Though slow, consistent weight loss is healthiest, it’s not uncommon for people to want to shed pounds quickly.

The 21 Day Fix is a weight loss and fitness program that promises to melt up to 15 pounds (7 kg) in just three weeks.

This article tells you everything there is to know about the 21 Day Fix — including how to follow the program, foods to eat and whether this diet can safely help you reach your weight loss goals.

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The 21 Day Fix is a weight loss program from Beachbody, a company that uses multi-level marketing to sell products to consumers.

The Beachbody corporation also offers popular exercise guides (including P90X and Insanity), weight loss supplements (such as Shakeology) and other nutrition programs.

The 21 Day Fix is particularly popular among Beachbody enthusiasts, with thousands of testimonials and impressive “before-and-after” pictures touting its effectiveness.

Beachbody states that 21 Day Fix followers will experience fast results and lose up to 15 pounds (7 kg) in three weeks.

The program involves a workout guide and portion-controlled meal program that includes (1):

  • Two workout DVDs with six “easy-to-follow” workouts designed to “maximize fat loss.”
  • A 21-day portion control system of seven color-coded containers.
  • The 21 Day Fix “Start Here” guide.
  • The 21 Day Fix eating plan.
  • A “3-Day Quick-Fix” guide to use during the last three days of 21 Day Fix for “mind-blowing ‘after’ pictures.”
  • 24/7 online support.

Beachbody also offers bonus workout DVDs if consumers order through Beachbody coaches who sell Beachbody products mainly via social media.

Summary The 21 Day Fix is a nutrition and fitness program that uses color-coded, portion-controlled containers along with daily workouts to promote weight loss.

The Beachbody website offers a simple guide for those new to the 21 Day Fix.

You can order the program through the Beachbody website or Team Beachbody coaches via social media.

After unboxing the 21 Day Fix guides, portion-control containers and workout DVDs, dieters follow the steps listed on the Quick Start guide.

1. Follow Your Workouts

The 21 Day Fix comes with two DVDs that include six 30-minute workouts.

  • Upper Fix: Targeted resistance training for the upper body (chest, back, shoulders, arms and abs).
  • Lower Fix: A workout designed to “firm and tone your entire lower body while you blast fat and burn calories.”
  • Total Body Cardio Fix: A full-body cardiovascular workout with weights to increase heart rate and burn calories.
  • Cardio Fix: A second cardiovascular workout without weights.
  • Pilates Fix: A Pilates-based workout that aims to strengthen the abdominals and firm the thighs.
  • Yoga Fix: This is a restorative yoga-based workout used to improve flexibility and balance.

The 21 Day Fix workout calendar encourages dieters to complete at least one workout every day of the week.

2. Find Your ‘Container Plan’

Before diving into the meal program, 21 Day Fix followers must calculate their own calorie needs.

In the starter guide, a mathematical equation is provided to estimate overall calorie needs.

  1. Multiply your current weight in pounds by 11. This number is your calorie baseline (basal metabolic rate or BMR).
  2. Add 400 (workout calorie burn) to your calorie baseline. The resulting number represents your calorie needs to maintain your weight.
  3. Subtract 750 (the calorie deficit) from your calorie needs. This number is the calorie target you should eat to lose weight, according to Beachbody.

The resulting calories determine the right plan for you and tell you how many servings of each color-coded container you can consume per day.

Each container is a different size and is meant to be used for a specific food group:

  • Green container (one cup): Vegetables
  • Purple container (one cup): Fruit
  • Red container (3/4 cup): Protein sources
  • Yellow container (1/2 cup): Carbs
  • Blue container (1/3 cup): Healthy fats
  • Orange container (two tablespoons): Seeds and dressings

Dieters are also allowed two to six teaspoons of nut butter and oils, depending on their target calorie range.

Four “Container Plans” with different calorie target ranges exist:

  • Plan A: 1,200–1,499 calories
  • Plan B: 1,500–1,799 calories
  • Plan C: 1,800–2,099 calories
  • Plan D: 2,100–2,300 calories

Depending on your plan, you’re allowed the following number of containers per day for the different color-coded categories:

Plan APlan BPlan CPlan D
Green3456
Purple2334
Red4456
Yellow2344
Blue1111
Orange1111
Oils and nut butters2456

Beachbody warns users to never consume less than 1,200 calories per day and to round up to 1,200 calories if estimated daily needs fall below that number.

