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The Biggest Loser diet is an at-home weight loss program inspired by the reality television show of the same name.
The plan claims to transform your body via healthier eating and exercise habits, including a strict low calorie regimen.
Still, you may wonder how effective it is.
This article tells you whether the Biggest Loser diet is a good choice for weight loss.
diet review scorecard
- Overall score: 3.25
- Weight loss: 4
- Healthy eating: 4.5
- Sustainability: 1
- Whole body health: 3
- Nutrition quality: 4
- Evidence-based: 3
BOTTOM LINE: The Biggest Loser eating plan promotes weight loss by restricting calories and encouraging a diet comprising nutrient-dense, whole foods. Yet, it may curb your calorie intake excessively — and it can be difficult to maintain.
Like many other weight loss diets, the Biggest Loser diet is a low calorie eating program. It also stresses regular exercise.
Its meal plans provide 1,200–1,500 calories per day and include 3 meals, plus 2–3 snacks from whole foods. The diet’s guidebook claims that eating frequently helps keep you full, balances your hormone levels, and provides energy for regular exercise (1).
You’re meant to plan and cook most meals on your own, carefully counting calories and weighing and measuring foods. You’re further encouraged to keep a daily food log or journal.
Before starting the diet, it’s best to calculate your individual calorie needs. Start by using an app or website to determine what you’re currently eating.
For a safe 1–2 pounds (0.5–0.9 kg) of weight loss each week, subtract 500–1,000 calories from the number of daily calories you’re currently eating and use that as your initial calorie goal (2).
The diet stipulates that 45% of your daily calories come from carbs like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, 30% from dairy and animal or plant protein, and 25% from healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil, as well as sugar-free or low sugar desserts.
The Biggest Loser 4-3-2-1 food pyramid provides a visual guide for the diet. It recommends (1):
- at least four daily servings of fruits and veggies (cooked and raw), plus a vegetable salad on most days
- three daily servings of protein from lean meats and fish, legumes, tofu and other soy foods, and low fat dairy products
- two daily servings of high fiber whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, or quinoa
- up to 200 daily calories from “extras,” which include healthy fats, as well as treats and desserts
The Biggest Loser diet is based on the reality TV series of the same name. It’s a reduced calorie eating plan that relies on whole, nutrient-dense foods meant to keep you feeling full throughout the day.
Given that it slashes your calorie intake, the Biggest Loser diet should help you lose weight. You may experience even more benefits if you combine it with exercise.
However, you shouldn’t expect the same results as the previous television show participants, who lost an average of 128 pounds (58 kg) over 30 weeks (4).
They did so by eating only 1,300 daily calories and engaging in over 3 hours of vigorous exercise each day with a trainer (4).
Various weight loss studies lasting 10–52 weeks indicate that low calorie diets result in an average weight loss of 22 pounds (9.9 kg) from diet alone. Those who add exercise experience a whopping 29 pounds (13 kg) of weight loss, on average (5).
The Biggest Loser diet is considered a moderate or balanced macronutrient diet, which means that it’s not excessively high in protein, fat, or carbs. In fact, it adheres closely to the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) set by the Institute of Medicine (6).
Other popular types of weight loss diets include low carb or low fat diets.
In a yearlong study in 7,285 people comparing various diets, including the Biggest Loser diet, low fat and low carb eating patterns result in slightly more weight loss than moderate macronutrient diets (7).
However, all participants lost significant amounts of weight, regardless of their diet (5).
If you follow the Biggest Loser diet’s meal plans and exercise recommendations, you may stand to shed a significant amount of weight.
The Biggest Loser diet may have a few other benefits.
First, it may help you become a healthier eater because it incorporates whole, nutrient-dense foods and skips junk and fast food. It also stresses the importance of reading labels, measuring portion sizes, and keeping a food journal.
Using the Biggest Loser food pyramid to plan meals and snacks may likewise improve your diet quality. Researchers found this to be true for Americans who used the USDA’s food pyramid to plan meals (8).
