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The premise of this diet is that our bodies are designed to keep weight on in order to survive times of starvation. Moreover, the modern diet is very different from the diet that was consumed for thousands of years, but our bodies have not evolved to handle this new diet. The UltraMetabolism diet is an individualized prescription for how to reprogram your body to lose weight.
How Is This Diet Supposed to Work?
The UltraMetabolism diet is based on nutrigenomics, which in the words of the author of this diet, Mark Hyman, MD, is “the science of how food talks to our genes.” According to Dr. Hyman, eating the right foods results in weight loss and health, while eating the wrong foods results in weight gain and disease. Also, the ideal diet varies from individual to individual and is based on how our genes and metabolism interact.
In his book, UltraMetabolism , Dr. Hyman explains what he believes are the myths that make people gain weight and struggle to lose it, as well as the seven keys to weight loss success.
Dr. Hyman’s weight loss myths include:
- Eating less and exercising more leads to weight loss.
- All calories are created equal.
- Eating low carb or no carb will make you thin.
His seven keys to weight loss success are:
- Controlling appetite and metabolism
- Understanding how stress leads to weight gain
- Knowing how to control inflammation, which can lead to weight gain and disease
- Preventing cellular “rust,” since it can interfere with metabolism and promote inflammation
- Knowing how to help your body turn calories into energy more efficiently
- Making sure your thyroid is working as it should
- Detoxifying your liver
The UltraMetabolism prescription is an eight-week program that is designed to become part of your everyday life. The program starts with a one-week prep phase that focuses on banishing sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine, and processed food from your diet.
The next step is a three-week detoxification and cleansing period that is supposed to help you resolve any metabolic problems. During this phase, caffeine and alcohol remain banished and potentially allergenic food, such as wheat, dairy, and eggs, are eliminated. Dr. Hyman states that most people lose 6-11 pounds during this phase.
The final phase is designed to reeducate your metabolism and promote total health. This phase should last at least four weeks, with a goal of lasting a lifetime. During this phase many of the foods that were previously eliminated are gradually reintroduced, so that you can watch for any sensitivities or allergies that they may have been causing, such as nasal congestion, fatigue, acne , or brain fog. According to Dr. Hyman, people often lose 1-3 pounds per week during this phase until they reach their optimal weight.
In this final, lifelong phase, Dr. Hyman advocates eating a mostly organic, hormone-free diet that is based on:
- Healthy fats
- Slowly released low-glycemic-load, high-fiber carbohydrates
- Plant proteins and small amounts of lean animal products
- Anti-inflammatory antioxidants that fight disease and weight gain
In addition, during this lifelong phase, Dr. Hyman recommends limiting alcohol intake to less than three glasses of wine per week and limiting coffee to a half cup per day, though he allows unlimited green tea. He also recommends that everyone take a few basic nutritional supplements, including a multivitamin, calcium and magnesium with vitamin D , and omega-3 fatty acids. The plan also focuses on the importance of stress reduction and exercise. The physical activity part of the plan is designed to boost your metabolism. This is done with aerobic exercise and weight training.
The book itself includes recipes, shopping lists, and menus, designed to make it easier for you to follow this diet. There is also a website, which features additional information and support.
What Does the Research Say?
There are many ideas presented in this book that are not supported by strong scientific evidence. Among them is the theory that we can detoxify our bodies and thereby improve overall functioning and the idea that we can reeducate our metabolism. However, there are also many theories that deserve more exploration. Nutrigenomics is a relatively new area of research with new discoveries to be made.
The diet’s focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and exercise is a well-proven recipe for health. Limiting your intake of refined grains, added sugars, and trans fats have also been linked to better health.
Are There Any Concerns With This Diet?
The main concerns with the UltraMetabolism diet are that it can be difficult to follow and that not all of the ideas behind it are backed by strong scientific evidence.
But overall, the lifelong diet promoted in phase two is based on well-established principles of healthful eating.
Before starting this diet or any diet, review it with your doctor. The first phase of this plan calls for a very restrictive diet, which could come up short in calories and nutrients if not well-planned. You should also talk to your doctor before taking any type of nutritional supplements.
If you want to revamp your metabolism or feel that certain underlying conditions, such as a food sensitivity or sluggish thyroid, may be to blame for your weight loss struggles, than this diet may be worth a try. But be sure to seek the approval of your doctor first, and consider talking to a dietician, as well.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Weight-Control Information Network
Dietitians of Canada
Hyman M. UltraMetabolism. New York, NY: Scribner; 2006.
Ultra-Metabolism. Every Diet website. Available at: http://www.everydiet.org/diet/ultra-metabolism. Accessed February 18, 2013.
- Reviewer: Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
- Review Date: 03/2015
- Update Date: 05/08/2014