Does the Volumetrics Diet Work for Weight Loss?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on August 26, 2020 and last updated for accuracy on October 18, 2020

The Volumetrics Diet is one of the few diet plans that has passed the test of time. This timeless diet plan seems to never get old. Wherever you look, you will find its followers, scattered across the globe. Today, we are here to explain why that is. 

What Exactly is the Volumetrics Diet?

The Volumetrics Diet is not a new, revolutionary diet. It is, in fact, a diet that has been around since 1999. In the year of 1999, a nutrition and obesity researcher at Penn State University, named Dr. Barbara Rolls, published her research called The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. That was the beginning of the Volumetrics Diet as we know it. Later, in 2005, she also published her second book on the matter, sharing tips and yummy recipes (1).

As Dr. Rolls explains, weight loss is not about the calorie deficit, but rather about the volume of the foods that we choose to eat. It is still possible to eat a lot of food and lose weight. And the Volumetrics Diet and anyone who has followed, it is living proof of that. 

How Does It Work?

The way that the Volumetrics Diet works is through careful selection of foods. This diet plan stimulates weight loss by eating low-calorie, high-volume foods rich in nutrients and great taste. The idea is to increase your daily fiber and water intake. There is a wide selection of nutrient-dense foods rich in either water or fiber. 

There is a lot of research done on the topic of using water and fiber to stimulate weight loss. Both water and fiber promote feelings of satiety, thus curbing out your appetite. With the Volumetrics Diet, you will intake the needed nutrients, feel full, and suppress your appetite, which will ultimately help you lose weight.

But its developer explains that the Volumetrics Diet alone will not do the trick. It is also recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week (2). The intensity should range between light to moderate, but if you prefer HIIT workouts, that is okay! Keeping a food journal is advised as well. A food journal can help identify unhealthy eating patterns and their causes (3).

One can also use their food journal to keep track of their daily calorie intake. Although the diet plan does not focus on a calorie deficit, it does come with a recommended calorie intake. The calorie intake is, of course, calculated accordingly to your preferences, age, sex, and physical activity, among other factors (4).

If you are worried about not eating some of your favorite foods such as chocolate and chips, think twice. The Volumetrics Diet allows comfort foods within the recommended calorie intake. It is also recommended that you make some smart changes in your diet. Maybe you will replace potato chips with some chickpea chips. Or maybe you reach for the dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate next time. There are a lot of great recipes, including those for snacks and comfort food, which you can find online. 

And last but not least important is keeping track. Other than keeping an eye on your daily calorie intake, weekly weighing is advised. It is important to avoid revisiting the weighing scale every day. A lot of factors influence your weight on a day-to-day basis. Seeing no change or seeing an increase in your weight can be quite unmotivating. It can do so much harm that you give up on a diet completely. That is the last thing that you would want to do. 

So, allow yourself a weekly weighing to keep track of any progress done that past week. If you are not satisfied with your weekly progress, you can always revisit your food journal and see where things may have gone wrong (5).

Foods to Eat & Foods to Avoid

According to the Volumetrics Diet, each food belongs to one of the four categories. It all depends on how calorie-dense the food is. The four categories are:

  • Category 1 which are foods with a very low-calorie density. Their calorie density is 0.6 or less.
  • Category 2 which are foods with a low-calorie density. Their calorie density is between 0.6 and 1.6.
  • Category 3 which are foods with a medium calorie density. Their calorie density is between 1.6 and 3.9.
  • Category 4 which are foods with a high-calorie density. Their calorie density is between 4.0 and 9.0.

To determine the calorie density, simply divide the number of calories in a serving size with the weight in grams of the chosen food. The result will be a number between 0 and 9. Then, by using the scale above, you can decide on the calorie density.

The reason why this is important is that you need to choose low-calorie density foods (6). These are foods that are usually filled with water, such as most fruits and veggies. On the other hand, processed foods tend to have a very high-calorie density.

Most of the typical meal needs to consist of low-calorie density, or Category 1, foods. Foods from Category 2 are allowed as well. Speaking of Category 3 and 4 foods, they can be used but only in limited amounts. To make this easier for you, here are all of the foods from each category.

  • Category 1 foods 
    • Low-calorie fruits including berries, bananas, apples, oranges, pears, etc.;
    • Non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, kale, etc.;
    • Broth-based soups;
    • Skim milk and nonfat yogurt.
  • Category 2 foods
    • Whole grains such as quinoa, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, etc.;
    • Legumes including beans, lentils, chickpeas;
    • Lean protein such as while fish and skinless poultry;
    • Starchy veggies, including potatoes, corn, peas, etc.
  • Category 3 foods
    • Full-fat dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, whole milk, etc.;
    • Processed carbs including white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc.;
    • Meat, other than lean protein.
  • Category 4 foods
    • Oils;
    • Processed foods;
    • Nuts;
    • Seeds, etc.

The Volumetrics Diet points out the importance of zero-calorie drinks. The list includes water, water, and more water. Other than drinking enough water daily, you are allowed other drinks as well. Stick to black coffee and unsweetened teas for the best possible effects. Surprisingly enough, alcohol is allowed despite being high in calories. However, it is advised to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum (7).

