F Factor Diet Controversy: The F-Factor diet was popular a decade before the keto diet and its concentration on healthy fats. The F-Factor Diet, created by Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D. in 2007, is based on the premise that fiber (a bioavailable kind of carbohydrate) is the “magic key” to losing weight without feeling hungry. The diet focuses on high-fiber carbohydrates (beans, legumes, veggies like beets, broccoli, and cauliflower) and lean protein to help you feel full while ingesting less calories, according to the program’s website.
Diet comprises three “steps” with various nutrition goals. First, substitute refined carbohydrates in your diet for high-fiber carbs and eat more of them. During the first step, women are advised to eat at least 35 grams of fiber per day (that’s 7grams more than the USDA recommends), less than 35 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), 33 grams of fat (30% of daily caloric intake), and 10 to 14 ounces of protein daily (about the same amount of fat and two to three times more protein than the USDA recommends). Step 1 includes protein, lipids, and carbohydrates in breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners, Zuckerbrot tells Shape.
When you eat more carbs than your body can store as glycogen (energy), the excess is turned to fat, says Zuckerbrot. “Without glucose, the body burns fat,” she explains. The F-Factor diet begins with “because we need a boost. People usually start the treatment with full glycogen reserves “Zuckerbrot adds.
In Step 2, F-Factor dieters eat three additional portions of carbs, ideally high-fiber alternatives, with a maximum net carb consumption of 75 grams. The F-Factor book contains Food Exchange Lists prepared by the American Diabetes Association and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which define portion sizes and carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calorie counts, adds Zuckerbrot. Followers can consume pasta, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruits, legumes, and dairy products throughout this stage, she explains.
Zuckerbrot: “F-Factor isn’t merely for weight loss.” “As a professional private practice, we treat GI diseases, CVD, diabetes… As a professional dietician, I can adjust F-Factor to their requirements, which isn’t necessarily weight reduction. Maintenance is for those who don’t desire to lose weight.”
Maintenance, or Step 3, entails adding three or more portions of carbs to your daily diet and capping net carb consumption at 125 grams to maintain weight or health advantages. USDA recommends 130g of carbohydrates per day for women.
Zuckerbrot emphasizes that this third phase is not one-size-fits-all and should be tailored to each person’s needs. Zuckerbrot says maintenance depends on height, weight, gender, and exercise level. “Athletes must carb-o-load to manage weight” (Not all athletes need to carb-o-load to lose weight.)
The Backlash Against the F-Factor Diet
F-Factor provides 20-gram fiber and protein snacks and powders to help you accomplish your fiber objectives. Sounds like a stress-free way to obtain protein and fiber after weightlifting, right?
False. People are anonymously calling out the firm on Instagram, claiming they’ve encountered significant health problems after consuming F-Factor goods, including full-body rashes, stomach discomfort, and amenorrhea. Some say the items contain lead and demanded F-Factor to disclose a Certificate of Analysis (COA) with quality control lab findings. The firm provided a COA of their chocolate fiber/protein powder on Thursday, indicating it passed for trace metals. The Instagram COA doesn’t say who gave the “pass” result, so it’s unknown who completed the analysis. The COA indicated that the product included the precise amount of nutritional components specified on its label and 0.014 ppm of lead, which is below the EPA limit for lead in public drinking water. (F-products Factor’s include the Prop 65 warning required by California law, which states they contain chemicals that might cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive damage. )
F-Factor can develop disordered eating behaviors by urging members to measure carbohydrates and fiber, according to the New York Times. Former F-Factor employees say “the culture was thinness at any cost,” the Times says.
While the claims emphasize the hazards of dieting without a nutritionist (and the safety of supplements, which aren’t regulated by the FDA), they also challenge the legitimacy of the F-program. Factor’s Lisa Hayim M.S., R.D. is one nutrition expert leading the case. The NYC-based registered dietitian recently provided a Fiber 101 tutorial on Instagram, highlighting the advantages and downsides of fiber and why it’s not the end-all, be-all nutrient.