In fact, it may even reduce your cravings.
The Biggest Loser diet may curb your cravings for sweets and junk foods, as well as improve your diet quality.
If you follow the Biggest Loser diet strictly, your daily calorie intake may be too low — especially if you’re exercising intensely.
The authors recommend eating no fewer than 1,200 calories per day. However, for most men and many women, eating so few calories may leave you hungry and fatigued.
The diet is also heavily focused on reading food labels, counting calories, and eliminating high calorie foods. Occasional dining out is permitted, but it’s essential to plan it into your daily calories.
Although these tips may all benefit weight loss, some people may find it time consuming, overly restrictive, and difficult to maintain — particularly in the long run.
Notably, it isn’t unusual to regain half of the weight you lose in the first year after any diet program due in part to a slowdown in your metabolism. Also, many people slip back into old habits (11).
If you can maintain the diet long term, you’ll have a better chance of losing weight (4).
However, research reveals that more people succeed at maintaining weight loss if they have some type of group or individual support, which the Biggest Loser diet doesn’t provide (13).
The Biggest Loser diet may be dangerously low in calories and overly strict or time consuming for some people. In addition, there’s no one-on-one or group support available.
This Biggest Loser diet emphasizes a variety of fresh, whole foods. Because few — if any — whole foods are banned and no foods are required, the plan is also flexible if you have dietary restrictions.
Fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and minimally processed whole grains will fill most of your plate. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes or squash are limited to just once or twice per week.
Protein choices include skinless poultry, leaner cuts of beef like sirloin or tenderloin, and seafood. Fattier fish, such as salmon and sardines, are encouraged for their omega-3 fats, but remember that they’re higher in calories than lean fish.
Vegetarian protein options include all legumes, plus soy products like tofu and tempeh. Egg whites and low fat or fat-free dairy products, including milk, nonfat yogurt, and low fat cheese, are also recommended sources of protein.
You’re meant to limit nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, and other high fat foods to only 100 calories per day.
The diet’s only other limited foods are sweets, snack treats, and alcohol, which are restricted to 100 calories per day. In fact, you’re encouraged to skip these extras and instead allocate the 100 calories to healthy food choices.
The Biggest Loser diet provides a variety of low calorie, whole foods. You’re able to eat from every food group but should closely monitor your intake of fats and desserts.
Here is a 1,500 calorie menu for 1 day on the Biggest Loser diet.
- 1 whole grain toaster waffle with 1 tablespoon of fruit spread and 1 cup (123 grams) of raspberries
- 1 poached or boiled egg
- 1 cup (240 mL) of fat-free milk
- 2 ounces (57 grams) of smoked salmon
- 2 Wasa crackers (or a similar multigrain crispbread)
- 1 small whole grain tortilla with 3 ounces (85 grams) of roast beef, 1 tablespoon of horseradish, lettuce, and 3 thin slices of avocado
- 1 cup (150 grams) of seedless grapes
- water or unsweetened iced tea
- 1 cup (240 mL) of fat-free lentil soup
- 1 serving of quinoa tabbouleh with tomato and cucumber
- 3/4 cup (128 grams) of sliced melon
- unsweetened tea
A typical day’s menu on the Biggest Loser diet includes three small, balanced meals and two snacks. You’ll eat several servings of fruits and vegetables, plus lean proteins and some whole grains.
The Biggest Loser diet is a low calorie eating plan based on the reality television show of the same name.
It has been shown to aid weight loss by stressing meal planning, calorie counting, and portion control. Its meals are comprised of high fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains balanced with low fat proteins and small amounts of healthy fat.
Yet, it may dangerously restrict calories for some people and can be challenging to adhere to. What’s more, there’s no support during or after the program to help you maintain weight loss.
Still, if you’re looking to eat healthy and shed weight at the same time, the Biggest Loser diet may be worth a shot.