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What Is the Bowflex Diet?

By Ryan Haas ; Updated July 18, 2017

The Bowflex diet, properly known as the Bowflex Body Leanness Program, was designed by Dr. Ellington Darden to be used in conjunction with Bowflex home gyms. Darden claims the program produces significant weight loss and muscle building over a six-week period when used in conjunction with the Bowflex machine.


Darden developed the Bowflex Body Leanness Program was in 1995 in Gainesville, Florida, after he first experienced the Bowflex machine. Though originally skeptical of the Bowflex, Darden found the resistance curve to be satisfying and effective after trying the machine. He drafted three men and three women who were overweight to try a reduced-calorie diet in conjunction with three weekly workouts on the Bowflex. The participants lost weight and Darden went on to refine the program, which is now packaged with every machine Bowflex produces.


The eating guidelines of the Bowflex Body Leanness Program are designed around a carbohydrate-rich diet that gradually reduces caloric intake every two weeks during the program. Eating simple carbohydrates that are easier for your body to break down than proteins or fats facilitates greater weight loss. The program also says you should “superhydrate your system” by drinking at least a gallon of ice water a day. According to Darden, drinking lots of cold water increases your liver’s metabolic rate, burns calories as your body warms the water and keeps you feeling less hungry.


Men on the Bowflex diet begin the program by eating 1,500 calories a day for the first two weeks. Intake is reduced to 1,400 calories in weeks three and four, and to 1,300 in the final two weeks. Women follow the same schedule of calorie reduction, beginning at 1,200 and finishing at 1,000 calories per day. The daily caloric intake always is distributed as 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent proteins and 20 percent fats.

Both men and women consume 300 calories for breakfast and lunch, and 300 or 500 calories dinner. Men begin the diet with a 400-calorie snack allowance each day and women with a 300-calorie allowance. The meal allowances stay the same during the diet, but the snack allowances are reduced every two weeks.


Darden’s original study showed an average fat loss of 27.95 lbs. for male participants and 16.96 lbs. for females. He states in his 2003 book “The Bowflex Body Plan” that these were the best results from a single study he had ever seen in his nearly 40-year career in fitness and nutrition. However, a 2009 study published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" titled "Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates" researched diets with a carbohydrate-protein-fat ratio of 65:15:20, 55:25:20 and 35:40:25. The study, which was conducted at Harvard University, concluded that all reduced calorie diets result in "clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize."


The diet portion of the Bowflex Body Leanness program should not be undertaken by children, teenagers or pregnant women because high caloric intake is a necessary component of their diets. If you repeat the diet program in back-to-back, six-week sessions to lose even more weight, reset your caloric intake to the maximum value each time you start a new six-week rotation. Further reducing your calories below the minimum guidelines is not advised.

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