The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet was developed by Arthur Agatston, an American cardiologist, and became popular in 2003 due to his bestselling book. But what is the South Beach Diet? Can you lose weight on the South Beach Diet? What are the benefits? What do you need to do? Worry not! I will clear up everything for you. By the end of this guide you’ll have a great idea about exactly what the South Beach Diet is, what it can do, and whether or not it is the weight-loss diet for you.

What Is The South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet is a diet that focuses on eating high-fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and lean protein in an effort to lose weight and improve heart health. While some weight-loss diets make no distinction about good and bad foods, preferring to focus purely on calories in and calories out, the South Beach Diet does make a distinction and designates carbohydrates and fats as either good or bad.

Many followers of the South Beach Diet lose 8-13lbs in their first two weeks and then continue to lose around 1-2 pounds a week from there. Obviously, your weight-loss numbers will vary depending on your current physical condition and how much weight you have to lose. If you are severely overweight, you can see some very dramatic weight loss numbers with the South Beach Diet. If you’re already lean and approaching your goal weight, the numbers will be more conservative.

The South Beach Diet’s theory of weight loss is that you should eat good carbs and fats and eliminate bad ones. The South Beach Diet has lots of vegetables, eggs, lean protein like chicken, fish, nuts, and whole grains. It is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy fat but not necessarily a low-carb diet.

Benefits Of The South Beach Diet

  • It works for fat loss and improved health. This is because you are eating lots of healthy foods and eliminating unhealthy foods. A natural consequence of this is that you are likely to consume less calories and not experience the negative impact of blood sugar raises as a result of bad foods.
  • It’s pretty simple to follow. Eat the good foods, don’t eat the bad foods.
  • You don’t need to count calories. Just eat the good foods.
  • You can snack if you want, as long as the food is part of the good food source.
  • You won’t get hungry because you can eat normal portions and the focus is on satiating food sources rather than processed foods.
  • Weight loss comes quickly in the first stage.

How Do You Do The South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet has three phases. Each stages becomes less restrictive and helps you to focus on replacing bad carbs and fats with good carbs and fats. You get to eat three meals a day, two snacks, one high-protein dessert, and there’s no counting calories! You can stay on the diet as long as you want, which will be different for each person depending on unique weight-loss goals.

Here are the three phases of the South Beach Diet:

Phase 1

most important work out nutrients omegas

Phase 1 is the shortest stage and also requires the most restriction. It’s two weeks long and will stabilize your blood sugar and reduce your cravings. You will eat big portions of lean protein like turkey, chicken, and fish. You will also eat lots of veggies, salads, eggs, and low-fat dairy. In addition to that, you can have up to two tablespoons of healthy fat a day, such as extra-virgin olive oil. There is no fruit, juice, or starches in this phase. There is also no whole grains, sugar, or alcohol. So that’s two weeks without bread, rice, and pasta! For a super in-depth list about what foods you can and can’t it, I highly recommend you check out The South Beach Diet book itself:

Phase 2

This is the phase where you reintroduce good carbs back into your diet. Good carbs, according to the South Beach Diet, are foods like whole-grain bred, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and fruit. During phase 2, you can have three servings of fruit each day and three servings of starch. The two daily snacks are optional. You can also have a glass of wine with dinner. You should stay at this phase until you’ve reached your target weight goal.

Phase 3

This is the maintenance phase of the South Beach Diet. Now there is no food that is restricted but you are advised to eat 3 pieces of fruit each day, 3-4 servings of starch, no only 2 tablespoons of good fat.

How much effort is involved? 4/10

Level of effort is going to depend on the person undertaking the diet. I can only speak for myself and people I know who have followed the South Beach Diet but I actually find this diet to be one of the simpler ones to follower. Even the first phase, which is supposed to be the most restrictive, doesn’t feel too hard because you are eating lots of healthy food.

Once you get through the first 2 weeks and enter the second stage, things will really be a breeze. And then, of course, the maintenance phase is super easy. If you can’t live without your evening alcohol, the first two weeks might be tricky. This is also true if your diet has mainly been comprised of “bad carbs” before you start the diet. However, you shouldn’t get hungry on this diet, the foods are tasty, and you’re encouraged to snack.

exercise on zone diet

Can You Exercise On The South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet puts a lot of emphasis on exercise. If you were already exercising before you started the South Beach Diet, it’s fine to continue. If you weren’t already exercising, you might want to wait until you’ve finished the first phase. Many people like to wait until the restrictive first phase is over so that their exercise will be easier in the second stage.

south beach supercharge workout

The South Beach Diet recommends that you exercise every day and the suggested exercises come in two parts. The first part is walking, alternated between slow and rapid walking. There is also a full-body workout that will help with your core strength. You can learn more about the South Beach Diet exercise regime by checking out this DVD.

Here are sample exercise suggestions based on each phase of the South Beach Diet:

Phase 1

15-20 minutes of exercise each day.

This is low-stress exercise because you’re in the restrictive part of the diet. One day you’ll do an easy walking workout, where you can utilize inclines or hills and alternate between fast and slow walking. The next day you’ll do a total body workout and some stretching. During phase 1, you’re just getting used to the motions of the exercise and building the habit. For the workout, you can do bodyweight squats, push-ups (go from your knees if normal ones are difficult), and crunches.