First problem with high-fiber diets (and supplements): Fiber on its own, without the micronutrients and carbohydrates in complete meals like fruits, nuts, and whole grains, will make you feel full but won’t provide you enough energy to go through the day, she adds. She calls it false fullness. “You need energy and nourishment to operate, have a period, bear children, or feel well. If you eat fiber from actual foods, you’ll get all the fiber’s advantages plus minerals and energy.
The Mayo Clinic encourages eating fiber-rich whole meals rather than taking fiber supplements. Whole meals contain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that pills and powders can’t.
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If you drink a fiber- and protein-heavy smoothie (like F- Factor’s) after a workout, you may not experience the most results. During a workout, your body needs glycogen (carbohydrate energy) to keep moving (unless your body uses fat instead, as mentioned previously). According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fatigued muscles require carbohydrates and protein to rebuild and regain energy. If all of your carbohydrates come from fiber, as they do in [F-Factor] protein powder, it seems like you’re receiving carbs, but you’re not, Hayim adds in her video.
So, is the controversy surrounding the F-Factor diet legit?
Fiber’s advantages aren’t easily categorized. Two kinds of fiber behave differently in the body. Soluble fiber, found in oats, beans, apples, and blueberries, dissolves in water to create a gel and lowers cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat bread, brown rice, cauliflower, and potatoes. It increases stool size and moves everything through your digestive tract, preventing constipation and inconsistent toilet excursions.
When soluble fibers are digested and fermented by gut bacteria, they form short-chain fatty acids that may be absorbed and used for energy, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU). Insoluble fibers aren’t digested, thus they don’t provide your body energy, according to OSU. According to the Mayo Clinic, F-chocolate Factor’s brownie bar includes soluble maize fiber, oats, almond, and peanut butter. OSU says the vanilla protein powder contains soluble guar gum. F-supplements Factor’s do provide some post-workout energy.
Confused about fiber and micronutrients? Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., a Shape Brain Trust member, recommends an alternative method. “I dislike separating the two,” she says. “People should focus on obtaining all forms of fiber because it’s hard enough to acquire fiber in your diet without having to figure out which is soluble, which is insoluble, and which does what. If you focus on eating fiber-rich meals, you’ll consume a wider variety.”
Is fiber a beneficial post-workout nutrient? Fiber might help balance your stomach when you consume too much protein, says Wendy Dahl, Ph.D., of the University of Florida. When you overeat protein, part of it may not be digested, and gut bacteria may break it down, generating inflammatory substances, said Dahl. Fiber will be broken down by bacteria instead of protein, reducing inflammation and allowing protein to do its job of making you feel full and preserving muscle mass, added Dahl.
Nutrition experts aren’t unanimously against F-Factor. F-Factor bars aren’t fiber bombs. Brown rice protein, pea protein, almond and peanut butter, and oats provide protein and bone-strengthening calcium, just like Vega and Tone It Up. Dietitian Gans doesn’t oppose to these substances. I think all the substances in the items are safe.
F-Factor products aren’t meal replacements, but rather supplements that “may help you achieve your daily fiber needs in a more convenient and pleasurable way.” Gans says this idea isn’t uncommon. “As trained dietitians, we always prescribe food first, and if you have trouble fulfilling your nutritional needs, a supplement may be needed,” she explains.
The F-Factor diet hails fiber as a “wonder” ingredient and urges people to increase their intake, although Gans says the theory is less problematic than other cult diets. “I’m wary about eliminating nutrients or dietary categories,” she says. “If they encouraged one nutrient over another, I’d be worried, and many fad diets do that. A diet that promotes a healthy ingredient like fiber without removing food categories is OK by me.”
As for the purported adverse effects of F-Factor products, Gans says everyone’s microbiota and digestive system are different. “One of these ingredients may not agree with you,” she explains. “Not unsafe. Not hazardous. It indicates you’re wrong.”
