The Biggest Loser Diet Analyzed


Although I've only seen part of one episode of the TV show "The Biggest Loser", I've been curious about the Biggest Loser Diet I've been hearing about. I was sure it is low in calories, but how were the calories distributed? In particular, did contestants cut down their carb intake? To aid me in my research, I took the description of the Biggest Loser Diet in Prevention magazine, and created menus for three different days of the diet.

I tried to choose menus that I thought would be typical when following the guidelines, and deliberately avoided making choices that were the highest or lowest in carbs in each category. Here's what I found out about the Biggest Loser Diet:

1) Calories: The diet has about 1100 calories per day - all three days came to within 35 calories of this in either direction.

2) Carbohydrate: The menus I chose were between 88 and 120 grams of carbohydrate per day, which was between 42% and 53% of the calories. The diet does not allow any added sugar, refined grains, or potatoes, so most people would be eating a diet that is somewhat lower in carbs, and much less glycemic than the way most people eat.

3) Protein: The diet is relatively high in protein. The menus I chose were between 100 and 120 grams of protein per day, which was between 35% and 46% of the calories.

4) Fat: The diet is very low in fat. The highest fat day was the one where salmon was included; that one had 20 grams of fat at 16% of calories.

Other days were around 12% fat.

Thoughts on the Biggest Loser Diet:The whole point of the Biggest Loser TV Show (and the part I object to, which is why I will not watch it) is to lose large amounts of weight as fast as possible. Of course, this makes great TV, but outside the confines of the strictly-regulated regieme of the contestants (and probably not even there), it's really not a good idea.

For most people, this diet would not be sustainable, as after awhile hunger will assert itself forcefully into the equation. Small, relatively inactive women might be able to sustain it for longer periods, but part of the idea of getting healthy is to become active. For this reason, I'm not a fan of low-calorie diets, as I think they tend to set people up for failure in the long run. At the very least, the number of calories should be customized to the individual.

I am also not thrilled with diets which are very low in fat, as our bodies need fat to run well. In this diet, the fat is mostly replaced with protein, rather than carbohydrate, which is an improvement over the usual low-fat diet. Still, I can't imagine many people living with this for more than a few months, and most of them would drop out long before.

The diet is said to be "carbohydrate modified" in that all refined carbs are eliminated, and other high-carb foods are limited to moderate amounts. This is a good thing, and this amount of carbohydrate restriction works for many people (though some people require a lower-carb diet).

Conclusion: The Biggest Loser Diet could be the basis for a workable diet. I suggest that anyone who tries it and has difficulty add sources of healthy fat if they get hungry.

For example, add avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, flax seeds, etc. (Saturated fats are probably also fine, at least in the context of a low-carb diet.) If they continue to have trouble, they can try cutting out some of the grain servings. Or check out my Low-Carb Food Pyramid.

Photo © Linda & Colin McKie

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