Last year, Americans bought more than $10 billion worth of gluten-free products. Are your clients among those jumping on this trend for weight loss? If so, what does that mean for them? Here we explore this and three other trends, so you can see how they impact active adults. Note: A registered dietician (RD) can help guide choices for those considering a new way of eating.
The Basics: Followers eat more natural, whole, or raw foods, and avoid refined or processed foods. (They may also favor organic, non-GMO, and sustainably produced foods.) They avoid additives, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup.
The Science: Generally speaking, replacing processed foods with fresh, natural foods can be healthful. However, experts are reluctant to label foods containing preservatives as “unhealthy” and foods without them as “good for you.”
What You Need to Know: Can be difficult to sustain and expensive to follow. However, if done properly, it can improve a client’s nutrition intake, since processed foods often are less nutrient-dense than whole foods.
The Basics: Followers eliminate foods containing wheat, barley, rye, or triticale (and potentially oats, due to cross-contamination).
The Science: Those with celiac disease or other gluten issues may notice reduced gastro-related discomfort and bloating, headaches, and fatigue. Those without gluten issues report weight loss and increased energy, but experts say it may be due to overall healthier eating.
What You Need to Know: A gluten-free diet can aid in weight loss, but followers need to be careful: Some gluten-free processed foods have more calories than the original version (for example, breads). Some athletes report an increase in energy, while others feel fatigued due to low carb intake.
The Basics: Followers avoid foods high in simple (or total) carbohydrates, including white flour, refined sugar, starchy vegetables (such as corn and peas), and some fruits and juices.
The Science: A low-carb diet may aid in weight loss, especially around the waistline, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
What You Need to Know: A diet that’s too low in carbs can result in low energy, loss of lean body mass, poor performance, and poor recovery, particularly for elite athletes.
The Paleo Diet
The Basics: Followers eat fresh fruits and vegetables, wild-caught game and fish, and free-range farm products. They avoid flour, refined sugar, salt, processed foods, legumes, beans, and dairy foods.
The Science: Small, short-term studies found that the diet resulted in weight loss (5 pounds in three weeks), lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, and improved insulin sensitivity.
What You Need to Know: Going Paleo can help people reduce their intake of sodium, saturated fat, and refined sugars—all good things. On the downside, the diet’s low-carb profile can lead to reduced exercise performance. (Note: There’s a Paleo-for-sports diet that includes more carbs.)
Talking Nutrition with FNS
When Karl Sterling, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS, GFS, a trainer at Syracuse University, wanted to talk nutrition with his clients, he enrolled in NASM’s Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS) program. He learned what’s OK to teach clients, where to draw the line, and how to identify who might benefit from working with a registered dietitian. “Now I know the scope of what I can discuss with clients,” he says, “I learned how to share food information in a way that is helpful and ethical.” Learn more at nasm.org/fns.