The Ideal Protein Diet: Pros & Cons – 80 Twenty Nutrition

The Ideal Protein Diet: Pros & Cons

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!

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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[/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:

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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![/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 @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.

image: Pexels

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!

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  1. Henrietta says:

    My husband and I went to one of the Ideal Protein clinics last night for a free open house. The presentation lasted about 1 hour, followed by a sampling of their chocolate “shake” and some snack chips. While the weight loss results of the 2 presenters were truly inspiring, I took a look at the listed ingredients of the products and became skeptical that this diet is healthy. Their “chicken soup” has 900 mg. of sodium in one serving! Their “scrambled eggs” is over 700 mg per serving. Everything was high sodium and full of artificial sweeteners. Most had ingredients I did not recognize, nor do I want to put them in my body. When I asked about the sodium levels, my concerns were brushed aside. The boxes of food are about $31.00 per box, with 7 servings per box. They did not give a breakdown of the cost of supplements, except a two-month supply of the vitamins was $91.00. You still have to buy meat and veggies for dinner. I can see this diet appealing to people who do not want to cook, or those who have to eat on the road because all you really need is water to mix things. There are restrictions on how many protein bars you can eat, and certain products are completely off limit for the first 2 weeks. I was also concerned about the soy protein in everything. There is a breast cancer connection to soy. The presenters told us that when we eat animal protein, we don’t absorb that much, but when we eat the ideal protein, we absorb about 75%. I can not see myself eating a chocolate shake (very thin and watery) for breakfast and not feeling hungry until lunch time, which is what they claim will happen. Obviously, the diet works to take the weight off, because the presenters showed their before and after pictures, but eating artificial processed food seem counter intuitive. They keep reminding us that this is not a lifestyle diet, that you don’t have to eat this way forever, so that is one good point!

    1. Henrietta, thank you so much for sharing your experience at the info session for the Ideal Protein Diet. I completely agree with your concerns about relying on highly processed foods loaded with sodium and artificial sweeteners: not a healthy way to eat!

      It’s great to know that this diet has helped people… I don’t doubt it. It really helps people to limit their calories significantly and so they lose weight if they can stick to it. I wonder how long people keep it off for? Like most diets, I suspect the weight tends to creep back on as soon as people try to eat “normally” again.

      Curious what route you’re trying instead? Eating real food is always a good idea 🙂

  2. Thank you for this article. A friend of mine has been doing this program since Memorial Day and has lost a LOT of weight, she has never been as thin as she is now and she raves about the program. I was thinking of doing it also but once I found the website I had a LOT of questions, and the fact that they don’t share anything made me start to question it. Then when I went to find a ‘clinic’ in my area there wasn’t anything listed on the website. My friend was able to get me a name of someone in my town through her support person, it is a chiropractor (?!) and I had to dig through his website to find any mention of Ideal Protein. This article made me wonder if this is actually a good way to go. I would like to start cutting carbs out of my diet but I don’t like eating a lot of heavily processed foods, and those sodium contents mentioned by Henrietta are terrifying! So thank you for the article, and thank you Henrietta for your information!

    1. Hi Kathie, thanks so much for sharing your experience with looking into this diet. Good for you for looking into the pros and cons of a diet program before jumping right in. I completely agree that you can reduce your carb intake and focus on whole, unprocessed foods and see great results. Plus, that’s going to be better for your health than relying on highly processed foods loaded with sodium.

      I’m happy you found this article helpful and comments from other readers have been very insightful… thanks to Henrietta and others!

      Keep us posted on your weight loss journey, and please let me know if you need any additional support.

  3. Morie Malloy says:

    I did the Ideal Protein diet to lose 20 lbs. That was 16 moths ago I️lost the weight and have kept it off. Now i run a clinic and have watched people’s lives change dramatically. One person in particular lost over 80 lbs and has been taken off his HTN medications. He and his wife are new people and are enjoying things in life they have not been able to do for many years. The cost of the food while you ar on Phase 1 is minimal per serving. Approximately $3.75/serving. You cannot drive through McDoalds for that amount. The lasting results of this diet program are what made me chose this and my entire approach to eating and exercise has changed. Can you say that about other diet programs? Phase Four is the key!

