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
"At its essence, boxing is really another form of interval training," explains Rosante. But it also makes you feel freaking badass. Here's the trick to remember: It's a common mistake for beginners to punch using only their arm strength, but the majority of your power is going to come from your core and you'll use muscles that are typically ignored in other workouts (hey there, obliques).
But when it comes to which type of cardio is best for burning fat, you have to decide which lean body type you’re going for. “If you train like a distance runner, you’ll get a distance runner’s body: little muscle, very lean from lots of miles logged at relatively slower paces,” explains Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S., a physical trainer and the founder of Chris Ryan Fitness. “If you train like a sprinter—short, high-intensity workouts—you’ll get a sprinter’s body with muscle growth and fat loss.”
Another diet that's highly ranked by experts is the Mediterranean Diet (Free). Experts say that eating the Mediterranean way is the healthiest dietary choice you can make. The difficulty for most people is figuring out exactly what that means since there is no formal "Mediterranean Diet;" rather, it's a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats in moderation, whole grains, legumes, seeds and healthy fats. However, there are some guidelines on the Oldways website that may be helpful, and there are a wealth of other online resources from those who have adopted the Mediterranean diet lifestyle, as well as plenty of cookbooks.
Here’s the full shopping list for exactly what to buy, and check to make sure you have a few pantry staples on hand. Morris recommends starting on a weekend, so you can make a big pot of veggie soup, and give your body a chance to adjust before diving into a busy week. Her plan cuts carbs for the first couple of days, before slowly reintroducing whole grains. And if you want to mix it up, there are lots more options for healthy snacks, just make sure to get a serving of fruit or vegetables, along with protein.
Notes: Defrost the shrimp under cool running water and pat dry. In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, toss the shrimp with a little all-natural cooking spray, and cook until bright pink, tightly furled, and warmed through. Chop and steam the carrots and broccoli until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes for the carrots, 3 minutes for the broccoli. Drizzle everything with the teriyaki sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
I agree with most said here, it truly is as simple as counting calories and burning more calories along with good eating habits. I drink 2-3 protein drinks mixed with water, strawberries or blackberries for a fruit, green tea 3 x day, Quest protein bar if I have a sweet tooth, asparagus, tomatoes, or cucumbers, and maybe depending on calorie total if I am hungry then a 3 ounce chicken breast cooked with water. I walk/run 6-9 miles a day, weights and floor exercises daily. I do drink the very bad diet coke daily, and try to follow with a lot of water afterwards. I did lose almost 100 pound previously on HCG, regained 40 pounds then went to a physician that recommended that I increase my protein as she felt I was protein deficient, she recommend at least 75-100 grams a day to stabilize blood sugar and weight loss. The physician did say that anyone that loses weight on HCG will have some weight gain due to protein deficiency. I feel with the protein increase that my weight is stable, and no fluctuation. The protein drink that I use is Whey Cool, 130 calories, 2 grams fat, 45 mg sodium, 3 grams carbs, 24 grams protein-mixed with water. I do add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of stevia to sweeten sometimes. The Quest bars are great, low fat, low carbs, low sugar and 20-25 grams protein. I usually get the chocolate brownie or chocolate peanut butter and it fixes my sweet tooth while getting my protein in for the day. This works for me, I have found that everyone is different and most people have to tweak things to work for them. I feel I have a slow metabolism so I have to really do a lot of cardio, besides the walking/running when I work at the hospital, I try to go to the hospital gym every 4-6 hours to knock out 30 minutes on elliptical machine if not busy. Any suggestions or criticism are appreciated.
A similar program, TOPS (Est. $32 per year, plus $5 chapter dues), pairs a wealth of educational material with group meetings in your community, also called "chapters." TOPS, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, uses The Food Exchange System, which users say is easy to understand and follow. It has categories of foods with similar serving sizes and caloric loads, and it's easy to swap one food for another. You can even purchase exchange cards that give you food options within categories at a glance, as well as a variety of other accessories, such as food prep tools scaled to accurate portion sizes.
Pros: The most consistently beneficial of all diets here, study after study shows that upping your protein intake can help significantly reduce body fat and build lean muscle. For example: Guys who ran sprint intervals, did resistance training, and ate a diet of 2.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day (roughly 1g per lb of bodyweight) gained 1.2kg of lean muscle and lost almost 5kg of fat in just four weeks, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If you cut calories but eat high protein, the macro can help prevent your metabolism from plummeting and help keep hunger at bay, since protein is so satiating. The study analysis also confirmed that eating a ton of protein stuff doesn’t cause you to gain weight or harm any internal systems, despite myths.
To encourage ketone production, the amount of insulin in your bloodstream must be low. The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large amount of ketones in your blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin is very low – and therefore, that you’re enjoying the maximum effect of your low-carbohydrate diet. That’s what’s called optimal ketosis.
