The Ideal Protein Diet was created by Dr. Tran Tien Chanh and Olivier Benloulou. Its principles were first used more than 20 years ago by Chanh, who was looking to create a safer and easier weight loss protocol for his patients.
What is the Ideal Protein Diet?
According to the company’s website, the Ideal Protein Diet is a doctor-designed ketogenic weight loss protocol.
A ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat eating pattern, which puts your body into ketosis. When in ketosis, your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs (
However, unlike traditional ketogenic diets, which are very high in fat, the Ideal Protein Diet takes a modified approach in which fat intake is also temporarily restricted. Advocates of the diet claim that this makes it more effective at burning through your body’s fat stores.
This diet is said to be based on valid science for weight loss, as it applies the principles of a ketogenic diet alongside healthy lifestyle education.
The diet is managed and promoted by a company called Ideal Protein, also known as Laboratoires C.O.P., Inc.
DIET REVIEW SCORECARD
- Overall score: 1.92
- Weight loss: 2.5
- Healthy eating: 1.5
- Sustainability: 2.5
- Whole body health: 1.5
- Nutrition quality: 1.5
- Evidence based: 2
BOTTOM LINE: The Ideal Protein Diet is a restrictive and expensive diet plan that’s low in calories and carbs and high in protein. Although it’s likely to result in short-term weight loss and may improve other health parameters, such as blood sugar and lipid levels, there’s no evidence that it’s more effective than less restrictive diets.
Even though the Ideal Protein Diet will likely result in quick weight loss, it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for an eating pattern that supports overall health.
The Ideal Protein Diet relies on ultra-processed packaged foods and supplements, rather than nutritious whole foods, to meet customers’ nutrition needs.
What’s more, the diet is expensive and restrictive.
If you’re looking for a healthier, less expensive way to lose weight, there are plenty of other dietary patterns that are more sustainable and evidence-based, including more moderate lower carb, high protein diets and plant-based diets.
Also, even though Ideal Protein clinics offer nutrition and lifestyle coaching, they often employ coaches who have no education in nutrition. It’s a much better choice to seek advice from a healthcare professional who specializes in nutrition, such as a registered dietitian.
Ideal Protein Diet pros
- likely to promote weight loss
- may improve blood sugar and blood lipid levels
Ideal Protein Diet cons
- extremely expensive
- uses coaches who may not have formal education in nutrition
- relies on ultra-processed packaged foods
- lacks evidence of effectiveness and safety
To get started on the Ideal Protein Diet, you must contact an authorized clinic or center, as this diet requires one-on-one guidance from a licensed healthcare professional or a trained coach to assist you in your weight loss goals.
There are plenty of sites available across North America, which can be found on Ideal Protein’s website.
The Ideal Protein Diet is divided into three phases:
- Phase 1: weight loss
- Phase 2: stabilization
- Phase 3: maintenance
Note that the Ideal Protein protocol used to be split into four phases but seems to have recently changed to three phases.
Phase 1: Weight loss
Phase 1 of the Ideal Protein Diet is known as the weight loss phase. It’s meant to be followed until you reach 100% of your weight loss goal, however long that takes.
During this phase, people are asked to eat (
- an Ideal Protein breakfast
- an Ideal Protein lunch with 2 cups of selected veggies (see below in the chapter “Foods to Eat”)
- a dinner consisting of 8 ounces (225 grams) of protein with 2 cups of selected veggies
- an Ideal Protein snack
These Ideal Protein meals can be purchased only through authorized clinics or centers. Most meals provide 20 grams of protein and fewer than 200 calories per serving.
You can eat unlimited raw vegetables from a specified list with lunch and dinner.
In addition to the meals, dieters are told to consume the following supplements, which must also be purchased through authorized clinics or centers:
- With breakfast: 1 multivitamin and 1 potassium supplement
- With dinner: 1 multivitamin, 2 calcium-magnesium supplements, and 2 omega-3 supplements
- With snack: 2 calcium-magnesium supplements
- With all meals: 1–2 digestive enzyme supplements
- Once daily: 2 antioxidant supplements and 1/4 teaspoon of Ideal Salt
Since the diet drastically reduces calorie intake, exercise is generally not recommended during the first 3 weeks, as it may cause unwanted side effects.
Phase 2: Stabilization
Phase 2 of the Ideal Protein Diet begins once you reach your weight loss goal. During this phase, you’ll slowly reintroduce carbohydrates and fats. This phase lasts about 2 weeks.
The Ideal Protein website explains that you’ll receive a unique “Macro Code” from your weight loss coach based on the number of macronutrients — carbs, fat, and protein — you’ll need to maintain your body weight. The company does not disclose how the Macro Code is calculated.
