A fitness trend called “30-30-30” has been all over TikTok, with many claiming it’s an effective way to meet weight loss goals.
What is the 30-30-30 rule and how does it work?
What is the 30-30-30 rule?
The 30-30-30 rule is a weight loss method that involves eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, followed by 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise. Beyond these steps, the method doesn’t involve any other rules, restrictions or counting calories.
The morning routine was originally described by author Tim Ferriss in his book “The 4-Hour Body.” More recently, the 30-30-30 rule went viral on TikTok thanks to Gary Brecka, a podcaster and self-described “human biologist” who speaks about various ways to boost physical and mental health.
In two videos, which each have over 18 million views so far, Brecka breaks down how the 30-30-30 rule can aid with weight loss and blood sugar control.
So, what does the science say about the 30-30-30 morning routine? Can it actually help with weight loss, and are there any risks?
Does the 30-30-30 method work?
It’s difficult to say definitively if the 30-30-30 method works and whether it can lead to weight loss because it has not been studied rigorously, Tara Schmidt, lead registered dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, tells TODAY.com. And ultimately, the effectiveness of any diet or fitness plan will depend on the individual and their goals.
However, the method can be broken down into its different steps, which have been researched. Here’s what we know about the benefits of eating a high-protein breakfast, followed by low-intensity exercise in the morning.
Breakfast and weight loss
While eating breakfast has numerous benefits, does it actually help with weight loss? It depends. “The evidence that we have supporting breakfast for weight loss is rated as fair,” says Schmidt.
In the National Weight Control Registry study, subjects who maintained long-term weight loss tended to eat breakfast every day, says Schmidt, suggesting it may be a factor in their success. “We don’t know exactly why,” says Schmidt.
While some claim breakfast helps “jump-start” or boost metabolism, the evidence to support this is lacking, the experts note. A 2022 analysis found that those who ate a bigger breakfast did not burn calories any faster, TODAY.com previously reported.
“Theoretically it could be beneficial for calorie burn if you’re the kind of person where eating breakfast in the morning makes you feel more energetic and active throughout the day,” Jason Machowsky, an exercise physiologist and registered dietitian at Hospital for Special Surgery, tells TODAY.com.
The 30-30-30 rule specifically recommends eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and more importantly, that the breakfast has 30 grams of protein. Does this make a difference?
“I would not say that breakfast needs to be eaten within 30 minutes of waking. I would typically say eat breakfast within a few hours. … Not everyone can stomach food that early,” says Schmidt. “I think there is a benefit to having 30 grams of protein.”
Healthy adults should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, according to the Institute of Medicine’s dietary reference intake recommendations. For an adult weighing 150 pounds, that’s about 54 grams of protein per day, TODAY.com previously reported. What’s considered a “high-protein diet“ depends on the individual and their body size.
Research has suggested that eating protein at breakfast can help with satiety, or feeling fuller for longer, as well as blood sugar control and insulin resistance, the experts note.
High-protein breakfast choices may include eggs, lean meats, greek yogurt, ultra-filtered milk, nut butters, and protein shakes, says Schmidt. “It’s perfectly fine to have carbohydrates at breakfast, but when you have a protein source along with the carbohydrates, that glucose spike is not going to be as high,” Schmidt adds.
In addition to protein and carbohydrates, Schmidt encourages people to add in fruits and vegetables, which provide fiber and additional nutrients.
Low-intensity exercise for weight loss
The last step of the method is to get 30 minutes of low-intensity, steady state (LISS) cardiovascular exercise every morning after breakfast. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up but not too high so you can sustain it over a longer period of time without losing your breath. Examples include brisk walking, biking, swimming or using an elliptical, TODAY.com previously reported.
The U.S. Department of Health’s physical activity guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
“Any exercise is going to help bring your blood sugar down, so it’s absolutely beneficial,” says Schmidt. “But I don’t think we have a lot of research to support it needs to be that quickly after a meal.”
In the now-viral videos on TikTok, Brecka claims the 30-30-30 method helps the body burn more fat.
“Fat-burning” is a loaded term, the experts say. “Lower intensity exercise is going to burn a higher percentage of calories coming from fat,” says Machowsky. But higher-intensity exercise may burn more calories total, he adds.
“If the goal is weight loss, it’s about the total amount of calories you’re burning,” Machowsky adds. “You need to be in a calorie deficit to promote actual reduction of fat stores off your body.”
Looking at the timing of exercise, many experts agree that the morning exercise can be ideal for logistic and health reasons — but whether it’s sustainable depends on the person.
A recent study published in the journal Obesity found that exercising between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. could help with weight loss, TODAY.com previously reported.
“Some people find the act of exercising in the morning makes them more mindful of their eating choices the rest of the day, so it can have a positive ripple effect,” says Machowsky.
Others may find that morning exercise is easier to make a consistent habit, Schmidt adds.
Does 30-30-30 help with weight loss?
Ultimately, the impact of the 30-30-30 method will depend on a person’s baseline activity level and other habits, the experts emphasize. “Ask yourself: Are the (30-30-30 steps) improvements upon those current habits?” says Machowsky.
“If you’re not doing any exercise and now you’re doing 30 minutes a day of low-intensity cardio, that’s better than nothing,” Machowsky adds. But if you’re doing higher-intensity or longer workouts and cutting back in order to do the 30-30-30 method, then you might not burn as many calories as before, the experts note.
While lots of different factors can impact an individual’s weight, the main strategy that guarantees weight loss is being in a calorie deficit, Schmidt says, so if the 30-30-30 method doesn’t get you there, then you aren’t likely to lose weight.
Risks of 30-30-30
Compared to other fad diets and fitness trends, the 30-30-30 rule is far less concerning, says Schmidt. The basic principles, eating a high-protein breakfast and exercising daily, are pretty easy to get behind. However, they may not work for everyone.
“The (method) doesn’t seem to be harmful to try, but it’s not one-size-fits-all,” says Machowksy.
“Some people are hungry in the morning and other people aren’t, so I wouldn’t go force feeding yourself,” says Machowsky. If you can’t stomach breakfast or hate morning workouts, this method may not be ideal for you, the experts note. “But it doesn’t mean that you can’t try it and see how your body responds,” he adds.
It’s generally safe for most people to consume 30 grams of protein at one time, given the daily recommended amount is higher than that for the average adult, the experts note. However, some people should limit their daily protein intake, says Schmidt, such as those with chronic kidney disease. “Always check with your physician first,” Schmidt adds.
Thirty minutes of low-intensity exercise is also safe for most people, the experts note. “For the general healthy population, I don’t see it being an issue,” says Machowsky. However, anyone with underlying health conditions should always check with their doctor before starting any new exercise program, he adds.
“Of course, there are always disclaimers: If something you eat doesn’t make you feel good, stop. If you do an activity that makes you hurt, stop,” says Machowsky.
“We keep finding newer ways to do the same thing we’ve been trying to tell people the whole time, which is you need to be exercising, you need to be eating a balanced diet, and it needs to be sustainable,” says Schmidt.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com