If estimated calorie needs are more than 2,300, it’s recommended to round down to 2,300.

3. Plan Approved Meals

After figuring out how many servings of each food group can be consumed per day, 21 Day Fix followers aim to eat the recommended amount of each container daily.

The 21 Day Fix kit comes with a tally sheet that makes it easy for followers to keep track of their daily container consumption.

The tally sheets provide six spaces for daily meals and snacks along with eight slots in which dieters jot down their daily water consumption.

The 21 Day Fix program recommends certain foods and recipes, but dieters ultimately decide what approved foods to eat when following the program.

The 21 Day Fix diet plan delivers a lower-carb macronutrient distribution of roughly 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.

4. Track Your Progress

Those following the 21 Day Fix are encouraged to track their weight loss progress in different ways.

Before starting the program, it’s suggested that you take a “before” picture.

Participants also use body measurements of the arms, chest, waist, hips and thighs to gauge how many inches are lost during the three weeks.

After completing the 21 Day Fix, “before” pictures and measurements are compared to “after” pictures and measurements to estimate total progress.

Summary The 21 Day Fix involves calculating calorie needs, consuming portion-controlled meals and completing daily workouts for 21 days.

The 21 Day Fix program encourages healthy eating and emphasizes fresh produce, lean proteins and healthy fats.

The following are examples of foods to eat on the 21 Day Fix:

  • Vegetables: Kale, watercress, collard greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, beets, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, etc.
  • Fruits: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, pomegranate, guava, star fruit, passion fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, tangerines, apples, etc.
  • Carbs: Sweet potato, plantains, quinoa, beans, lentils, edamame, cassava, peas, nonfat refried beans, brown rice, potatoes, buckwheat, amaranth, etc.
  • Proteins: Sardines (fresh or canned in water), skinless chicken or turkey breast, lean ground chicken or turkey (≥93% lean), fish (cod, salmon, tuna, catfish, tilapia, trout), whole eggs, egg whites, 1% greek yogurt, Shakeology, tofu, etc.
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hummus, coconut milk and cheeses (feta, goat, cotija and parmesan).
  • Seeds and dressings: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, ground flax seeds, olives and 21 Day Fix dressing recipes.
  • Oils and nut butter: Extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, pumpkin-seed oil, nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) and seed butter (pumpkin, sunflower, tahini).
  • Seasonings and condiments: Lemon or lime juice, vinegar (cider, white wine, or red wine), mustard, herbs, spices (except salt), garlic, ginger, unsweetened hot sauce, flavor extracts and 21 Day Fix seasoning mix recipes.
  • Approved beverages: Water, fruit-infused water, sparkling water, coffee, green tea and unsweetened iced tea.

Three times a week, dieters can replace one carbohydrate portion with an approved treat, such as dried fruit, dark chocolate chips or a cookie made using a 21 Day Fix recipe that’s included in the package.

Summary The diet encourages only consuming 21-Day-Fix-approved foods, including lean proteins, vegetables and healthy fats.

Though the 21 Day Fix package does not tell dieters that certain foods are off limits, it advises to only consume approved foods.

As a whole, the Beachbody organization discourages unhealthy foods like sugary beverages and emphasizes nutrient-dense foods for those following their nutrition programs, including the 21 Day Fix.

When following Beachbody nutrition programs, the following are not recommended:

  • Added sugars: Sugary beverages, sweetened yogurts, candy, baked goods, table sugar, etc.
  • Refined carbs: White pasta, sugary cereals, white bread, bagels, white rice, corn chips, tortillas, etc.
  • Processed foods: Fast food, processed meats (hot dogs, deli meats, bacon), packaged snacks, canned foods packed in syrup, energy bars, etc.
  • Greasy and fried foods: Fried chicken, French fries, potato chips, burgers, pizza, deep-fried foods, etc.
  • Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor, etc.
Summary Added sugar, processed foods, refined carbs, fried foods and alcoholic beverages are strongly discouraged during the 21 Day Fix.

There are several reasons why the 21 Day Fix has gained such popularity among those looking for a quick way to drop pounds.

May Help You Lose Weight

The 21 Day Fix meal plan suggests several practices proven to promote weight loss.

For example, research shows that cutting out added sugars and processed foods are effective ways to lose body fat.

A review of 68 studies found that people who consumed added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to those with low sugar consumption (2).

