Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte
New year, new fitness trend. Unlike the Mediterranean Diet, which has ranked number one for seven years in a row, new fads continually pop up and raise our eyebrows. See: the celery juice cleanse, which actually caused celery prices to spike; intermittent fasting which has found steady endorsement from A-listers like Terry Crews; and fiber, which is finally finding its footing as a macronutrient to note. The latest? A phenomenon called the, “30-30-30 method,” a regimen that has gone viral on TikTok and has devotees who swear it's more than a fad—it's a lifestyle.
What exactly is the 30-30-30 method?
Well, the name gives it all away. If you adhere to the 30-30-30 diet, you'll kickstart your mornings with 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking up, followed by 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise. This regimen is believed to have been coined by author and nutritionist Tim Ferriss in his book, The 4-Hour Body, released in 2010; however, it was recently re-popularized by Gary Brecka, a nutritionist, self-dubbed “human biologist,” and The Ultimate Human podcast host. Brecka’s endorsement of the 30-30-30 method went viral on TikTok, gaining 21 million views, sparking social media goers to start living by the method and documenting their experiences with it. Hence, why it's everywhere.
What are the benefits of the 30-30-30 method?
While there isn’t much literature on the 30-30-30 method to date, two things are for certain: protein in the morning and movement are long-backed as a recipe for healthy living. And yet, many of our day-to-day dealings involve grabbing a coffee for breakfast and parking it at a desk all day.
“The science behind this all has to do with blood sugar control,” says Derek Johnson, Los Angeles dietician and functional nutritionist, whose clients include Chris Pratt, Michelle Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Sebastian Stan, and James Franco, along with countless pro athletes. “Insulin resistance happens because of lack of movement and overconsumption of starchy carbohydrates that convert to sugar,” he says.
The 30-30-30 method directly combats this with moving, burning sugar, and eating protein—or what Johnson likes to call “mastering your morning.” It’s setting up your body’s biochemistry (the brain, gut, insulin, cortisol, and hormones) to be successful.
“People wonder why they can’t make the right decision or have blood sugar issues, get tired in the afternoon, and don’t sleep well; it’s because they’re not starting their day off properly,” he says. When you start your morning with 30 grams of protein, followed by movement, it ultimately leads to decreased hunger and cravings later in the day, which helps with weight loss, lowers the risk of diabetes, and reduces unhealthy snacking. “Eating protein first helps to stabilize your blood sugar versus starting with a carbohydrate or fat,” says Johnson.
Jordan Clayborne, a Beverly Hills physical therapist, owner of Body Physical Therapy, and partner of private luxury gym Royal Personal Training says that he’s witnessed the results of the 30-30-30 diet firsthand with his patients, many of whom had a sudden reduction in weight followed by a steady plateau and lower hemoglobin A1C levels (an indicator of prediabetes and diabetes), consistent with drops in blood sugar levels.
“Virtually everyone who comes to my clinic isn’t getting the recommended amount of daily cardio,” says Clayborne, who's seen an uptick in interest in the viral fitness craze over the past few months, with inquiries coming in at least three times a week. “The 30-30-30 method couldn’t be easier to incorporate into your lifestyle.”
To that end, here are ways to integrate it into your daily routine and why it’s beneficial.
1. Start off your mornings with 30 grams of protein
Kickstart your day with a protein-packed breakfast. Whether it's through eggs, nuts, nut butter, seeds, or protein powders, aim for a substantial intake of 30 grams. To put it in perspective, a single scoop of protein powder typically contains around 20 to 30 grams. It's essential to adhere to the scientific principle that suggests consuming your protein before indulging in other items, like that tempting glass of orange juice.
“Eating protein first thing in the morning [before carbs] will help curb your sugar cravings throughout the day,” says Katrina Tate, a NASM-certified personal trainer at Royal Personal Training. “Protein first thing will keep your insulin levels low."
2. Follow with 30 minutes of low-impact exercise
A light jog, leisurely bike ride, or swim are all great examples of this kind of exercise. “Low impact, low-intensity cardio has been shown to burn more fat, while high intensity burns carbs initially while raising the metabolism for a short period known as the ‘afterburn’ effect,” says Clayborne. “The gym is great, but overtraining can cause elevated cortisol levels, which, in turn, raises your insulin, making it impossible to tap into your fat reserves for fuel,” adds Tate.
Incorporating this routine within 30 minutes of waking up provides a dual benefit by jumpstarting your metabolism. “As long as you’re moving and getting that heart rate in your target fat-burning zone, you’ll feel the benefits,” she attests. Not to be overlooked is the simple act of walking outside. “It’s one of the most underrated things on the planet,” says Johnson, who would take that over 60 minutes of indoor cardio any day of the week.
Is the 30-30-30 method actually effective?
For some, the results are apparent almost immediately—even amongst the trainers who we interviewed. However, Tate cautions that consistency is key to success. Whether or not it’s effective for you really depends on your starting point and how you define it. What is your age? Do you already live a healthy lifestyle? Are you insulin-resistant? How much weight are you hoping to lose—if that’s your goal? How are you sleeping? How are you digesting your food? Do you have deficiencies? How are you managing stress?
The answer to all of these questions can influence effectiveness, which is why it’s crucial to consult your physician first to see if it’s appropriate for you. A consultation with a dietician or nutritionist can also be helpful for sources of protein and a dietary plan specific to your needs.
“I would tell everyone, no matter where they are in life or what program they’re doing…you have to commit to three months,” says Johnson. “You have to get a whole new cycle of cells and give the body a chance.” The goal is to stick with the routine long enough for meaningful changes based on biochemistry to take place.
“The best thing about the human body is that it adapts to any environment or habit,” says Johnson. It takes about 66 days to form a habit, according to a 2009 study from the European Journal of Social Psychology. By adhering to a wholesome routine like the 30-30-30 method and sticking with it for the long haul, you could give your body a chance to perform optimally. But the bottom line? You've got to give the routine a solid chance to be effective.
Are there any risks to the 30-30-30 method?
While incorporating a protein-rich breakfast and engaging in physical activity are generally considered positive health practices, it's crucial to approach the 30-30-30 method with a discerning eye. As with any diet, your unique goals, body composition, and genetics play a factor in how it will affect you. So consult with your physician to ensure it aligns with your individual needs and health profile.
Clayborne notes that the 30-30-30 method doesn't impose restrictions on the consumption of carbohydrates or fats during breakfast. This lack of specificity may lead some individuals to interpret the method liberally, potentially justifying the inclusion of less healthy options like pancakes, fruit smoothies, and other carb-rich foods, as long as 30 grams of protein are present. Though, you can have those things—certainly—have them in moderation and again, keep your unique health goals and health priorities in mind.
Clayborne cautions that the overall quality of the diet remains crucial, as neglecting this aspect may result in less desirable outcomes. It's essential to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet to maximize the benefits of the 30-30-30 method and support overall well-being.
Originally Appeared on GQ