TikTok’s Viral 30-30-30 Challenge: Does It Work For Weight Loss?

Ah, another day, another viral TikTok challenge. This time, creators on the app are championing a novel approach to weight loss: the 30-30-30 challenge, which involves eating 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, followed by 30 minutes of exercise.

As with anything, there are merits and sticky points when it comes to the viral challenge. We spoke to the experts about the 30-30-30 challenge to see how it holds up against the tried-and-true weight loss approaches we know and (seem to) hate: consistent exercise paired with a varied, healthy diet.

Meet the experts: Claire Julsing-Strydom is a registered dietician specialising in PCOS and weight loss at Nutritional Solutions. Martene Michael is a registered dietician at Nutri Dynamix and is currently completing a Master of Medical Science specialising in the impact of certain dietary patterns on the human body.

So… What is the 30-30-30 challenge?

Put simply, the 30-30-30 challenge involves three simple things. Wake up and within 30 minutes, eat 30g of protein. Then, do 30 minutes of steady-state cardio exercise. This exercise can be something very simple like bike riding or a walk. The aim is to keep your heart rate at around 135bmp (beats per minute) while being able to walk or read comfortably.

This method was first seen in Timothy Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Body but was made popular by biologist Gary Brecka on TikTok. The idea is that this forces the body to burn fat, as opposed to burning lean muscle (lean muscle burns fat at rest).

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What does 30g of protein look like?

While you’re welcome to eat a combination of carbs and fats with your meal, in order to reap the benefits of the 30-30-30 challenge, your protein must be at 30g.

This looks like:

  • Three scrambled eggs with cheese
  • A protein powder shake
  • High-protein bread or flapjacks
  • 1 cup of Greek yoghurt with berries and peanut butter
  • A tofu scramble

What does the 30 minutes of exercise look like?

Since you’d need to keep your body at 135 bpm, stick to steady-state cardio. This could look like:

  • Walking
  • Riding a bike
  • Stepping
  • Running slowly
  • Dancing

READ MORE: 3 High-Protein, Low-Carb Breakfast Recipes You’ll Actually Love To Eat

What are the benefits of the 30-30-30 challenge?

A high-protein breakfast is a win

Experts agree that a filling breakfast is a slam dunk towards weight loss goals. “I think it’s a great idea to wake up, have decent protein for breakfast and then exercise,” says registered dietician Claire Julsing-Strydom. “As a dietician, I often see people do things like oats, but add no protein, or they have toast with avo, which is fat but no protein – and they find that their energy levels dip throughout the day, they get hungrier throughout the day. We know that protein does give us more satiety and it helps with glucose control, too.”

Martene Michael, a registered dietician, agrees. “With intermittent fasting, eating breakfast has been a hot topic of debate for a while. This 30-30-30 trend brings back breakfast, and I am all for it,” she says. “Encouraging a nutrient-dense, high-protein breakfast may be helpful in improving satiety and in turn, helps to reduce the consumption of high calorie, nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Research continues to find that eating a protein-rich breakfast may be useful in stabilising blood sugar levels, combats insulin resistance and assisting in long-term, sustained weight loss.”

Pre-workout fuel is a great idea

“We also know that exercising straight after a meal helps with glucose control so I think what we’re getting here is the better blood glucose control with the protein,” says Julsing-Strydom.

We also know that fasted cardio might not be a great idea when it comes to fat loss. “In the popular TikTok video, Brecka discusses the dangers of working out in a fasted state,” notes Michael. “Exercising in a fasted state can lead to the depletion of glycogen reserves, which typically occurs around 20 minutes into a workout. Once glycogen stores are exhausted, the body may resort to breaking down lean muscle tissue to sustain energy levels. This process can compromise muscle integrity and hinder the overall effectiveness of the workout.” Added to that, says Michael, “Consuming protein before a workout can help to prevent muscle breakdown during exercise and can provide amino acids as a readily available energy source during exercise.”

READ MORE: What Is Cozy Cardio On TikTok? Trainers Weigh In On The Comfy Workout Trend

What should you watch out for while doing the 30-30-30 challenge?

According to Michael, make sure that your pre-workout meal also contains some form of healthy carbohydrates.

“Our brain and muscle’s primary fuel source is carbohydrates. Thus, rather than aiming to hit 30g of protein in a pre-workout meal, it would be advisable to aim to consume a balanced pre-workout meal, consisting of easily digestible carbohydrate and protein sources – such as a light protein shake, rice cakes with fat-free cottage cheese or a low fat/fat-free mini yoghurt with some berries, seeds or nuts,” she says.

Not everyone can eat that early

Per Julsing-Strydom, some women might find it difficult to eat a rounded meal within 30 minutes of waking. “If someone would struggle to get this amount of protein in the morning, we’d normally recommend a shake so overall I don’t think this is a bad thing,” she notes. If this is you, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to eat a bit later, says Julsing-Strydom. “I think we mustn’t get into rigid formulas like this – normally those are the ones that do well on social media for the new diet on the block,” she says.

Steady-state cardio is great, but might not burn all the fat

“While LISS cardio has its benefits, it is not a magical or exclusive method for fat burning. The perception of any exercise as a ‘fat-burning’ solution can be misleading, and it’s important to understand the broader context of weight management and body composition,” warns Michael. “LISS (low-impact steady state) cardio may be effective for certain individuals. However, for others who have a higher baseline fitness level, this type of exercise may prove to be ineffective. Thus the type of exercise recommended should be based on a personalised approach.”

READ MORE: Here’s How To Make Weight Loss Goals That Will Actually Stick in 2024

Overall, experts warn against being too rigid in your weight loss approach. The 30-30-30 challenge, while helpful and potentially healthy, does have a rigidity to it that might not work for everyone. “As with any trending diet, caution is advised, and consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific needs and goals,” says Michael. “Ultimately, creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle involves adopting practices that work best for your body to promote long-term health and well-being.” We couldn’t agree more!

Michelle is the features editor at WH. She’s immensely curious about the world, passionate about health and wellness and enjoys a good surf when the waves are good.

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