What about the F-Factor diet’s seemingly restrictive practices?
Hayim states in a second Instagram video that F-base Factor’s appears to be weight loss and dieting, with little to no respect for other health concerns, such as exercise. F-website Factor’s states, “Work out less.”
Despite the website’s phrasing, Zuckerbrot says F-Factor is pro-exercise. Zuckerbrot: “The F-Factor book has a full chapter on exercise.” “Your readings contradict a 14-year-old book. We’re not anti-exercise. Smarter exercise.”
By “smarter,” Zuckerbrot means saving cardio for when you need endorphins, want to clear your thoughts, or other non-weight-loss reasons. F-Factor encourages customers to focus on growing muscle, which boosts glycogen storage so they can consume more carbs and still lose weight. (See 11 Health Benefits of Weightlifting)
Gans feels that dieting to lose weight is fine if done for the appropriate reasons. “Some people should lose weight,” she says. “Today, those who want to reduce weight are rejected, and that’s not right.” Gans thinks there’s no reason a person who wants to reduce weight in a healthy way and has a good relationship with food and their body can’t do it.
“It’s hard to put women together,” she says. As a licensed dietitian, I don’t see why I can’t assist someone attain their objectives if they approach weight reduction in a healthy, compassionate way.
Zuckerbrot argues restrictiveness is “antithetical to [her] messaging” F-Factor doesn’t encourage calorie counting, she says. Each phase of the F-Factor Diet includes a calorie cap that assures weight loss. You’ll feel full, and you need sufficient nutrition to maintain your energy and health, Zuckerbrot adds.
Zuckerbrot recommends counting carbohydrates and fiber to assist customers reach their goals. “If you want to burn fat for fuel, your body needs fat, not glucose,” explains Zuckerbrot. How else will they know whether they’re following the program correctly if they don’t know what a carb is and how much they’re eating? “The whole objective of measuring fiber is to make sure kids consume at least 35 grams of fiber since they’ll be hungry and miss out on fiber’s health advantages.”
This doesn’t mean this diet is without problems. According to the F-Factor book, “the F-Factor Diet will teach you the magic amount and which carbohydrates to chose so you don’t exceed your reserves but yet feel satiated and motivated all day.” Due to net carb limitations and other macronutrient guidelines, a woman eats 1,000 to 1,200 calories during Step 1, explains Zuckerbrot.
That’s a frighteningly low amount. “A 1,000 to 1,200-calorie diet is low for the typical individual, but it may help some lose weight,” adds Gans. “I wouldn’t expect any long-term bad effects from the two-week guideline; nevertheless, they may feel short-term weariness and irritation. Staying on Step 1 longer than suggested might have negative health repercussions. USDA recommends 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day to assist women lose weight healthily. Zuckerbrot’s private practice may customize a person’s calorie intake to match their demands.
Some people may have trouble with the F-Factor diet’s net carb limits. “Many diets might lead to under-consuming calories, especially for disordered eaters,” adds Gans. “There is no ‘yes or no’ response to this [question of under-consumption on the F-Factor diet] since weight loss isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some people need more carbohydrates depending on their height, age, sex, and daily activity level. A qualified dietician may create a diet to match your needs. (Why See a Dietitian?)
Zuckerbrot claims she stands behind her program, book, and goods. Her program’s internet buzz may have sparked the fire, she says. Zuckerbrot: “I’ll make sure the book’s good research is better conveyed on social media.” People are grabbing bits from social media and not reading the book, so they’re misinterpreting my meaning. I take full responsibility and will do better going forward.”
What can we learn from this? First, a healthy diet must include fiber. Fiber isn’t a silver bullet, nor is any other vitamin. Gans observed that if you have a history of disordered eating, a diet that involves achieving precise numbers isn’t the ideal option. Finally, lose weight if you wish. Consult your doctor or R.D. to create a healthy lifestyle plan that works for you. Don’t follow Regina George and merely eat supplement bars or online messaging.