I was recently asked if I would recommend the Ideal Protein diet for short term weight loss. I want to tackle this question in two parts, starting with Ideal Protein itself.
Full disclosure, the mere mention of any of those shakes-only, proprietary-formula diet gets my back up, and I’m pretty much ready to dismiss the notion without further evaluation. But, I did my due diligence and investigated further, at least as much as I could given the dearth of nutritional info available online. As I suspected, it seems to be a VERY low-cal (like 500-700 a day for the first few weeks), working up to a maximum of 1600 kcal a day in the maintenance phase (this phase is only to be started once you’ve reached 100% of your weight loss goal…so if you don’t reach your goal, guess you’ll never get back up to a reasonable amount of food). It’s based on meal replacement shakes plus 1-2 “regular” meals a day. It is a VERY low carbohydrate and low-fat diet; most calories come from protein. It is highly restrictive, in that a variety of nutritious foods like chickpeas, beets, and most fruits are completely off limits (don’t even think about trying to squeeze in the occasional dessert or eating out, ever). I couldn’t find a full nutrient breakdown anywhere, but I am highly suspect that their products may not be adequately fortified with vitamins and minerals. The products are also highly, highly processed foods, and let’s all remember that even “GMO-free” processed foods still are not healthy choices. *Side note: GMO-full foods can absolutely be healthy choices.
I have a lot of problems with this diet, starting with poor transparency of what you actually get in the diet phases and foods (I am unwilling to spend a dime on ANY program that won’t tell me what’s in it before I’ve handed them a big, fat cheque), continuing to the weight loss claims: 3-7 lbs a week weight loss is unreasonable, unhealthy, and (despite their claims to the contrary) definitely involves loss of lean body mass (i.e. muscle, and even bone), and finally ending with the fact that their “ideal” protein mixtures do not seem to be anything that a person can’t get by just eating real foods. Oooo, so your shake mix has 21 amino acids and 20g of protein per serving? So does a 3 oz piece of chicken. Now, which one of those options is least likely to taste like chalk?… *Side note: I cannot verify whether or not their shakes taste like chalk. What I do know is that every meal replacement I’ve ever tried tastes a little chalky, so take from that what you will.
This “diet” will likely result in weight loss, at least in the short term, but at what cost to health? It does not teach the user any skills, so when they finally stop using it (hopefully before they’ve had to re-mortgage their house), they will be unable to maintain weight they’ve lost. If this diet is unlikely to produce long-term weight loss and maintenance, what was the point in the first place? Other than lining the pockets of the Ideal Protein’s shareholders. Maybe that was the point all along.