The 3-Hour diet is based on the concept that weight loss is best achieved by eating small amounts frequently—in this case, every three hours.
The 3-Hour diet was originated by Jorge Cruise in the mid-2000s. Cruise was an overweight child who went on to lose weight, shape up, and become a self-proclaimed weight-loss expert. He has no formal nutrition training.
Cruise is the author of the New York Times best-seller 8 Minutes in the Morning, an exercise and diet program, and The 3-Hour Diet. He is a columnist for USA Weekend Magazine and is the diet and fitness editor for Good Housekeeping magazine. Cruise has discussed his diet and fitness philosophy on many television talk shows.
The 3-Hour diet is a diet regimen based on the philosophy that the timing of meals is more important than the type of food eaten in those meals. Cruise says the body's basal (baseline) metabolic rate (BMR) can be increased by eating every three hours. Keeping the metabolic rate high is desirable because this makes the body burn more calories.
The three basic rules of the 3-Hour diet are:
The 3-Hour diet requires three meals alternating with two snacks at regular three-hour intervals. Certain foods are recommended, but the diet does not provide a day-by-day meal plan. Cruise also recommends drinking eight glasses of water daily. On the diet, caffeine is not limited, but dieters must drink two glasses of water for every cup of coffee. This offsets the dehydrating effect of caffeine, Cruise says. Alcohol is to be drunk only rarely. However, the diet does allow occasional fast food and some frozen or processed foods. One key to success on the 3-Hour diet is planning meals and snacks ahead of time. Knowing what they will eat for the next meal helps dieters stick to the diet.
The 3-Hour diet is not a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, or very low-fat diet. Meals are required to consist of a reasonable balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. The emphasis is on choosing appropriate foods and on strict portion control. Although Cruise claims people can eat anything they want and still lose weight on his diet, in reality, by following the diet correctly, an individual is limited to about 1,450 calories a day. Many registered dietitians consider this an appropriate calorie intake for slow, steady weight loss. Cruise claims that people following the 3-Hour Diet will lose 2 lb. (0.9 kg) per week, and that they can target the spots on the body where they can lose fat. The diet is intended to last 28 days, with a repeat cycle for people who need to lose more weight.
The exercise aspect of the 3-Hour diet is somewhat confusing. Cruise initially claims that exercise is not a part of this weight-loss program and that the 3-Hour diet is good for individuals with arthritis or limited mobility. However, he also says that building muscle mass is important in weight loss because even at rest a pound of muscle burns twice as many calories as a pound of fat. This occurs because metabolic activity is higher in muscle cells. Ultimately Cruise does suggest exercises to go along with the 3-Hour diet, and they are generally not appropriate for people with sore joints or mobility limitations.
The final piece to the 3-Hour diet is motivation. In his book, Cruise devotes considerable space to a 28-day success planner. The planner helps dieters plan meals, and is filled with motivational quotations, dieting tips, and visualization exercises that encourage the dieter to picture a slimmer, happier version of him or herself. Cruise also maintains a website where for a fee dieters get access to additional expert advice, meal plans, diet and exercise tips, and motivational exercises.
Jorge Cruise claims that his 3-Hour diet will reprogram the body's BMR and allow people to lose 2 pounds a week. According to Cruise, if the body goes too long without food, what he calls the starvation protection mechanism kicks in. When this happens, the body begins to conserve energy, use fewer calories, and burn less fat. It is true that starvation causes the body to take action to conserve metabolic fuel. However, there is no scientific proof that going three hours between meals causes the body to think that it is starving or that eating every three hours will change the BMR.
Cruise also claims that dieters can target specific parts of the body from which to lose inches. There is no research to show that this is true, although specific exercises may build muscle and tone certain spots.
The 3-Hour diet benefits dieters by providing a blueprint for relatively low-calorie, balanced meals. People who are mindless or unconscious eaters often benefit from eating on a schedule. The 3-hour approach also helps to curb binge-eating behavior. Because they are required to eat at prescribed times, dieters do not get so hungry that they gorge themselves at the next meal. Nighttime eaters also benefit from the prohibition against eating three hours before going to bed. Another benefit of this diet is that it uses regular supermarket food, which keeps the cost reasonable. There are no required fees to participate.
One common complaint about the diet is that meal plans and menus are limited unless the dieter joins the optional fee-based website associated with the diet. Membership to the site is sold in 13-week blocks. Another complaint is that the dieter is strongly encouraged to buy Jorge Cruise dietary supplements to take while on the diet.
As with any diet, people should discuss with their physician the pros and cons of the 3-Hour diet based on their individual circumstances.
There appear to be few risks to following this diet.
The 3-Hour diet did not appear until the mid-2000s and no significant scholarly research has been done on it. There has been some research on the effects of eating many small meals instead of three large ones on dieting success. The results have been mildly favorable. Many weight-loss professionals support the idea of distributing calories across five or six meals during the day.
No research has been done on the “resetting” of BMR by eating small, frequent meals. The consensus among dietitians is that people who lose weight on the 3-Hour diet do so more because calories are restricted to under 1,500 a day than because of any specific value in the 3-hour timing of meals. The timing may, however, help people to change their eating behaviors in constructive ways.
See also Caffeine ; Calories ; Carbohydrates ; Dietary supplements ; Fats ; Protein .
Cruise, Jorge. The 3-Hour Diet Cookbook. New York: Collins, 2007.
Cruise, Jorge. The 3-Hour Diet: How Low-Carb Makes You Fat and Timing Makes You Thin. New York: Harper-Resource, 2005.
Icon Health Publications. Fad Diets: A Bibliography, Medical Dictionary, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References. San Diego, CA: ICON Health, 2004.
Scales, Mary Josephine. Diets in a Nutshell: A Definitive Guide on Diets from A to Z. Clifton, VA: Apex, 2005.
Wait, Marianne. “3-Hour Diet.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-3-hour-diet (accessed March 12, 2018).
Tish Davidson, AM