The idea that eating a high protein diet can help you lose weight isn’t new – consider the Atkins diet, South Beach Diet, and more. The Ideal Protein diet has been around for over 20 years and has weight loss centers all across the U.S. and Canada – but what exactly is it? And does the Ideal Protein Diet work for weight loss and keeping the weight off long-term? Read on to find my take on the pros and cons of the Ideal Protein Diet!
What is the Ideal Protein Diet?
According to the Ideal Protein website, the diet is a “medically designed protocol containing 2 key components – weight loss and a healthier lifestyle education.” The diet itself is a low-carb, low calorie, high protein diet designed to put your body into ketosis – much like the ketogenic diet, except high in protein rather than fat. The website stresses that the ideal way to lose weight is by “learning to live off of the body’s own fat reserves” and by cutting out most carbs, since “simple and complex carbohydrates can prevent weight loss.”
[ctt template=”3″ link=”2WgyH” via=”no” ]The Ideal Protein Diet claims all carbs make you gain weight – is that true? Read more on #80twentynutrition https://ctt.ec/2WgyH+[/ctt]
Following the Ideal Protein diet isn’t as simple as making low-carb swaps in your diet, though. Ideal Protein is a branded diet only available through certified clinics, and you have to purchase their coaching sessions and prepackaged meals and supplements in order to follow it.
The protocol is split into phases: In phase 1 you consume 3 prepackaged meals and one self-prepared meat-and-veggie meal every day until you’ve lost most of your goal weight. In phases 2-4, you incrementally remove the prepackaged meals and add in self-prepared meals until you’ve lost all of your goal weight. You then return to “normal” eating with healthier food choices for weight maintenance. You might start out with Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Flavoured Omelet Mix for breakfast, have Chicken Flavoured Patty Mix for lunch, and finish with Leek Flavoured Soup Mix for dinner. Don’t forget the snacks, though – you’ve got options like Apple and Cinnamon Flavoured Soy Puffs and White Cheddar Flavoured Ridges.
Ideal Protein doesn’t give much in the way of details on their site, you’re directed to a local center (where you’ll pay for the program) if you want any information beyond claims of fantastic results. An unofficial source was threatened with legal action for posting the phases, and that information is pretty tough to find unless you want to pay a pretty penny. But here’s what it seems like you’d be eating on the different phases, from unofficial sources:
Pros & Cons of the Ideal Protein Diet
Focusing on getting enough protein in your diet can help with weight loss for several reasons. Protein can help you preserve muscle when you’re on a low calorie diet. It also helps keep you full and can speed up your metabolism. But does that mean you need to limit carbs and eat packaged foods? A solid no to both of those!
[ctt template=”3″ link=”Cf1D9″ via=”no” ]Yes, protein is healthy. But no, you don’t need to eat processed foods to get the protein you need! https://ctt.ec/Cf1D9+[/ctt]
Ideal Protein is a long-term diet meant to help you create lifestyle changes, rather than offering a quick-fix that ends after a few weeks. I appreciate that focus and would mark it as a “pro,” even though following a diet that puts you into ketosis may not be necessary and might not make a huge weight loss difference in the long run.
Having a coach that you see in person weekly is a great way to hold yourself accountable and make real lifestyle changes, but it worries me that anyone can open a clinic, without any licensing or experience. Working with a registered dietitian is the only way you can be sure that you’re getting evidence-based nutrition advice from a credentialed expert.
In addition, these coaches can set you back tons of cash. There’s no cost for the program listed anywhere on Ideal Protein’s website – you have to set up an appointment at a local clinic to get the word on how much an initial assessment and follow-up sessions will set you back (not to mention the cost of food).
People who don’t like to cook or are looking for a convenient diet might consider the use of prepackaged meals to be a “pro,” but I see them as a drawback of the program. I always recommend eating real foods rather than processed ones. To me, that means following an 80 Twenty approach in order to eat healthy while including indulgences rather than centering my diet around “healthy” processed versions of chips, cookies, and even chicken dinners – I’d rather just eat the real thing!
image: Ideal Well Coach
Ideal Protein doesn’t list ingredients or nutrition facts for any of their products on their site, directing you to a local Ideal Protein Center for nutrition information, but some centers provide limited nutrition information online. It seems weird that they don’t want you to know what’s in their food before you buy in, but here’s what I found: One breakfast item they sell is a Chocolatey Raspberry Crispy Square that has 260 calories, 25 grams of protein, lots of vitamins and minerals, and this ingredient list: Protein blend (soy protein isolate, milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, dried egg white, whey protein concentrate), isomaltooligosaccharide, vegetable oil (soybean, palm kernel, palm, shea), glycerin, polydextrose, organic invert syrup, tapioca starch, potassium gluconate, water, natural flavors, dehydrated raspberries, vitamin and mineral mix (dicalcium phosphate, ascorbic acid, ferrous fumarate, niacinamide, copper gluconate, dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), manganese sulfate, zinc oxide, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, palmitate (vitamin A), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), folic acid, chromium chloride, sodium molybdate, potassium iodide, d-biotin, sodium selenite, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12)), low fat cocoa powder processed with alkali, dicalcium phosphate, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, magnesium oxide, agar, citric acid, salt, sucralose, tocopherols, yeast.
Note that isomaltooligosaccharide (whatever that is) is the second ingredient, while real raspberries are way down on the list. I think I’ll skip this one.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”p8dq9″ via=”yes” ]Do you know what isomaltooligosaccharide is? Me either, but it doesn’t belong as a main ingredient at breakfast https://ctt.ec/p8dq9+ @80twentyrule[/ctt]
One plus is that Ideal Protein recognizes that such a restrictive diet can result in serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so supplements are required during the program. However, all the required supplements add up to a lot of money, when you could just be getting the nutrients you need from real food rather than non-nutritious food supplemented with pills. You’re required to buy these specific branded supplements from Ideal Protein (meaning you’ll pay a premium) – including a multivitamin, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and omega-3.
The Ideal Protein diet also cuts out nearly all carbs (leaving you at about 20 grams per day), claiming that “simple and complex carbs can prevent weight loss,” a declaration that fails to recognize that complex carbs provide plenty of health benefits. Just like with other low carb diets, my big hang-up is that there’s little to no research looking at low carb diets as a strategy for long term weight loss.
Another “con”: there’s little research looking at the Ideal Protein diet specifically. There is one study of the Ideal Protein diet’s effects listed on their website, but it isn’t published in any peer-reviewed journals. The study didn’t compare the effects of Ideal Protein against any other weight loss regimens. All in all, it’s a poorly designed study created to support a poorly designed diet program.
The Final Word
If I were going to follow a low carb diet, the Ideal Protein diet wouldn’t be it. As I’ve said about low carb diets before, they may help you lose weight, but it’s unclear how effective or safe they are in the long run.
Ideal Protein has you eating lots of processed and prepackaged low carb food – which would never be my recommendation for a healthy diet. Even though it’s nice to have a coach to help keep you accountable during lifestyle changes, anyone can own an Ideal Protein clinic, and they’re not necessarily credentialed nutrition experts, like registered dietitians.
If you want to try a low carb, high protein diet, I’d suggest talking with a registered dietitian and sticking to one that is made up of real, whole food rather than highly processed foods.
Have you heard of or tried the Ideal Protein diet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!