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Body For Life

The Promise

Open the best-selling Body for Life book, and you'll see before-and-after photos of people who went from flab to fab. Give the diet 12 weeks, and you'll have your best body ever, too, the founder promises.  But you're going to work hard for it -- with intense exercise nearly every day. 

You'll also have to get used to eating six small meals a day -- mostly lean protein and healthy carbs -- instead of three larger ones. This schedule is to steady your blood sugar, boost your energy, and help you prevent binge eating caused by getting too hungry.

The premise of the diet, founded by Bill Phillips, is that you're more likely to stick to a diet and workout if you see fast results.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

At every meal, you get a fist-sized serving each of protein and carbs. Overall, the diet breaks down to 40% to 50% of each, with very little fat.

You can have bread, pasta, potatoes, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and small amounts of certain fats. The diet requires that you eat at least two servings of vegetables and drink 10 glasses of water daily.

Once a week, you get a "free" day, when you can eat whatever you want.

Except on your free day, you can't have bacon, fatty cuts of beef, hot dogs, or deep-fried meats. You're not allowed sugary or processed foods like cookies, cake, candy, white rice, chips, and soda. Some fats -- such as butter, lard, mayonnaise, coconut oil, and full-fat dairy products -- also are off-limits.

Level of Effort: High

Though you may see some quick results, Body for Life is meant to be a lifestyle change. If you don't want to commit to fitting six small meals into your daily life, it could be tough to follow. The intense workouts 6 days a week may also be too much for many people.

Limitations: Preparing more meals a day can take more planning, though they can include the program's shakes or nutrition bars twice a day. The diet is also higher in protein than what is typically recommended.

Cooking and shopping: The diet includes recipes, sample meal plans, and shopping lists.

Packaged foods or meals: The plan suggests but doesn't require powders, shakes, supplements, and nutrition bars sold on the Body for Life web site.  

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: You work out six times a week: 45 minutes of targeted weight training 3 days, and 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio 3 days.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: Plant sources of protein, like beans, often include carbs. You need to make sure you stay within the plan's carb rules. This diet would be difficult for vegans to follow.

Low-fat diet: There’s very little fat in this diet, unless you fill up on fats on your free day.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: None beyond grocery shopping. The emphasis on meat, fish, and other costly proteins might add costs to your food budget. The optional protein powders, shakes, and nutrition bars can also add up.

Support: The Body for Life web site includes online tools and forums with an active community.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on December 16, 2013

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