By Kayleigh Caito

Whole 30:

The Whole 30 diet is a 30-day diet challenge to “eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days,” (Knappenberger, 2018). The Whole 30 diet claims, “The next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food. It will change your tastes. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food and with your body.” (Knappenberger, 2018).



Diet protocols: (Knappenberger, 2018)

  • Do not weigh yourself or take any body measurements for the 30 days.
  • Do not eat:
    • Added sugar, real or artificial
    • Alcohol in any form
    • Grains (wheat, barley, oats, rice, quinoa, starch, etc.)
    • Legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, peanut butter, soy, tofu)
    • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream)
  • Exceptions to the rules:
    • Ghee or clarified butter
    • Fruit juice
    • Certain legumes (green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas)
    • Vinegar
    • Coconut aminos (coconut oil, coconut milk, etc)

This diet is relatively new, so there is very little literature to show the effects of the Whole 30 on health and exercise.  Based on research from similar diets, here are some potential benefits and drawbacks.

Potential benefits:

This diet cuts out many processed foods, which aligns with current health guidelines outlined in 2015-2020 Diet Guidelines for Americans. Highly processed foods and added sugars have poor health outcomes if eaten in excess. This diet may contribute to weight loss due to the restrictiveness (Knappenberger, 2018). This diet restricts calories overall, and eliminates certain foods that may contribute to weight gain. A benefit of this diet is that it provides a collection of innovative and delicious meals to try (Knappenberger, 2018). This promotes cooking of own meals, which may be beneficial to expose people to the joys of cooking!


Poor energy, focus, and mood during activity, low carbohydrate foods leads to decreased glycogen storage, which can cause fatigue and increased risk of injury (Knappenberger, 2018).  Elimination of dairy may lead to inadequate calcium intake, low sodium intake may lead to electrolyte imbalance, promotes short-term, strict diet habits which may lead to yo-yo dieting (Knappenberger, 2018).


Atkins diet:

The Atkins diet is based on a high fat and protein, low carbohydrate diet. The creator, Dr. Atkins published his book, claiming that this particular diet could allow people to lose weight while eating steak, eggs, and butter, because it was the carbohydrates, the pasta, rice, bagels, and sugar that caused obesity and heart disease (Maresco, 2005). Dr. Atkins claimed that fat was harmless, and dieters would lose weight because they would keep insulin down, would not be hungry, and would have less resistance to burning fat (Maresco, 2005).

The Atkins diet is divided into 4 different phases, each allowing slightly more carbohydrates and food options.  I have briefly outlined the phases below (Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., 2017):

  • Phase 1: Induction
    • 20-25 grams net carbs per day
    • Allow foundation vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and most cheeses, nuts and seeds
  • Phase 2: Balancing
    • 25-50 grams net carbs per day
    • Introduce berries, cherries, melon, whole milk Greek yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese, legumes, tomato juice
  • Phase 3: Fine-tuning
    • 50-80 grams net carbs per day
    • Introduce additional fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains
  • Phase 4: Maintenance
    • 80-100 grams net carbs per day
    • Same as phase 3, but with allowance of more carbohydrates per day

Phase 1 typically lasts two weeks, while the other phases vary, depending on weight loss goals and body tolerance to carbohydrates.

Potential benefits:

This diet may promote weight loss due to the calorie restrictiveness.  The diet also promotes high intake of vegetables and some healthy fats, which may be beneficial for overall health.  The Atkins diet also promotes limited intake of added sugars.  There is limited research showing the effects of the Atkins diet on exercise performance.


The diet may cause damage to bone mineral density. One study done in rats showed that rats that followed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet for 60 days had significantly lower bone mineral density (Zoraide et. al, 2014). The study indicates that long-term high protein, low carbohydrate diets may have a poor outcome on bone mineral density. This is especially worrisome for the aging population. There are indications that this type of diet may be harmful on the kidneys due to its very high protein content.  The Atkins diet promotes many of its own products that are highly processed and used for convenience. The ease of access of these products does not promote healthy lifestyle, such as cooking whole foods. This may lead to weight gain if the diet is stopped, due to improper learning of a lifestyle change. These products also tend to be rather expensive. Like many of the other low carbohydrate diets, Atkins may lead to poor energy, focus, and mood, and decreased glycogen storage. It can then impact energy and injury risk during exercise.

So, after learning about the most popular fad diets, I hope you are more informed on the potential benefits and drawbacks of each. I urge you to do your research and speak with your health care provider before trying any new diet. And also remember, what works for someone else may work differently for you!