The high protein, low carb way approach to weight loss dieting is very popular right now. There are countless diet programs around that are designed to convert stored body fat into energy by emphasizing proteins and fats as the key macronutrients. In this way they are designed to bring on a ketogenic effect, where the body uses ketones from fat rather than glucose from carbs to fuel the body.
Ideal Protein sounds like a protein powder, yet it is so much more than that. It is a complete diet program in which you purchase pre-packaged, Ideal Protein foods that are high in protein, while being low in carbs and fat. By keeping your dietary carbs low, you will be encouraging your body to burn body fat for energy.
According to the Hans D Gruenn Medical Center, most women will be able to lose 3-5 pounds per week, while men can lose 5-7 pounds per week. Because the diet is high in protein, it is claimed that you will be losing all fat, rather than muscle tissue.
This program was developed by Dr. Tran Tien Chanh. M.D. The basic premis is to try and eliminate sugar from the diet in order to regulate insulin release and eliminate food cravings. The high protein nature of the diet is designed to preserve muscle tissue as you lose body fat.
To get started on the Ideal Protein program you need to visit a local Ideal protein clinic and enroll in the Four Phase Program. You will be assigned your own weight loss coach who will work with you to work out how much weight you need to lose. You then purchase pre-packaged meals which comprise the first phase of the program.
The Phase One program provides you with just 1,100 calories per day.
There are four stages to the Ideal Protein program. During Phase One, you eat three Ideal Protein meals and one self prepared meal per day, which is low in carbs. You stay in this stage until you have achieved 70-80% of your goal weight. Stage Two involves decreasing the number of Ideal Protein meals per day and increasing the number of self prepared meals. You stay on this Phase until you have reached 100% of your goal weight.
Phase Three involves slowly reintroducing carbohydrates and fats. During this phase, you reduce down to one Ideal Protein meal per day. In Phase Four, all of your meals are self made.
The Ideal Protein program is based around whole food meals as opposed to supplements. The high protein, low carb, fat food selections are nutritious and appetizing. They are pictured on the official website, though there is no breakdown of their macronutrient content or individual ingredients. Here is a selection of the types of meals that are provided.
The Classic Morning Selections of breakfast foods includes Apple Flavored Oatmeal, Cheddar cheese and bacon flavored omelet mix, chocolate chip pancake mix, fine herbs and cheese omelet mix and maple flavored oatmeal. The meals are nutritiously balanced, with a wide selection of vitamins and minerals. Most online reviewers report that they are pleased with the taste and presentation of these meals.
The Ideal Protein meal selection includes a range of tempting desserts that are all low in carbs and high in protein. These include chocolate caramel flavored mug cake, raspberry gelatin mix, vanilla crispy square and raspberry mousse mix.
Ideal Protein do have a protein shake mix which is designed to replace one meal per day. It is available in three flavors – chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. This is a low carb drink that provides 18 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs (4 from sugar) and a total calorie count of 110 calories.
This is a cheap form of milk protein, which is spray dried from skim milk. It is an inferior form of protein to whey or animal based protein sources. Milk protein concentrate may be imported from China, where it has been found to contain contaminants, including melamime, which can cause liver damage (1).
The cocoa powder used in Ideal Protein is alkalized in order to reduce antioxidant activity. However, the stimulant nature of this ingredient may lead to rapid heart rate, insomnia and restlessness. It may also contain caffeine (2).
The sugar content derived from beet sugar and sugar cane has absolutely no nutritional value. It is added simply to improve the taste of the product.
Carrageenan is a thickener and stabilizer that is added to many processed foods. It has no nutritional value but may have some potential side effects. A study by Juntendo University in Japan showed that this ingredient caused an increase in tumors in healthy rats. A second study also confirmed cancerous side effects (3).
Xanthan Gum is a thickener that is made from a mixture of sugar and bacteria. It can be extracted from sources such as wheat, corn and soy, all of which are common allergens. Xanthan has been associated with bloating, gas and stomach problems (4).
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is commonly sold under the brand name Splenda. Splenda is a thousand times more powerful than sucrose.The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health mentions several potential side effects of sucralose, including reduction of gut bacteria.
Acesuflame Potassium is a calorie free artificial sweetener that is 200 times more potent than sucrose. It has also been associated with side effects, primary among which is the increasing of insulin secretion.
Ideal protein meal replacement shake contains a number of artificial sweeteners, flavoring and thickeners, along with low cost forms of protein. There is no mention of the amino acid profile of this mixture, which is important to know. So, even though you get 18 grams of protein, the quality of that protein is low and you don't know how many essential amino acids you are getting.
You cannot buy this shake separately. It comes as part of the overall Ideal Protein program.
The Ideal Protein Weight Loss Program was rated as the most popular diet program of 2015 by DietsInReview and has remained popular ever since. There are also a large number of before and after pictures on Instagram. However, there are also quite a few reports of people who have piled the weight back on in the months after they come off the Phase 4 diet. This is largely because of the calorie restrictive nature of the diet. Many studies have shown that there is a rebound effect when people go on a limited calorie diet. Usually the person ends up heavier than they were in the first place.
The goal of the Ideal Protein diet to completely eliminate sugars is also unrealistic. There are, in fact, natural sugars in fruits that are coupled with a lot of positive vitamin and minerals that you miss out on with this diet.
Another issue with the Ideal protein program is the cost. Phase One of the program will cost you about $85.00 per week, with $60.00 per week for Phase Two, $30.00 per week for Phase Three. All up, you'll pay about $700 for the 10 week program.
While you don't get many details of the individual ingredients before signing up, we have seen what is inside the meal replacement drink. We've seen that it contains cheap protein sources and lots of additives and fillers, some of which are associated with adverse side effects. If this is anything to go by, the overall goodness of the foods offered is questionable.
We believe that the Ideal Protein diet program is an expensive short term weight loss plan that will not sustain long term weight control. We do not endorse this program.
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(1) Robin A McGregor and Sally D Poppitt: Milk protein for improved metabolic health: a review of the evidence
(2) Astrid Nehlig: The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance
(3) J K Tobacman: Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments.
(4) G. Woodard, M.W. Woodard, W.H. McNeely, P. Kovacs, M.T.I. Cronin: Xanthan gum: Safety evaluation by two-year feeding studies in rats and dogs and a three-generation reproduction study in rats
Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.