Diet Review: The Dukan Diet

So far I have been quite reserved in my writings on certain types of diet. But as all superheroes have the nemesis all personal trainers I guess have an industry pet hate. Now the reasons for this hatred are not jealousy- I understand that marketing is involved to sell things. When someone though is in a position of authority and has a title such as “Dr” people will listen to this and consider that persons advice “true.” Regardless of the positive and negative of a product stick a doctor on the front and it will sell. Why? We all believe what doctors say. Twin it with a few celebrity clients and a marketing budget and we have a diet to sell!

Described as a breakthrough diet book the Dukan diet has bee perched at the top of the diet section book shelf for sometime. Indeed with over a million copies sold someone must be losing weight!

The diet consists of 4 phases. First phase, limited carbs and high protein. Second phase, high protein with a few choice vegetables- though you can only eat them every other day. Third phase, add fruit- but not too much. Phase 4 is a maintainance phase and you can eat normally but on a Thursday repeat phase 1 and just eat protein (Thursday must be really bad for fat storage or something). You can drink water, tea and coffee and talk a multivitamin do brighten things up a little


So does it work? It is a high protein, carb restricted diet so you will lose weight quickly early on. This will be muscle glycogen and water (I have seen people lose up to 10kg with this approach- it isn’t permanent). As the diet maintains a high protein intake it has a tick in the box for maintaining lean muscle tissue. Body carbohydrates are depleted and in turn you will look elsewhere for energy and you are likely to increase fat burning as part of the process. Great! The negatives are as follows. On all low carbohydrate diets ultimately your metabolism will adjust to a lower consumption level over a period of time. Therefore, you can tolerate less carbohydrates. Starvation over time can lead to metabolic slow down and decreased hormonal status- again a negative for long term fat loss and maintenance  The programme encourages disordered eating- avoiding certain vegetables on certain days makes no sense. 95% of the time it isn’t over consumption of spinach that is the issue so the strict phases initially are not necessary.


There are a few other critiques, food choice is severely limited- this plan takes it to the N’th degree. You can only eat to this restrictive list-assigning foods to certain days is impossible in the long term. This can result in nutritional inefficiencies and in turn lead to health issues. The Dukan diet is near enough impossible if you don’t eat meat, fish or eggs. While this plan will lose you weight it is unnecessarily harsh, twinned with the fact (that the author even admits) that you will see an immediate bounce back in weight with normal carbohydrate consumption it could be considered that it is a diet that creates a false economy of fat loss.


Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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