The 2-2-2 Method for Weight Loss: Does It Work?

The 2-2-2 method, which combines meals high in carbohydrates and fat with intense exercise, promises to improve metabolic flexibility, leading to weight loss. However, a dietitian says there is a lack of evidence supporting its effectiveness.

About 40% of Americans have obesity, posing significant physical and mental health risks. This makes people look for new ways to lose weight, ranging from extreme diets to medications.

The 2-2-2 method, created by Dr. Ian K Smith, the author of the book "The Met Flex Diet: Burn Better Fuel, Burn More Fat," who also served on President Barack Obama's President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, is aimed at increasing metabolism flexibility.


During an interview for the TODAY Show, Smith said many people cannot lose weight not because their metabolism is slow but because it is not flexible. He said the method would help people to burn both carbohydrates and fats, leading to weight loss.

What is the 2-2-2 method?

The first "2" stands for types of food — meals high in fat and loaded with carbs. The second "2" represents practices like daily journaling and weekly weigh-ins, while the third "2" is for high intensity workouts.

Amy Goodson, RD, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, says there are no set macronutrient or calorie recommendations for meals in the six-week plan, the layout of which includes the following:

  • Week 1 involves 4:10 intermittent fasting, that includes fasting for 14 hours and eating primarily carbs and proteins during the rest 10 hours.
  • Week 2 switches to 5:2 intermittent fasting, which means eating regularly for five days and consuming 500 calories two days a week. The meals should consist primarily of carbs and proteins.
  • Week 3 and 4 is for traditional intermittent fasting that involves fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours, alternating between foods high in carbohydrates and high-fat keto meals.
  • Week 5 goes back to 5:2 intermittent fasting, where the caloric intake two days a week shouldn't exceed 500 calories. As during previous weeks, meals should alternate between high-carbohydrate and high-fat keto.
  • Week 6 includes 5:2-style intermittent fasting, this time eating 500 kcal every other day and eating regularly on the in-between days, mostly carbs and fats.

Meanwhile, the 2-2-2 workouts consist of three types of training: aerobic exercising like walking, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.

Smith says combining intermittent fasting, exercise, and cyclical keto helps to bust the weight loss plateau.

Is the 2-2-2 method effective?

While there is anecdotal evidence that people lose weight using the 2-2-2 method, Goodson says there is no real research to support it. The method may promote some metabolic flexibility and help some individuals break through weight loss plateaus, but it is a difficult plan to follow.


Goodson tells Healthnews, "From a registered dietitian's point of view, it does not provide balanced nutrition leading it to be less sustainable than other calorie-controlled diets with less extreme measures."

What are the risks of the 2-2-2 method?

Goodson says any extreme diet that dramatically restricts calories needs to be evaluated between a patient and doctor or registered dietitian.

For example, high-carb meals followed by very low-carb meals have the ability to cause blood sugar spikes and drops, leaving people hypoglycemic. This may lead to symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and more.

Goodson says, "High-intensity exercise, like HIIT training, requires carbohydrates as a source of fuel. Not consuming enough could leave an individual feeling faint during this type of exercise."

Increasingly popular intermittent fasting may also come with some risks. For example, a recent study suggests that people who eat all meals in an 8-hour window are at a 91% higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease compared to individuals who eat throughout a 12- to 16-hour period.

Moreover, one of the possible side effects of intermittent fasting is overeating after fasting periods. Being deprived of food makes appetite hormones and hunger center in the brain go into overdrive

What is a dietitian's verdict on the 2-2-2 method?

Goodson concludes, "Overall, as a registered dietitian, I would not recommend a plan like this as it is restrictive, unbalanced, and very hard to maintain long-term. It also has the ability to leave people with low energy."

The other 2-2-2 method


Jenna Rizzo, a fitness coach specializing in weight loss, has recently suggested her own 2-2-2 method for weight loss.

"If you follow this method for three weeks, I promise your body will feel so good you're just gonna wanna continue," she said in a TikTok video.


2:2:2 methods works like a charm if you’re just starting out, or wanting to get back into your fitness journey.

♬ original sound - Jenna Rizzo | Weight Loss

Rizzo's 2-2-2 rule includes drinking two big bottles of water every day and eating two servings of fruits and vegetables in addition to usual meals. The last "2" refers to taking two walks each day.

"Your skin is gonna be clearer, you're gonna have more energy, you're gonna be sleeping better. And you'll probably already be down for a few pounds," Rizzo says.

Drinking water can suppress the appetite and boost metabolism, making exercise easier and more efficient, all of which could contribute to weight loss.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in calories. They also contain water and fiber, which add volume to meals, allowing you to eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients. Meanwhile, a 30-minute brisk walk can burn about 150 calories.

Whatever 2-2-2 method — if any — you choose for weight loss, discuss possible changes in diet and physical activity levels with your healthcare provider.


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