Let’s talk about the egg diets (egg diet or egg fast; grouping them together here for ease). The idea that eating an abundance of eggs and not much else for a short period of time will boost your weight loss, or knock you out of a plateau if your weight loss has stalled.
The Bad Stuff & The Misconceptions
I want to start this one off right away with discussing the negatives, because it is important to understand what you are getting yourself in to, but also to get through not only the risks but also the misconceptions.
1) Malnutrition is the biggest one here, if you do choose to try this diet, then do not do so for an extended period of time. Your body needs a greater variety of foods to function. Most egg diets or egg fasting plans have you on it for only a week or less. Do not try to extend it! These are not meant to be long term diets, just booster to get your weight loss moving.
2) Other common negative effects include fatigue, headache, muscle tightness and cramps, digestive problems, and nausea.
Much of these side effects come from your body not easily switching metabolic pathways (i.e. a starvation response), since you are going to be using mostly ketone bodies as your fuel source for the duration of this diet with just a bit protein derived glucose, and not the super easy carb derived glucose like your body would prefer.
If you are already adapted to a ketogenic lifestyle, then most of these more unpleasant flu-like side effects won’t effect you as hard. And if you’ve ever considered getting into ketogenics as a weight loss strategy, then the egg diet can be one way to get a strong start (but probably not the best way).
3) “But I heard gluconeogenesis was bad, and won’t your body be in gluconeogenesis with such a high protein diet?!?!”
Gluconeogenesis is where your body breaks down fat and protein in the absence of carbohydrates and in the presence of stress and low glycemic conditions in order to make glucose to feed your tissues.
Simple answer: No, gluconeogenesis is not a bad thing (it’s absolutely necessary to keep us fed between meals), and it is also not a dietary driven process, but rather a need driven one: if your body needs more glucose (or thinks it does) then it turns on gluconeogenesis, eating tons of protein will not stimulate this process, only feed it if your body turns it on. However, studies have shown that dietary protein produces very little glucose, even in optimal conditions. When on the more extreme egg fast, with no significant source of carbs, moderate fats, and a lot of protein, you are starving yourself to lose weight. Which brings us back to our first point, malnutrition! Malnutrition is bad, mmkay: you can still be starving yourself even though you are eating. I repeat, just because you are eating good portions does not guarantee that you are not starving yourself, you need to be getting your macros and your essential vitamins.
Starving yourself to lose weight is Always a Bad Idea!
4) The digestive problems that can be a side effect of the egg diets stem mostly from the lack of fiber in this meal plan, which your body needs for healthy digestion. Especially for feeding that healthy gut bacteria, and we need those critters to keep us healthy. They will die if we stop feeding them fiber, and then the bad guy bacteria will take all their land and take up residence inside your gut (don’t forget to feed your pet bacteria, you won’t live as long without them).
5) “Eggs are bad for your heart!” Nope, not true, there is one old study that did indicate that eggs were bad for your heart, which seemed right given their high cholesterol content, so we all just kind of agreed with it for an embarrassingly long time. But then some brilliant people put it to the test with one of the largest studies ever conducted and found that: for one- It’s not true. And secondly- The exact opposite is actually true; eggs good, heart happy. Not to advocate eating nothing but eggs, or even a whole lot of them, but those who eat eggs on a daily or near daily basis do appear to have better heart health.
6) And finally, this type of restrictive trend diet is precisely the variety that encourages yo-yo dieting, that is to say, the weight is likely to come right back if you’re not very strict with your dietary needs afterwards.
You can choose nearly any narrow range of food to eat for a time, and you are likely to lose some weight just from the malnutrition alone, but this type if weight loss is bad, and doesn’t last. Your body is more likely to respond poorly to this abuse, and do all that it can to make sure that it replenishes all that was lost (and then some) by loading you down with intense cravings just as soon as you are off the diet.
I feel like I’ve already said this, but just in case: Starving yourself to lose weight is Always a Bad Idea!
Are there any real benefits?
The benefits are, quite simply, that it works. If your only concern is what that scale reads, then yes, this should do that for you.
If you are already on a strict nutritious diet and just trying to push beyond a barrier to shed a little more body fat, then this might be an okay method to get you there- if – you are very careful to meet your nutritional needs with supplements – and– you continue to get your fiber (regardless of what anyone’s trend diet instructions might tell you to restrict from your diet, Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Ever Remove Fiber!).
In my experience, it is best to just wait out plateaus in weight loss: your body doesn’t like to let go of its energy reserves, plateaus happen, but they pass. My last plateau was four months long, but ended with a sudden loss of nearly fifteen pounds in a month, and then a pound or two per week thereafter: back on track, no eggs or starvation required.
When your body is ready, it will shed the weight, you just have to stick it out and keep up that healthy lifestyle: stay active, count your macros, be patient, and have faith.