The Macro Code supposedly helps dieters understand the ideal number of servings of protein and fat to eat and the number of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) to include each day.
Phase 3: Maintenance
Phase 3 is the last phase of the Ideal Protein Diet.
This phase is a maintenance plan that lasts 12 months. The goal of this phase is to teach you how to keep weight off while enjoying more dietary freedom.
Customers continue to visit their weight loss clinic for nutrition counseling and use their Macro Code to maintain their weight loss long-term.
The Ideal Protein Diet may lead to weight loss and may improve several other health parameters.
May help you lose weight
Several studies have shown that the Ideal Protein Diet is effective for promoting weight loss, at least in the short term. However, these studies were funded by Ideal Protein, which may have influenced study results.
A 2021 study that included 192 people with obesity found that those who followed the Ideal Protein protocol lost 17.8 pounds (8.1 kg) more over a 3-month period than those who followed a low calorie/low fat diet (
However, the study was poorly designed.
It did not compare two groups who were consuming the same number of calories while following different diets. The average daily calorie deficit at 3 months for the Ideal Protein group was 753.7 calories, while the deficit for the low calorie/low fat group was only 385.6 calories.
The massive difference in daily calorie deficit between the two groups likely resulted in additional weight loss for the Ideal Protein group.
Evidence suggests that both very low carb and high protein dietary patterns — the basis for the Ideal Protein Diet — can be effective for weight loss.
Because the first phase of the Ideal Protein plan is so low in carbs — fewer than 50 grams per day — and all the phases are high in protein, it’s likely that these factors make the diet effective for promoting fat loss (
While low carb and high protein dietary patterns can be effective for weight loss, the Ideal Protein Diet is too restrictive compared to others. Cutting calories so significantly is likely to cause side effects such as extreme hunger, irritability, and fatigue.
Premade meals may be convenient for some
Diets like the Ideal Protein Diet are attractive for busy people.
During the weight loss phase, you will frequently consume premade Ideal Protein foods. The only exception is dinners, for which you must measure your protein and vegetable portions.
Consuming mostly premade meals can drastically reduce the amount of time spent shopping, planning, and preparing meals. This frees up more time for people who have a hectic schedule.
Even though some people may enjoy the convenience of packaged, preportioned foods, the diet still involves following a strict regimen, eating only approved foods, meeting with coaches, measuring food, and taking supplements, all of which can be disruptive to daily life.
Involves professional support
The Ideal Protein Diet provides support from a licensed healthcare professional or a trained consultant, which may make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
In fact, studies have shown that people are more likely to stick to a weight loss program when they have support throughout the process (
However, keep in mind that the Ideal Protein coaches don’t always have proper training in nutrition and weight loss counseling.
May improve blood sugar and lipid levels
Limited evidence suggests that the Ideal Protein Diet could improve blood sugar and blood lipid levels.
A 2021 study that included 188 people found that those who followed the Ideal Protein Diet for 12 weeks experienced clinically meaningful improvements in hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) — a long-term marker of blood sugar regulation (
They also had reductions in blood pressure, body weight, and triglyceride levels compared to a group who did not follow the diet (
After 12 weeks, 35.7% of participants in the Ideal Protein group were able to stop taking their blood-sugar-lowering medications, compared to 0% in the other group. While this may seem impressive, this study was poorly designed (
Those who followed the Ideal Protein Diet consumed 850–1,100 calories per day and fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day.
The Ideal Protein group also had weekly visits to a pharmacy to meet with a lifestyle coach and pharmacist to monitor progress, collect intervention foods, and assess medication usage.
Those in the other group received standard medication advice from their pharmacist and pamphlets on healthy dietary practices for diabetes. They didn’t attend weekly meetings like the Ideal Protein group did.
It’s well documented that dietary changes and weight loss can improve blood sugar, blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and more. Low carb diets have been shown to be particularly effective for lowering blood sugar and triglyceride levels (
It’s likely that people following the Ideal Protein Diet will experience improvements in blood sugar, blood lipid levels, and other health parameters, including blood pressure.
However, there’s not enough evidence to say whether the Ideal Protein Diet is more effective for this purpose than other low calorie, low carb, high protein dietary protocols.
Also, this study was funded by a company that sells Ideal Protein, which could have influenced the results.
While the Ideal Protein Diet has several potential benefits, it also has significant downsides.
A healthy diet that supports weight loss doesn’t have to be expensive. A significant downside of the Ideal Protein Diet is the exorbitantly high monthly cost.
According to the Ideal Protein website, the Ideal Protein protocol costs about $16 per day on average, which includes the cost of the packaged foods and supplements. This equates to about $480 per month.
