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Health Guide Review: 2,6/5

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South Beach Diet Review

What is it?

The South Beach Diet is a diet plan for people who want to eliminate bad carbohydrates, while gaining long lasting weight loss benefits. It promises to provide flexible results by allowing for many different food options, as well as optional customer support for those who pay extra.

This plan comes in 3 full stages, with the first stage lasting 2 weeks, and it promises between 8 to 13 pounds of weight loss. The South Beach Diet also comes with:

  • Customer support: You get online tools and access to a mobile app to help track your weight loss progress. You are also given access on over 1000 recipes, as well as a meal planner. Online forums are also available, so people on this diet can talk to each other for support.

You can even ask questions on the forum, and one of the company’s nutritionist may answer these questions.  Though it’s unknown if these people are qualified to give advice.           

  • Optional prepackaged meals: Although not necessary, you can also purchase the companies meals such as protein bars, gluten-free bars, and low calorie bars. There’s even a location finder to help you seek out the nearest locations that sell these products.           
  • Full meal plans: Not only are there tons of recipes, but you can read what foods are recommended during each of the three phases. This can give you tips on how to properly plan for the meals you might enjoy.
  • Occasional breaks from the diet are allowed: If for whatever reason you can’t uphold the diet, you’re allowed to go back to phase 1 to start the diet again.

The South Beach Diet was one of the popular diets that came out during the low carbohydrate craze, and alongside Atkins, it’s one of the most well known of these kinds of diets.

There’s a lot of information about this plan since it’s been around since 2003. A cardiologist named Arthur Agatson created it, and you can find many of his books that discuss this diet.

Foods Allowed by the Diet 

What you’re allowed to eat depends on what stage you’re on:

Phase 1: You start this 2-week phase by getting rid of foods that are high in sugar, as well as refined starches. Almost all carbohydrates including fruits are not allowed. You also can’t drink any alcohol.

Lean protein, skinless chicken, seafood, lean beef, low-fat dairy, high fiber vegetables, and healthy fats are emphasized.  You also have access to many nuts, avocados, and healthy oils.

 Phase 2: You can add some foods such as whole-wheat pastas and whole-wheat bread. This phase lasts as long as you need to hit your goal weight. On this strategy you have to make sure you’re able to get used to the long term planning.

If at any point you can’t continue the diet, you’re allowed to go right back to phase 1 to start again.

 Phase 3: Considered the maintenance phase. You take both eating standards from the previous phases and you use it to help maintain your weight. All kinds of foods are allowed but only in moderation. If you get any cravings, you can go back to help control your food intake.

If you gain weight you can go back to either of the phases.

There are also vegan and vegetarian friendly food choices available. If you need extra support from the inline community as well as apps, you can pay $4 per week.

How Does the Diet Work?

You have the option of online support, as well as books providing recipes and tips to stay on the diet.

By first limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat, it’s suggested you can lose upwards of 13 pounds in just 2 weeks.

Since you limit virtually all carbohydrates for the first 2-week phase, it’s possible that any of the weight you lose is strictly water. Paleo Leap.com mentions that:

“Every 1 gram of carbohydrates require 3-4 grams of water to process and store it”

 So it’s possible to lose 13 pounds of just water weight by limiting all the carbohydrates you eat. Much of the weight loss isn’t actually fat, but water.

Mayo Clinic also confirms this fact by stating:

“Losing a large amount of weight rapidly could indicate that you’re losing water weight or lean tissue, rather than fat”

 They also add:

“no long-term, randomized controlled clinical trials have measure the health outcomes of the South Beach Diet”

These kinds of diets can lead to ketosis, which is the body’s way of using ketone bodies instead of glucose as a primary fuel source. The possible side effects of this includes:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breathe, including a metal like taste
  • Dehydration.

So all this together means that this diet might not be the best approach for weight loss. Not only is it likely that you’re only losing water weight, but it’s not been proven to be a safe method.

Pros 

  • You can purchase the pre-packaged foods made by the company, which are formulated to be within the allowed macronutrient categories.
  • Online resources including forums and apps are made to help people use this diet effectively.
  • There are multiple books available, which you can read for more information, including cookbooks and strategies.
  • You can eventually eat any of the foods you want in moderation.
  • It’s likely you’ll lose weight in the beginning since you’re getting rid of carbohydrates, which can decrease the amount of water weight you have.

 Cons 

  • No studies have shown this to be effective for long-term effects or safety.
  • The company charges $4 a week for online support. This can add up quickly, and you can only ask their nutritionists questions on the forum that may not be answered. Still, it’s unknown if these people are actually certified health instructors.
  • You have to severely limit carbohydrates, which can cause side effects that occur when the body is in ketosis.
  • The weight loss seen in the beginning is likely due to lost water weight and not fat.
  • Though it’s claimed to lead to long lasting results, there are zero clinical studies, and it also advises to go right back to the beginning phase to restart the diet if you gain weight. This means it’s not likely to be a long lasting plan.

 Better Alternatives to the Diet

 The lack of studies and information about the safety of this diet prevent it from being the most effective diet plan.

It’s unknown what kinds of effects will happen from suddenly limiting virtually all carbohydrates for 2 weeks. It’s possible to experience unwanted symptoms including headaches, fatigue, bad breath, and other side effects.

Better options are available that wouldn’t restrict carbohydrates this much.  That’s why the register dietician Donna Logan adds

“Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs… are a good source of many vitamins and minerals”

 This diet severely restricts this important macronutrient. Also, an important thing to remember is that you’re likely only losing water weight. It’s mentioned in Everyday Health that:

“As soon as you start eating carbohydrate again, your body replenishes… and your weight comes back”

 So any benefits you might see on the scale are likely just water. The issue with this diet is then that you might think you’ve lost weight, and that the diet was the cause. On the final phase you’re allowed to eat all the foods you want, but in moderation.

They don’t mention what it means to eat in moderation or what serving sizes are allowed. This can make it easy to regain water weight. What happens then is that you would have to restart from the beginning again.

This makes it so you’re always depending on the South Beach Diet, instead of it working for you.

Another factor to consider is how it’s been reviewed by science. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine:

“The South Beach Diet has problems typical of diet books: lack of proof and some dubious claims”

 There’s simply too many unproven claims made by the diet, and it’s unknown what kinds of effect it might have on your health.

The NHS, which gives health advice to UK citizens, mentions that while on this diet:

“you will miss out on some vitamins, minerals, and fibre”

 “may initially experience side effects”

Many unbiased health organizations have concluded that this diet would not be the safest option for those looking to lose weight. There are far too many unanswered questions, and there’s no need to ever severely limit yourself, which is what the beginning stages asks for.

 Conclusion

 People who have lost weight on the South Beach Diet likely don’t understand the mechanism behind it.

The extreme limit on carbohydrates is what causes a reduction of water weight. Since science shows we can safely lose up to 20 pounds of water weight, it’s easy to see how this plan allows between 8 to 13 pounds of weight los sin 2 weeks.

Likely all that you’re losing is simply water weight and not fat. Though this plan does have some good mobile apps that can help you track your fitness goals, overall, there’s much better options available.  When picking your diet you have to make sure there’s legitimate science to back up the claims made. This plan has not been studied and it’s unknown what kind of an effect it might have on the body long term.

Other diets can help you lose weight without having to ban almost all carbohydrates.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own physician.