They didn’t list doing compound lifts with free weights?! Please, for those wanting to lose weight long-term, forget about the 5k runs or the long walks or the creepy hardcore cross fit cult boxes who will have you puking your first week of working out and telling you that’s the sign of a good workout. Learning how to barbell squat, bench press, deadlift, barbell row, overhead press (in short, the most important compound barbell lifts) will do wonders for your weight loss much more than running/walking/tennis. Yes you burn calories when you run. You burn calories when you lift heavy weights but you keep burning calories well after you’ve left the gym and even into the next day. This is because your body must use significant energy to repair and rebuild the muscle you damaged from lifting. On top of this, you build more muscle which requires lots of energy even during rest, so by lifting weights and adding more muscle your body requires more calories to maintain current weight. In other words, the new muscle helps you burn more calories so you can eat more while not gaining more fat.
Your most immediate and best option is to combine aerobic exercise and exercise involving lifting weights, as you will not only burn body fat but tone your muscles as well, positively changing your hip to waist ratio, and working quickly towards a healthier body in ever aspect. As you burn belly fat, you'll burn fat where it doesn't need to be elsewhere, too!
You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt in the making to enjoy some serious belly-slimming results from hitting the track from time to time. Even a moderate-rate jog a few times a week can blast through that belly fat; in fact, a study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that, over the course of an eight-month study, overweight adult study subjects who jogged 12 miles a week lost the most belly fat and burned 67 percent more calories than participants who did an equivalent amount of resistance exercise, or a combination of cardio and resistance work.
Researchers gave healthy but obese men one of two “high protein” diets. Protein was kept to 30% of total calories in both diets, but the amount of carbohydrate and fat was varied. In the first diet—which they called “low carbohydrate”—the carbohydrate content was kept to a very low 4%, with the rest of the calories coming from fat. In the second diet—which they called “moderate carbohydrate”—the carbohydrate content was kept to 35%, with the rest coming from fat.
Regardless of which of these diets appeals to you, the biggest challenge for any of them is that you have to have at least some ability in the kitchen -- and for some you have to be pretty competent -- because all of them are based, at least in part, upon purchasing and preparing your own, whole foods. That may be a challenge if food prep is not your thing or you're often pressed for time. In that case, Weight Watchers is probably the easiest program for the non-cook to follow. They not only have a complete line of prepared foods, they also have tools to give you the points values for the menus of many popular restaurants. If you really want to make dieting as simple as possible, skip on over to our discussion of the Best Prepackaged Diet Plans for some really convenient weight loss plans.
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
Make sure to program your cardio exercise in with your weight training the right way, though — a 2017 study found that performing cardio and weight training workouts on alternate days was far more effective for burning belly fat than stacking the workouts on top of each other in the same session. Put the two together, and watch that unhealthy midsection shrink.
“We have basically no evidence that this diet is consistent with human health over time,” says Dr. Katz. (Its heavy emphasis on animal protein isn’t ecologically sustainable, either, he adds.) “All of the evidence we have points toward a plant-predominant diet with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds—all of the very things that the ketogenic diet avoids.”
We all want a toned, flat stomach. No surprise there. But since many women are still relying on crunches to get it, we want to make one thing clear: Crunching is not the most effective abs workout. "Crunches work only the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it's important to target all the muscles of the core to get more defined abs—including lower back, hips, and upper thighs," says Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs. (Also try these 20 tricks for engaging your core and getting a sneaky abs workout.)
A 2012 study also showed that people on a low-carb diet burned 300 more calories a day – while resting! According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising. A later, even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed the effect, with different groups of people on low-carb diets burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day.
What the diet advocate says: 'The key components of a Mediterranean diet are lots of vegetables, olive oil, oily fish and nuts, with no calorie restrictions. Combine that with cutting down on sugar, which was traditionally a rarity in the region, and you’ve got the base of the Mediterranean diet right. And if you get the base right you can eat a little of whatever else you like,' says Consultant Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
Cut back on calories. The most important part of losing weight is not working out until you collapse — it's your diet. If you burn 500 to 750 more calories than what you eat every day, you will lose 1–2 pounds every week (any more than that is considered unsafe weight loss). There are tons of little changes you can make to cut calories from your diet, from replacing high-calorie dressings with vinaigrette and asking for all dressings/sauces served on the side, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, skipping cheese and other fatty additions to your salads and meals, using smaller plates, leave off the whipped cream on your coffee drink, and on and on.
Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. (21)
Sure, there's your one friend who swears by the Taco Cleanse. And that other friend who ate nothing but broccoli soup for a month and dropped 20 pounds, found the love of her life, and got promoted at work. But before you start blending 80 stalks of broccoli into a cup or crunching your way through a crate of tacos, check out which diets are backed by science. Because don't you want to try one that will do the trick for you?