Keep in mind that the cost of the program varies based on where you live and where you purchase the program. The difference in cost depends on how much the clinic near you charges for an initial consultation.
Many Ideal Protein foods are highly processed
The packaged Ideal Protein foods are highly processed.
They contain a variety of oils, additives, and artificial sweeteners that are not naturally present in whole foods (10).
If you avoid highly processed foods, the Ideal Protein Diet is not a good fit for you.
People who love flexibility may have difficulty following the Ideal Protein Diet because it severely limits dietary options — especially in its early phases.
For instance, during phase 1, dinner is the only meal for which you can prepare your own dishes. Otherwise, you must eat Ideal Protein portions at breakfast, lunch, and snack time.
What’s more, the diet restricts foods that can play a role in healthy weight loss, such as whole grains, nuts, and avocado.
That said, this diet does offer more freedom once you reach the maintenance phase.
The Ideal Protein Diet is not suitable for vegans, as the packaged foods sometimes contain eggs and dairy products.
However, vegetarians can still follow it.
If you avoid all animal products, a vegan low carb diet may be more suitable.
Ideal Protein coaches are not required to have formal education in nutrition or weight loss counseling. They often have no medical background or education in nutrition.
What’s more, some medical professionals who sell Ideal Protein specialize in fields such as orthopedics or chiropractics, not nutrition, obesity medicine, or any other field that focuses on body weight and diet.
Limited outside North America
The Ideal Protein Diet is featured in more than 3,500 clinics and centers across the world. However, most of these sites are in North America, making the diet difficult to follow elsewhere.
Keep in mind that the diet cannot be followed without a supporting clinic.
There is a virtual support center for people in areas where clinics are unavailable. Still, if you go this route, you may need to import meals to your country.
May cause uncomfortable symptoms
Another downside of the Ideal Protein Diet is its drastic reduction in calorie intake. The first phase of the diet entails eating 800–1,000 calories per day (
Such restrictive diets are not recommended — unless advised by a doctor — for children, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, adults ages 65 and older, or adults with certain medical conditions.
What’s more, drastic measures such as severely restricting calories are not necessary for most people to lose weight (
Reducing your calorie intake so sharply may cause side effects and unpleasant symptoms such as (
- cold intolerance
- hair thinning and hair loss
- irregular menstrual cycles
Restrictive dieting could also lead some people to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies (
Phase 1 of the Ideal Protein Diet is very restrictive.
For instance, phase 1 requires you to eat three premade Ideal Protein dishes per day. The exception is dinner, for which you are allowed to select a protein option.
Here are some protein possibilities for the Ideal Protein Diet:
- Fish: any fish, such as anchovy, cod, flounder, hake, tuna, tilapia, mahi-mahi, red snapper, redfish, trout, or salmon — however, limit salmon to once a week
- Other seafood: squid, shrimp, oysters, mussels, lobster, crawfish, clams, scampi, scallops, or crab
- Poultry: skinless chicken, turkey, fowl, quail, or wild birds
- Beef: tenderloin, sirloin, very lean ground beef, rump, or other steak cuts
- Pork: fat-free ham or tenderloin
- Veal: tenderloin, breast, shoulder, rib, shank, cutlet, or other cuts
- Vegetarian: eggs or tofu (plain)
- Other: venison, bison, kidney, lamb loin, liver, rabbit, ostrich, or others
With lunch and dinner, you are also allowed to consume 2 cups of selected vegetables or an unlimited amount of company-approved raw vegetables. These include:
- Selected vegetables (2 cups per meal): asparagus, bean sprouts, rhubarb, okra, sauerkraut, zucchini, yellow summer squash, chicory, alfalfa, kale, and more
- Raw vegetables: lettuce, celery, mushrooms, radish, spinach, radicchio, and endive
The permitted seasonings and condiments for this diet include all herbs, garlic, ginger, vinegar (white and apple cider), tamari, soy sauce, hot sauce, hot mustard, spices (MSG- and carb-free), mint, and more.
Once you reach phases 2 and 3, you can reintroduce more carb, dairy, and fat options, including:
- Complex carbs: whole grain bread and whole grain, sugar-free cereal
- Fruits: bananas, apples, peaches, cherries, papaya, grapefruit, apricots, plums, tangerine, watermelon, passion fruit, grapes, oranges, kiwifruit, and more
- Dairy: milk, yogurt and cheese
- Fats: butter and oils
The following foods are forbidden during phase 1 of the Ideal Protein Diet:
- pasta (other than Ideal Protein brand), rice, legumes, breads, and cereals
- all root vegetables, including potatoes, beets, and carrots
- sweet peas and corn
- all fruit
- all dairy, with the exception of 1 ounce (30 mL) of milk in coffee or tea
- all nuts
- all soda
- all processed snack foods, including candy, chocolate bars, and potato chips
- all commercial fruit juices and vegetable juices
- all alcohol (beer, wine, spirits, etc.)
