The opposite of those extreme plans that call for fasting, The 3-Hour Diet by fitness expert Jorge Cruise requires you to eat five times a day, including a tiny dessert. All your favorite foods, including carbs and sweets, are allowed, as long as you eat them on a strict timetable.
Eating small, balanced meals every 3 hours boosts your body’s fat-burning potential, Cruise says.
If you don’t eat often enough, Cruise says, your body goes into “starvation protection” mode, conserving calories, storing fat, and burning muscle (not fat) for energy. Cruise says that if you eat every 3 hours, you repeatedly reset your metabolism so it stays in high gear, and you burn fat all day long.
His rules around meal timing are:
- Eat breakfast within 1 hour of rising.
- Eat every 3 hours after that.
- Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime.
The fourth rule: Stick to the recommended portion sizes. Meals should average 400 calories; snacks, 100 calories; and dessert, 50 calories (like a Reese’s Mini), for a total of about 1,450 calories a day.
The result: He says you’ll drop up to 10 pounds in the first 2 weeks, and 2 pounds a week after that, without losing any fat-burning muscle tissue.
You’ll also curb your levels of cortisol-- the “stress hormone” -- and flatten your belly in the process, Cruise says. And you’ll have more energy and less hunger, because eating every 3 hours keeps your blood sugar levels steady. That's not proven, though some research suggests that eating smaller, more frequent meals can help manage hunger.
How often should you eat for weight loss? Good question. While many nutrition experts agree that when it comes to weight loss, irregular eating patterns and skipped meals can mean trouble for most of us, there isn't anything close to a consensus on whether we are metabolically better off eating three regular meals a day or spreading that out into five or six smaller meals.
An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial, appropriately titled “When to eat and how often?” a team of nutrition researchers concluded that whether you are practicing the "three" or "six" meal daily dietary pattern, weight loss ultimately comes down to "how much energy (or calories) is consumed as opposed to how often or how regularly one eats."
So given the tried-and-true equation for weight maintenance: Calories "in" = Calories "out," what this really boils down to is whether eating five or six small meals a day truly helps us to:
- Burn more total calories at the end of the day
- Eat fewer total calories at the end of the day
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
On this diet, there are no bad foods, only bad portion sizes. In other words, you can eat whatever you want -- carbs, meat, fast food, frozen foods, sweets -- as long as you stay within your calorie limits and eat at the right intervals.
Meal suggestions included in the book are designed to provide “balanced portions of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.”
Though you can choose your own foods, Cruise does favor lean proteins and flaxseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil.
To keep portion sizes in check, he encourages you to picture a Rubik’s cube for a serving of carbs, a deck of cards for meat and other proteins, and a water bottle cap for salad dressing and other fats.
Level of Effort: Medium
There’s no calorie counting or special meals to buy. But you’ll need to organize your schedule around regular meal times. Cruise suggests eating breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., and dinner at 7 p.m., or eat dinner early enough so that you finish 3 hours before bed.
You’ll also have to plan ahead for two 100-calorie snacks, such as a small handful of nuts or a piece of string cheese.
Cooking and shopping: You can cook the recipes provided using readily available ingredients, or choose from a list of frozen and fast foods. A companion cookbook, The 3-Hour Diet Cookbook, offers more recipes that have appropriate portion sizes.
Packaged foods or meals: None required.
In-person meetings: No.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Yes. You can choose any foods you like. It’s flexible enough to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and low-fat and gluten-free diets.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: None apart from your grocery shopping.
Support: You do this diet on your own. You can also use the 3 Hour Diet app, which reminds you to eat every 3 hours and helps you track how many meals you’ve eaten.
What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:
Does It Work?
Because the 3-Hour Diet restricts calories, you will likely lose weight if you follow it closely. Losing 10 pounds in the first 2 weeks may not be realistic or even healthy. But losing 1 to 2 pounds a week is a real possibility.
The key to this diet’s success lies in portion control. Research has not shown that eating frequent small meals increases weight loss success, though it may have other health advantages. Eating more often may decrease the feelings of hunger that can sabotage anyone’s good intentions.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Losing extra weight can reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes. It can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But some research has shown that eating smaller, more frequent meals may have added health benefits, as well.
Smaller meals are less likely to cause a big bump in the blood sugar levels that follow a big meal. Cholesterol levels also tend to be lower. If you have diabetes, check with your doctor or dietitian before changing your eating schedule. You may run the risk of hypoglycemia if you don’t make some adjustments in your diabetes treatment plan.
The Final Word
The 3-Hour Diet promotes weight loss by sensible portion control within a timed meal structure. It does not require special food purchases or supplements. It would work for those who prefer not to attend meetings or appointments as part of a diet plan. It also allows enough calories to make meals healthy and balanced.
No foods are restricted, so it is up to you to choose wisely in order to get the most out of this diet plan. It will take planning and effort on your part to have your healthy meal and snack choices on hand. This meal timing may be a challenge if you do not have a flexible working schedule or if you eat out a lot.
This plan does not require exercise, but increasing your physical activity will help you get to your healthy weight faster and keep you there. Check with your doctor first if you are really out of shape or have any health problems.