Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
The HMR diet, also called the Health Management Resources Program, is a diet that is designed to initiate weight loss.
In general, it aims to reduce caloric intake by switching peoples meals to their own branded meal replacement shakes, alongside some amount of fruit and vegetables.
As it makes such simple changes, on paper, it is advertised to be a “low effort” diet that most people will be able to stick too.
To take a quote from the diet creators themselves:
“rooted in behavioral science, our simple and effective program helps you lose weight quickly and build habits around healthy behaviors, so they can become part of your lifestyle for long-term success”
Albeit, the diet has faced its fair share of criticism for essentially replacing foods with processed, pre-packaged shakes and snacks.
What Is The HMR Diet?
The diet is divided into two distinct phases:
- The weight loss phase
- The weight maintenance phase
During the first phase, the diet is much more strict as it aims to strip off body fat in a short period of time to get people down to their targeted weight.
Due to this, it is recommended to consume only HMR products along with some fruits and vegetables.
Specifically, it follows what is known as a “3+2+5 plan”, which involves eating 3 HMR shakes, 2 HMR snacks, and 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
When ones target weight has been successfully reached, the second phase is a bit less strict, and allows for the reintroduction of certain foods into the diet.
These foods are still asked to be consumed alongside 2 HMR products per day, and these products should replace any “junk” food that a person might crave throughout the day.
It is clearly stated that during both phases of the diet, people should avoid red meat, full-fat dairy, alcohol, fruit juice, soda, condiments, and highly processed foods.
In addition, as a side benefit, those who pay for certain plans on the diet receive access to support from online health coaches, along with medical supervision and in-person meetings depending on the location.
Sample Day of Eating
- Breakfast: HMR 120 Vanilla Shake with 1 cup of apricots OR Multigrain Hot Cereal with 1 cup of peaches
- Snack: HMR 800 Vanilla Shake OR HMR 120 Chocolate Shake
- Lunch: HMR Cheese and Basil Ravioli with 2 cups of spinach OR HMR Lentil Stew with 1 cup of cauliflower
- Snack: HMR 500 Chocolate Shake
- Dinner: HMR Barbecue Chicken with 1 cup of green beans OR HMR Penne Pasta with Meatballs and 1 cup of summer squash
Does The HMR Diet Work?
As the HMR Diet is clearly a very low-calorie diet, it obviously works for its intended purpose – to lose weight.
This is the sole reason why many studies have demonstrated that meal replacement diets can produce significant weight loss .
Quite simply, eating in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than you expend) will result in weight loss.
Estimating each meal at ~300 calories, alongside HMR shakes at ~150 calories each, the diet, at least in the first phase, only offers around 1,000 calories a day.
Given the very low caloric intake, at least half of recommended daily amounts, although weight loss will occur there could be potential health issues if the diet is sustained for prolonged periods.
This being said, for those who are severely overweight and in need of dramatic results, this sort of diet may be successful and lead to improved health outcomes.
The Additional Health Benefits Of The HMR Diet
Below we've listed the additional benefits of the diet:
May Improve Certain Health Markers
Likely stemming from the weight loss, these type of meal replacement programs have also shown to improve blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels .
Morbidly obese people on similar very low-calorie diets for 405 months have managed te reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by ~10%, and lower triglycerides in the blood by ~25% .
On top of this, there have been clear improvements in insulin sensitivity and glycemic control that are compounded on top of rapid weight loss .
It seems best for individuals suffering from obesity (BMI >30) or other serious medical conditions to consult their doctor and get a personalized recommendation based on their condition.
May Improve Certain Health Markers
As the HMR diet also offers their own branded meals that people can purchase and have delivered to their door, this also will have a big impact on its sustainability, which is the number 1 reason why most diets fail. Let’s face it, not having to continuously buy and cook healthy foods is less of a hassle, and just focusing on eating the required pre-made meals is a simpler task.
The comprehensive support that is offered may also add to the diets sustainability as any questions or worries can be answered by “expert” health coaches on a mobile application. This leaves out a lot of the guesswork and confusion.
The Negatives of The HMR Diet
Below we've listed everything we personally believe to be a drawback:
The Diet is Overly Restrictive
It is irrefutable, the HMR Diet is very restrictive.
As eating non-HMR foods is highly discouraged, especially during the first phase of the plan, and the HMR meals and shakes are low calorie, it may be a struggle for people to stick too for very long.
Not to mention that there are a host of safety concerns associated with a very low calorie diet, especially in people who are not obese.
Very-low-calorie diets may not only lower your metabolism but also increase your risk of bone loss and fertility and immunity issues
In fact, the occurrence of malnutrition is very closely associated with undernourishment, and micronutrient deficiencies are going to be near impossible to avoid when food intake is as low as the HMR diet recommends.
This presents a major issue as suboptimal intake of certain micronutrients is an established factor in a multitude of dangerous health conditions and diseases, including :
- Memory loss
- Decreased immunity
- Impaired wound healing
- Digestive issues
- Birth defects
Considering those followed a more traditional “balanced” western diet still report deficiencies in 50% of the essential micronutrients for health, it is clear that being even more restrict will only worsen this situation .
In particular, very low-calorie diets increase the risk of vitamin B, vitamin C, selenium, iron, calcium, zinc, and lycopene.
Vitamins that are water-soluble and require a daily intake as they cannot be efficiently stored in the body for future use, such as vitamins B and C, are particularly concerning.
Micronutrient supplementation may go some way to avoid clinical deficiencies, but there is no guarantee they can avoid side effects and get around the issue. A “food first” approach is always recommended to ensure nutrient absorption and bioavailability.
For individuals aiming for more moderate weight loss (<20lbs), a far more gradual and less extreme approach with a higher caloric intake will provide more sustainable results and avoid potential health issues. For example, a slower rate of weight loss will help to preserve strength and muscle mass, and result in superior body composition at the end of a weight loss period .
In both the scientific literature and based on real-world results as seen by sport nutritionists, the smaller the reduction in energy intake, the more an individual will preserve muscle tissue when dieting .
Not only this, but avoiding extreme diets can help to avoid the potential negative emotional consequences that come with it, including :
- Decreased self-esteem
- Irritability .
Studies have even found that the huge amount of psychological stress that is caused by elevated cortisol levels on extreme diets may lead to hair loss, known as Telogen Effluvium .
It's Very Expensive
A big red flag with a lot of diets is the hefty price that they make people pay to access their supposed dietary secrets.
The HMR diet fits into this category, as starter plans begin as $189 for just a 3 week supply of MHR meals and shakes, not including “add-ons” such as fruits and vegetables.
However, in the diets defense, unlike some other diets behind a paywall, the HMR diet is providing people with food to their door and online support, not just basic dietary information.
It is advised that people make a logical decision and consider the cost of the diet as part of their weekly shopping bill.
Despite this, in our opinion it is still a relatively high price to pay for what you get. Nothing is cheaper or more effective as buying healthy wholefoods from your local supermarket and learning from reliable online nutritional resources free of charge!
The HMR diet is a weight loss diet that utilizes a lot of their own branded shakes and snacks.
As it is a very-low calorie diet, it will lead to rapid weight loss, and could be a good option for obese individuals looking to get down to a healthy bodyweight.
However, such a restrictive approach could lead to a loss of lean body mass, micronutrient deficiencies, and various hormonal complications.
The HMR diet is also a relatively big investment for most people, so unless there is something particularly attractive to people that the diet offers, it is best to stick to other well-researched diets that are free of charge.