Can You Lose Weight with the Volumetrics Diet?

Since 1999, millions of people have managed to lose weight by following the Volumetrics Diet. It represents a sustainable, healthy weight-loss method that can be adjusted to everyone’s needs. If you think about it, it does not represent a specific diet but rather a lifestyle. But talking about weight loss, here are all how the Volumetrics Diet encourages healthy weight loss.

Low-calorie intake

Choosing low-calorie dense foods is one of the most effective weight loss methods to this day. This only shows how ahead of its time, the Volumetrics Diet was when it first appeared. By eating more low-calorie dense foods, you have the chance to eat large portions of food without overstepping your recommended calorie intake. But the low-calorie intake is not the only benefit. Low-calorie dense foods also suppress your appetite and eliminate cravings. 

A 2018 research confirmed these findings. Ninety-six obese participants reported reduced cravings and lower appetite, along with effective weight loss due to eating low calorie-dense foods (8). Another study compared the daily calorie intake of those who ate a high-calorie dense meal and those who ate a low-calorie dense meal. The results showed that with the help of low-calorie dense foods, the calorie intake was reduced by as much as 56% (9).

Fiber-rich foods

If you want to lose weight, you need to rethink your fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods are famous for promoting weight loss. This is a great tip for anyone struggling with belly fat. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, fiber-rich foods help regulate metabolism. In return, increased fat burning and a decrease in fat storage take place (10).

In addition, soluble fiber suppresses the appetite as well (11). The lower your appetite and cravings are, the lower the daily calorie intake will be. This will result in visible weight loss results. 

Lean protein-rich foods

Other than fiber, the Volumetrics Diet introduces enough protein as well. By using lean protein sources, you will successfully increase your protein intake. Why would you like to do that, you ask? Next to fiber, protein is the second-best weight-loss nutrient. 

Protein works to increase the levels of the satiety hormone while reducing the levels of the hunger hormone at the same time. It also boosts up the metabolism so that you end up burning more calories than usual. You can burn as much as 80 to 100 more thanks to your high protein intake (12).

It is worth mentioning that protein will work to lower your cravings and curb your appetite. If you are prone to binge and late-night eating, then proteins are your friends. By eating a high-protein breakfast, participants in a 2014 study have effectively reduced their cravings (13).

Recommended water intake

Not many of us remember to drink enough water. Other than the most obvious benefit, which is hydration, water offers other beneficial effects as well. Water will work in your benefit, providing a chance to burn more calories. Besides, it will reduce your appetite significantly. 

One little trick is to always have a bottle of water next to you. Science has shown that by drinking 500 ml of water before a meal, you can significantly reduce your calorie intake (14). Having a water bottle at your side will remind you to keep sipping on the water on the go.

Regular exercise

And last but not least important, the Volumetrics Diet teaches us about the importance of regular exercise. Healthy weight loss is not possible without daily exercise. Doing as little as 30 minutes per day, a couple of days weekly, will make a major difference.

Through exercise, you will lose fat, often distributed around your waist. But unlike diet alone, exercise prevents the loss of muscle mass. You would be surprised to learn how often people end up losing muscle mass while dieting. Muscle is important for many reasons, one of which is weight loss. Having strong muscles will boost your metabolism, thus help you lose weight. It will also leave you feeling and looking toned and great, along with the rest of the health benefits that exercise has to offer (15).

The Pros & Cons of the Volumetrics Diet

  • Pros
    • It suppresses the appetite. Unlike most diet plans, the Volumetrics Diet will not leave you starving.
    • It is highly filling and satisfying. You are not feeling hungry, and yet you are losing weight.
    • It offers a wide range of foods to eat, from fruits and veggies to lean protein and whole grains. Nothing is truly forbidden. Even chocolate and bread can be eaten.
    • Rich in fiber-rich foods. Fiber, along with protein, is the two most weight-loss-friendly nutrients. Luckily, they are both found as a part of this diet plan. 
    • It allows easy swaps to be made. Simply swipe white bread for a whole grain one. Replace chips with popcorn. And order a black coffee instead of a latte next time. It is as easy as that.
  • Cons
    • Eating out can be overwhelming. Most restaurant-prepared meals are not Volumetrics Diet-friendly. 
    • Nuts and seeds are to be eaten in moderation. Both represent a valuable source of Omega-3 fatty acids. As such, they are important for our diet. An Omega-3 supplement may be needed.

Conclusion

Are you looking for an effective diet plan? Perhaps one that is not as restrictive as some of the most popular ones. Maybe one that allows easy swaps and a long list of yummy foods and recipes. If that is the case, we highly recommend the Volumetrics Diet. As of 1999, the Volumetrics Diet has made weight loss a dream come true for a number of people. Hopefully, it will do the same for you. 

References:

  1. https://foodinsight.org/basics-of-volumetrics-diet/
  2. https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans
  3. https://nutrition.org/the-benefits-of-food-journaling/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/food-and-diet/what-should-my-daily-intake-of-calories-be
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/should-you-weigh-yourself-every-day
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9497184/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/volumetrics-what-it-is
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6054218/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15159224/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735932/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19369431/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20565999/
  13. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-80
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19661958/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925973/

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