    1. Hi Morie, thanks so much for sharing these success stories. Congrats on losing 20 lbs and keeping it off! That’s great that you’ve found an approach that works for you and are inspiring others to do the same.

      The best diet is the one you can stick to. Seems like you’ve found what works for you.

    2. Aaron Turek says:

      I am a total advocate for this diet! I have done it twice in my life. At age 18 where I lost 35 pounds and I just finished my second time at age 25 where I lost 20 pounds. Reason I had to do it a second time?? Because I fell off the wagon and ate bar food for 3 years straight. But I was so happy to get back to Ideal Protein because I lost my most recent 20 pounds in about 2 months. It got me back on track to a healthy weight number, fat body % and muscle %. (I’m a big CrossFit person so fat % and muscle % mean a lot to me)

      I am an all in or all out sort of person. and with this diet you need to be all in for it to work. It is NOT easy. If you actually eat the amount of veggies you are suppose to eat, you will not starve. For me it was actually hard to eat that amount of veggies and I am a big eater.

      But from some who has done it twice in there life – If you are looking for a diet that is going to lose fat and KEEP muscle, this diet is great. If you are looking for the cheapest and easiest way – this is not for you. you live and breath your macro’s. 🙂

      it is expensive – which is a double edged sword – It keeps you accountable because you don’t want to see your money go to waste. But on the flip, not everyone can do it and I think it should be accessible to everyone.

      For me it actually evened out because I stopped spending money on alcohol and going out to eat.

      Anyway, it has given me proven results but it may not be for everyone.

  4. You are correct the whole foods are the best BUT some people (me) need more to help get to a weight that they want to be. A more normal feeling weight.
    I’m 50 and have had a lot of trouble losing weight. I eat salads with vinegar and olive oil and no cheese while my husband is setting beside me eating tacos.
    I used to try all kinds of diets before changing my lifestyle and eating whole foods. Nothing worked and eating much much better didn’t help.
    I started Ideal Protein and lost 30 pounds in 3 months and went off from my blood pressure medication per my doctor.
    The food is not cheap but I don’t mind because I feel so much better!!!! And when I reach the end of the program I will go back to eating my lemon pepper salmon and broccoli and loving life. Who knows… I might even have more energy and want to exercise more.
    One more thing point – you do have to be in the medical field to open an Ideal Protein Clinic.

  5. As a nutritionist are you against a protein bars and shakes that are on the market? There is several Facebook groups that follow similar protocols to IP but recommend items that can bought in local stores. I did IP, lost 30 lbs gained back 20 because of my own stupidity. Have done many other diets and gained again because of me…………. I find that I can modify and lose using local bought shakes and bars during phase 1. You photo above is not the protocol I was given when I did IP.

    1. Hi Carol, using shakes and bars over the long term isn’t great… whole, minimally processed foods are always the healthiest option.

      Having said that, I do see the value in using protein bars and shakes to help with weight loss early on as they help you keep calories and portion sizes in check.

      How was your protocol different? Would love to hear more.

  6. I have been on the Ideal Protien program for 12 weeks now, and am down 62 lbs. Start weight with ideal protien was 264.4, this morning i was 202.2. Going from a size 42″ waist and xxl shirts, to a 32″ waist and large shirts. I had also visited my doctor prior to starting and two months into the program. Like other, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t messing anything up. The results. Cholesterol went from 176 to 107, Triglycerides went from 120, to 60, and my BP went from 149/92 @ 83bpm, to 94/59 @ 58 bpm.

    So at least for me. It works. But, you must follow the program exactly to to maintain the losses. I find it a small sacrifice for a long term gain. Additionally, you set your weight loss goals, not the coach. It’s a good program, good out comes and it works. But like previous posts, it’s not cheap. In the end though I was spending more, making myself fat. So it’s actually been a money save, plus I feel much better, and only about 25 to go.

    1. Hi David, congrats on your success so far. Happy to hear you’ve found something that works well for you. Why do you think this has worked for you over other plans? Would love to help people find that without having to spend a bundle 😉