Another study in over 4,000 people demonstrated that those who ate fast food more than three times per week were 33% more likely to be obese than those who did not eat this type of food (3).

Plus, those following the 21 Day Fix are instructed to eat a high-protein, high-fiber diet and drink plenty of water, methods that have also been shown to be particularly powerful in promoting weight loss (4, 5, 6).

Supports Healthy Eating

The foods emphasized on the 21 Day Fix meal plan are healthful, nutrient-dense foods, including vegetables, complex carbs and lean proteins.

The program urges participants to prepare meals at home and cautions against relying on quick, unhealthy food when on-the-go.

The color-coded containers ensure that followers of the 21 Day Fix consume plenty of nutritious foods from each food group daily.

Unlike weight loss plans that recommend processed, nutrient-poor foods like meal bars, frozen dinners and low-calorie packaged snacks, the 21 Day Fix promotes eating whole, healthful foods.

Containers Teach Portion Control

Portion control is an issue that can derail weight loss.

Using the color-coded containers is an easy way to control portions and may deter dieters from overeating, which may aid weight loss.

An 18-month study in 197 overweight adults showed that the use of portion-controlled meals resulted in significant weight loss and improved overall diet quality (7).

While this method can also be followed using measuring cups and spoons, the portable containers are convenient and may motivate certain people to stay on track.

Exercise Is Part of the Program

The 21 Day Fix comes with a three-week exercise program consisting of 30-minute workouts that target different areas of the body.

People who want to shed pounds often don’t understand the importance of physical activity when trying to lose weight and maintain that loss over time (8).

Since this program stresses the importance of engaging in daily exercise, followers may be more likely to continue to be physically active after the three-week period has ended.

Summary The 21 Day Fix encourages exercise, healthy eating and portion control, which are likely to promote weight loss.

Though following the 21 Day Fix may result in positive changes, such as weight loss and a stronger sense of portion control, it does have some potential downsides.

The Focus Is on Short-Term Weight Loss

As stated in the name, the 21 Day Fix focuses on a three-week, short-term period.

You may indeed drop pounds while on the diet, but the chances are high that you’ll regain the weight lost during the program once it’s over.

Any successful weight loss plan should focus on slow, consistent changes over time rather than rapid fat loss.

Beachbody Pushes Dieters to Purchase Supplements for ‘Faster Results’

Within the Beachbody meal plan, dieters are urged to purchase Beachbody products like Shakeology protein shakes and supplements, including the pre-workout supplement Energize and the post-workout supplement Recover.

Not only are these items expensive — one container of Recover costs $69.95 — but there’s no proof that taking them will maximize results.

The 21 Day Fix program costs $59.85, which may seem reasonable to some. However, if you add supplements and additional bonus workouts, the price begins to climb.

May Be Too Restrictive for Some

At the heart of the 21 Day Fix program are the portion-controlled containers.

While this may be an effective way to stop overeating, relying on containers and tallying intake may be too restrictive for some people.

Plus, this is not a realistic way to eat on a long-term basis, and continuously tracking portions and food intake may lead to disordered eating tendencies in some people.

Dieters Determine Their Own Calorie Needs

A major flaw in the 21 Day Fix program is that dieters must calculate their own calorie requirements.

Beachbody suggests an arbitrary 750 calorie deficit for all people following the 21 Day Fix, regardless of age, health status or gender.

Combined with daily workouts, negating 750 calories from overall intake will likely result in weight loss, but it may not be healthy.

For example, using the 21 Day Fix equation, a 145-pound (66-kg) person would only consume 1,245 calories during the program.

This is a meager amount, especially for a person who has an active job and is doing daily, sometimes strenuous, workouts.

Eating too few calories while participating in more activity than you’re used to could result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), mood swings and an increased chance of binge eating (9).

Summary The 21 Day Fix has some downsides, including cost, potentially unsafe calorie restriction and the focus on short-term weight loss as opposed to long-term lifestyle changes.

The 21 Day Fix uses daily workouts and portion-controlled containers to boost weight loss.

Though this plan may aid weight loss and improve diet quality, it also has drawbacks. The program focuses on short-term, dramatic weight loss instead of long-term lifestyle changes and may be too restrictive for some.

While following the 21 Day Fix will likely result in some weight loss, those looking for lasting results should focus on eating whole foods, practicing portion control and increasing physical activity on a long-term basis.