What is the McDonald’s diet featured on How To Lose Weight Well – and is it safe?
If you happen to catch tonight’s episode How To Lose Weight Well on Channel 4 this evening, you might be left wondering about the McDonald’s diet.
In the second episode of the series, one hopeful dieter tries the controversial diet for four weeks, pitting himself in a weight loss competition against his best friend, who follows a superfoods diet.
Although the dieter following the McDonald’s plan loses less weight and a £200 bet made, he still manages to shave off an impressive eight kilos in just four weeks.
But what does the diet actually involve and is it really a good option?
What is the McDonald’s Diet?
It might bring back memories of Super Size Me, the 2004 documentary that saw filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gain 11 kilos in a month after eating solely fast food form McDonald’s, but this diet doesn’t entail eating Big Mac after Big Mac.
Instead, you limit yourself to lighter options on the menu like salads.
The diet came from a book called The McDonald’s Diet written by Mark Austin – a certified personal trainer and specialist in performance nutrition based in Switzerland.
According to the information laid out in his book, Austin claims that with a few healthy tweaks to your order, you can lose 14lbs in 30 days like him, by eating nothing but McDonald’s. With photographic evidence, the trainer gained attention for the diet after demonstrating his remarkable transformation from paunch to six-pack.
How does it work?
The key to the McDonald’s diet is that participants eat mainly chicken salads from the fast food outlet, as well as fruit bags.
Plain chicken burgers and chicken McNuggets are allowed occasionally as a treat, but sauces, fries and milkshakes are strictly off the menu.
Also key to the regime is a morning protein shake and daily exercise, as well as strength training three times a week.
What does a typical day’s food like?
A typical day would start with a protein shake; the only nutrition permitted not purchased from McDonald’s, followed by a mid-morning fruit bag snack.
Lunch would consist of the chain’s in-house grilled chicken salad, or a McChicken Sandwich with no mayo. A grilled chicken salad would also form the mid-afternoon snack and dinner, before a pre-dinner fruit bag snack.
Occasional Filet-o-Fish burgers (with no tartare sauce) are also permitted. In terms of drinks, participants are also advised to stick to water, where possible, to reduce calories.
Is it safe?
In truth, Mark Austin’s diet is more of a case of him proving that, as consumers, we have the power to choose to eat healthily – even when it comes to fast food outlets like McDonald’s.
His 30-day regime was combined with rigorous daily exercise which aided the fat loss element, and the typical favourites we like to indulge in at McDonald’s – such as fries, sauce-laden beef burgers and sugary drinks – were all off the menu.
Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and head of nutrition at Healthspan says: “The whole concept is a little misleading as you would normally equate McDonald’s with burgers, fries and milkshakes, yet the participants are mostly choosing from the healthy options on offer, such as grilled chicken salads and fruit bags.”
Regarding the safety of the diet, he found no real issues, although he identified variety as a real issue: “The options are limited and, as such, do not offer a wide variety of foods, so the diet could be lacking in certain nutrients (although the protein shake may be fortified with vitamins and minerals to make up for the shortfall). This diet also looks like it’s low in fibre, which is required to help maintain healthy digestion, as well as protecting heart health.”
He did highlight some benefits of the diet: “The dietary intake looks to be around 1,000 calories per day, with plenty of lean protein, which will help to maintain fullness. It also offers five-a-day and restricts sugar and alcohol. The requirement to exercise every day will also help with weight loss.”
Viable in the long term then? Definitely not. Or so Hobson says: “It’s not a realistic way to eat, and while participants may lose weight in the short-term, they have a long life to lead and the greatest challenge for most dieters is keeping the weight off once they finish their diet.”
The dieter trialling the method in tonight’s episode of How to Lose Weight Well certainly did not seem best pleased with the diet’s variety, saying: “Be prepared for boring, samey food, day after day.”
Before making any extreme changes to your diet, you should always speak to your GP to discuss any potential concerns or side effects.
How to Lose Weight Well airs tonight, Monday, January 14 at 8pm on Channel 4.