'The Biggest Loser' Diet Analyzed

the biggest loser
Courtesy of The Biggest Loser

The television show "The Biggest Loser" places contestants on a diet that is low in calories. You may wonder how those calories are distributed and, in particular, whether the contestants cut down their carbohydrate intake.

A description of "The Biggest Loser" diet in Prevention magazine provides some clues. From that, menus can be created for three different days of the diet. These menus should be typical for those following the guidelines, deliberately avoiding choices that are the highest or lowest in carbs in each category. Here's what you may find out about "The Biggest Loser" diet.

'The Biggest Loser' Diet

  • Calories: The diet has about 1100 calories per day. All three days came within 35 calories of this in either direction.
  • Carbohydrate: The menus chosen were between 88 and 120 grams of carbohydrate per day, which was between 42 percent and 53 percent 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. This is much less glycemic than the way most people eat.
  • Protein: The diet is relatively high in protein. The menus chosen were between 100 and 120 grams of protein per day, which was between 35 percent and 46 percent of the calories.
  • 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 percent of calories. Other days were around 12 percent fat.

Opinion on 'The Biggest Loser' Diet

The whole point of "The Biggest Loser" television show 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 regimen of the contestants (and probably not even there), it's not a good idea.

For most people, this diet would not be sustainable, as after a while 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. Low-calorie diets 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.

Diets which are very low in fat are also less optimal, as your body needs 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. It is hard to 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).

The Bottom Line

"The Biggest Loser" diet could be the basis for a workable diet. Anyone who tries it and has difficulty may 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.

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