ALL diets are developed with the intention of helping you to achieve weight loss, and most of them will result in this once you adhere to them. Unfortunately, very few diets are designed to help you permanently stabilise your weight and this, according to the nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant, is where the Dukan diet is winning.
“The Dukan diet was devised by Pierre Dukan; it is a commercial fad diet which is mainly protein-based. The assumption of this diet is that limiting carbohydrates allow the body to use up fat, therefore, resulting in weight loss,” Grant explained.
He pointed out that the reason why the diet aims to increase proteins and limit other sources of energy, such as carbohydrates and fats, is based on the theory that proteins are naturally filling, require a lengthier period for digestion, and have very few calories for each gram of food, compared to carb-heavy foods.
“When protein supplies the majority of a diet, fats and carbs are limited and fast weight loss ensues since, in the absence of carbohydrates, which is usually the main source of energy for the body, it is forced to turn to an alternative fuel — which is fat stored by the body,” Grant said.
The diet, according to Grant, has four ground pillars which are referred to as phases — each earning its name from the focus of the phase. They are as follows:
Phase one – Attack
This phase, which runs for 10 days, focuses on rapid weight loss. You will eat lean protein such as beef, fish, chicken, eggs, soy, and cottage cheese. The only rule is that your protein be low in fat and does not contain added sugars. In addition, dieters should consume an additional 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran and at least six cups of water, and should exercise for approximately 20 minutes daily.
Phase two – Cruise
This phase will be high in vegetable consumption, with the aim being helping dieters to reach their targeted body weight gradually. The vegetables will have to come from a list of 32 specific vegetables; fruits are not allowed. Generally, dieters aim to lose two pounds per week and the duration of this phase will be dependent on how much weight the dieter wishes to lose. So, for example, if the desired weight loss is 30 pounds, this will last for 15 weeks; however, if they want to lose five pounds, it will last 10 weeks.
As in the Attack phase, the dieter is allowed to eat unlimited amounts of low-fat protein and unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, okra, lettuce and green beans. However, one general rule is that they will alternate their consumption of lean protein and vegetables. Similar to the previous phase, the dieter will continue to consume 1.5 litres of water and one tablespoon of oat bran each day, and aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Phase three – Consolidation
This phase aims to encourage weight stabilisation and as such the main focus is on avoiding weight gain. Dieters are allowed to eat unlimited quantities of protein and vegetables, one piece of low-sugar fruit, one portion of cheese, and two slices of whole-grain bread. He/she can also consume one or two servings of starchy food and one or two celebration meals (which is basically whatever the dieter chooses) each week. In addition, during this phase, the dieter starts eating the core diet of pure protein one day each week and involves 25 minutes of exercise a day.
Phase 4 – Stabilisation
This phase of the diet will occur over time; it focuses on long-term maintenance as opposed to weight gain or loss. Grant notes that while in this phase dieters can eat pretty much whatever they want, there is a list of rules they must follow:
• One day each week they must have an all-protein day, as in the Attack phase.
• Eat three tablespoons of oat bran each day.
• Exercise for 20 minutes each day.
• Never take escalators or elevators.
Importantly, the stabilisation phase is a long-term plan that becomes part of the individual's lifestyle. Dieters are also advised to take multivitamins with minerals.
While the diet has worked for many people, Grant argues that there are a number of drawbacks, and many critics have labelled it nutritionally incomplete on the basis that it does not include valuable foods such as fruits and grains. In addition, Grant notes that dieters are at an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease and worsening cardiovascular health. He said that the diet has even been linked to kidney stones.