By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Expert Review
The Body for Life web site provides a wealth of useful information including an active community, meal plans, shopping lists, training tools, member recipes, success stories, workout videos and the opportunity to join the 12-week Body for Life Challenge.
Body for Life: What You Can Eat
The good news is that with all the work Body for Life requires, you have to eat. Grazing, not gorging, six times a day is the key except for the one day a week when all rules are forgotten. Each meal consists of a fist-sized portion of protein -- lean meat, poultry, fish, egg whites, or cottage cheese -- and a fist-sized portion of healthy carbohydrates such as potatoes or brown rice. You must also eat at least two portions of vegetables, and drink 10 glasses of water each day. Nutritional supplements (available on the Body for Life website) and a tablespoon or two of healthy oil (such as flaxseed) are recommended to round out the diet.
The diet breaks down to about 40%-50% protein, the same for carbohydrates, and very little fat. The Institute of Medicine recommends 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% protein and 10-35% fat.
Body for Life provides this list of authorized foods to choose from:
• Chicken breast
• Turkey breast
• Orange roughy
• Top round or top sirloin steak
• Lean ground beef
• Egg whites
• Lean ham
• Low-fat cottage cheese
• Baked potato
• Sweet potato
• Steamed brown rice
• Steamed wild rice
• Fat-free yogurt
• Whole-wheat bread
• Green beans
• Green pepper
• Brussels sprouts
Body for Life: How It Works
Just because the plan advocates a rigorous work out doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want. To be successful at weight loss, you need to eat fewer calories and burn more calories in exercise. Body for Life is based on simple guidelines of small meals of carbohydrate and protein six times a day, portion control, 10 glasses of water and dietary supplements.
Also, the intense weight lifting will build muscle, which can boost your metabolic rate.
Body for Life: What the Experts Say
Body for Life's program is effective if you follow it closely, but it may require too much exercise for most people. American Dietetic Association spokesperson and fitness trainer, Jim White, RD thinks it may be tough for beginners but doable for intermediate or advanced exercisers. “Body for Life recommends cardio three times per week for 20 minutes which is less than the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendation of 30 minutes most days but the 46 minute weight training could be intense, especially for those who only do strength training twice weekly like the ACSM guidelines recommend.” He recommends checking with your physician before starting the program and warns everyone to proceed cautiously because rigorous fitness routines can lead to injuries.
White notes that the recent attention on the role of exercise and weight loss should not deter anyone from getting regular physical activity. “You may get faster results from trimming calories than exercise but nothing replaces the benefits of fitness from increased energy, confidence, stress relief and cardiovascular fitness” explains White.
Eating small meals can speed up your metabolism, curb your appetite, stabilize blood sugar and provide greater energy says White. “Eating healthy foods throughout the day is a great way to feel terrific while trimming calories and it also helps you use up the calories instead of storing them as fat which can happen when you overeat.”
But experts warn that eating small meals must be done carefully. University of Illinois protein researcher Donald Layman, PhD warns that “Lots of small meals usually leads to snacking on poor food choices.” Furthermore, the amount of protein needs to be at least 15 grams (roughly 2 eggs, 2 cups milk, 12 oz yogurt, 3-4 oz. meat, poultry or fish), otherwise it has no positive effects on body composition says Layman.
Body for Life: What the Experts Say
Experts disagree on the value of a diet that contains 40-50% of calories from protein which is higher than the science-based IOM recommendations of 20-35%. Layman notes there is no evidence that protein is harmful to healthy people at any level of intake. Generally, if you have normal kidney function, there should be no problem.
Body for Life: Food for Thought
Six small meals a day can be a very good idea, as long as it fits into your lifestyle, you choose your meals carefully and aim for adequate lean or low fat protein at each meal.
If you love exercise, this plan is for you but don't expect to look like the "after" pictures in just 12 weeks, warn experts, achieving bodybuilder muscle physiques takes longer and more intensity than a 12 week basic program.