Once you reach phase 2, you’ll slowly reintroduce carbs and healthy fats based on your Macro Code.
Here is an idea of what one day of eating in phase 1 of the Ideal Protein Diet might look like. Keep in mind that Ideal Protein recommends the brand Natura for all vitamins, supplements, and enzymes.
- Breakfast: 1 Ideal Protein food (such as apple-flavored oatmeal), 1 multivitamin, 1 potassium supplement, and 1–2 enzymes
- Lunch: 1 Ideal Protein food (such as beef stroganoff), 2 cups of selected vegetables, and 1–2 enzymes, plus optional raw vegetables
- Dinner: 8 ounces (225 grams) of a protein source, 2 cups of selected vegetables, one multivitamin, 2 calcium-magnesium supplements, 2 omega-3 supplements, and 1–2 enzymes, plus optional raw vegetables
- Snack: 1 Ideal Protein food (such as a peanut butter bar), 2 calcium-magnesium supplements, and 1–2 enzymes
- Once daily: 2 antioxidant supplements and 1/4 teaspoon of Ideal salt
Overall, customers seem to be satisfied with the Ideal Protein Diet, with many reporting that they lost a substantial amount of weight.
However, others report that, although they lost weight initially while following the Ideal Protein Diet, they gained all the weight back once they returned to a more liberal diet.
This isn’t surprising, as most people who lose weight using restrictive diets tend to regain weight once they return to their usual eating pattern (
Other common complaints include the exorbitant price of the program and the low quality of the ultra-processed food products.
Ideal Protein is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In order to qualify for BBB accreditation, a company must continually meet standards set by the BBB based on criteria such as following established legal and ethical advertising and honestly representing products and services.
|Weight Watchers||• offers a unique, individualized SmartPoints budget and ZeroPoint list for each person|
• provides WW app features like meal planning tools, recipes, workouts, and meditations
• short-term effectiveness backed by research
• more sustainable than other diet programs because no foods are off-limits
|• expensive |
• can be difficult to cancel
• more research needed on long-term effectiveness
|Paleo diet||• promotes consumption of whole, nutrient-dense foods|
• can support weight loss
• may improve blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease risk factors
|• restricts several nutritious food groups|
• can be difficult to follow
|Mediterranean diet||• promotes consumption of whole, nutrient-dense foods|
• decades of research backing its effectiveness and safety
• can improve overall health and may promote weight loss
|emphasizes foods consumed in specific regions of the world, which may not fit in with all dietary patterns|
|Slimming World Diet||• may be effective for weight loss|
• emphasizes healthy foods
• doesn’t require calorie counting or restrict foods
|• requires attending meetings|
• requires monthly membership fees, which may be pricey for some people
Is the Ideal Protein Diet safe?
There’s not enough evidence to say whether the Ideal Protein Diet is safe for everyone. It’s important to consider potential side effects related to the significant calorie deficit in phase 1, such as fatigue, dizziness, and irritability.
Some research suggests that people with diabetes who follow the Ideal Protein Diet may experience very low blood sugar levels. For this reason, anyone who has diabetes should not follow this program without clearing it with their doctor first (
How long can someone safely be on the Ideal Protein Diet?
The first phase of the Ideal Protein Diet is meant to be followed until you’ve reached your weight loss goal. For some people, this may take months.
Although the few studies on the Ideal Protein Diet have not reported any dangerous side effects, diets that significantly restrict calories are usually followed for only short periods — such as a few weeks — to induce weight loss before transitioning to a higher calorie plan (
If you’re concerned about the safety of the Ideal Protein Diet, talk with a trusted healthcare professional who is not affiliated with Ideal Protein.
How long will it take to notice weight loss results with the Ideal Protein Diet?
As with any weight loss plan, results vary.
It’s likely that someone following the Ideal Protein phase 1 protocol will notice weight loss results rather quickly because of the drastic calorie restriction and the very low carbohydrate intake, which results in an initial loss of water weight (
The Ideal Protein Diet is a low calorie, high protein, very low carb diet that may aid weight loss.
Though it’s likely effective for promoting weight loss and may improve other health parameters such as blood sugar levels, it’s expensive and restrictive, relies on packaged foods, and is less accessible outside of North America.
Though the Ideal Protein Diet is based on scientific principles, it’s not supported by well-designed clinical studies. Therefore, its effectiveness and long-term safety are unknown.