You could also follow this stretching routine:

You could also follow a good yoga routine like the ones Erin Motz has or the ones that Yoga With Adrienna has (see below).

Here are two yoga channels I love:

Bad Yogi
Yoga with Adrienne:

Phase 2

Exercise each day for 20-30 minutes and you will still alternate between walking workouts and strength workouts. Your walking workouts should be more intense and your strength workouts could include weights or resistance if you wish.

south beach diet supercharged

For the official workouts recommended by the South Beach Diet, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The South Beach Diet Supercharged.

Phase 3

I would recommend you do the exercise that you’re personally motivated to do. However, you can follow the suggestions in the The South Beach Diet Supercharged, which tells you to have a 1-2 week building phase, followed by a 1-week supercharged high-intensity phase, followed by a 1-week mellow phase. This will look different for each person so be sure to grab a copy of the book to find out what you should do. However, if that sounds too complicated, you should just modify and do the exercise you want to do. Consistency is better than getting confused and giving up.

Can You Do The South Beach Diet If You Have Food Restrictions?

There is some dairy advised in the South Beach Diet but, if you are lactose intolerant, you could just change this part of the diet to suit your needs. The diet also focuses on grains and wheat so it might be difficult for someone with a gluten-intolerance. However, there are sources of carbs that shouldn’t pose a problem, such as rice.

It is worth experimenting with but if you really can’t handle the carbs on the diet, you will need to find another option. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can still follow the South Beach Diet but replace the lean meat and fish protein sources with sources such as beans and lentils and such. It will be more difficult for you but it can still work.

south beach goals


To prepare for the South Beach Diet, make sure that your friends and family know what you’re doing. Having the support and understanding of those around you can make or break your diet success. You should educate them about the three phases, roughly how long each of them will take, and what foods you can eat during them.

You should also make sure that you stock up on the good foods and eliminate the bad foods from your house. It is so much easier to follow the South Beach Diet if you don’t have the forbidden foods within reach. And it is so much easier to mess up on the South Beach Diet if your cupboards are filled with cookies, candy, and cakes.

The next thing to do to prepare for the South Beach Diet is to set a goal. How much weight do you want to lose? This will help keep you focused and will enable you to monitor how long you need to stay in the second phase. You’ll drop weight quickest during the first phase and, after that, you should stay in the second phase until you hit your goal weight.

Pros Of The South Beach Diet

  • It’s a very healthy diet. The South Beach Diet was originally created with the aim of improving heart health. Weight-loss is just a very nice added benefit.
  • You can lose a lot of quality weight with the South Beach Diet. You will actually lose fat and your muscle, by virtue of the lean protein sources, will be spared.
  • You will feel more energetic, clear-headed, and happier. Eliminating processed food and focusing on eating healthy veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats has that effect.
  • No cravings and no hunger! You’re not jacking your blood sugars up and down because you’ve eliminated the carbs that do that. As a result, you will feel fuller for longer and won’t crave sweets. The strategic snacks and high-protein dessert are also great ways to keep psychologically healthy and stick to the diet.
  • Weight loss is fat during the first phase, which is very motivating.
  • No calorie counting! Seriously, who actually enjoys counting their calories? It’s so boring and tedious. But you don’t need to do that when you follow the South Beach Diet. Just focus on eating the good carbs and fats and staying clear of the bad ones.
  • It’s very simple and easy to follow. You can also eat out easily and not feel like you’re being restricted, even during the first phase!

Cons Of The South Beach Diet

  • There isn’t very much data or long-term research about the South Beach Diet.
  • Phase 1 can be difficult because you might enter ketosis from the low carbs, which can result in fatigue and dizziness.
  • Some people believe rapid weight-loss, like you may experience during the first phase of the South Beach Diet, is not healthy. Over 2lbs a week constitutes rapid weight-loss.
  • Some parts, such as the exercise, can be confusing.

The South Beach Diet For Weight Loss – Does It Work?

weight loss south beach

The South Beach Diet works very well for weight loss and overall improved health, particularly cardiovascular and heart health. Followers of the South Beach Diet can often expect to lose around 8-13lbs in their first two weeks and then continue to lose around 1-2 pounds a week from there. This depends on what level you’re at when you begin the diet though. If you have a lot to lose, your weight-loss will be rapid in the beginning. If you’re already lean, weight-loss will be slower.

How Does It Work?

The reason why the South Beach Diet works to lose weight is because it focuses on eating high-fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and lean protein. The low-glycemic carbs combined with the good fats and lean protein sources mean your blood sugar will stay stable and you’re body will be better equipped to burn fat and less disposed to store fat.

South Beach Diet Results And Success Stories

There are tons of South Beach Diet success stories all over the internet. I particularly like reading the success stories on the South Beach Diet Message Boards:

Here are some of my favorite success stories from the message boards:

  • In just 2 months, turtlejo went from size 18 jeans to size 14! You can read his story by clicking here.
  • Rustytdr lost 6.5% of their weight after just four months and was still able to enjoy wine every night. You can read this story here.
  • Wanttobethin lost 17 pounds in just 1.5 months, going down from 195.6 to 178lbs. You can read their story here.

There are also many inspiring success stories, both to do with weight-loss and overall health, in this thread:

I also love this super motivating collection of success stories that contain tips for how to overcome common obstacles when following the South Beach Diet:


Is The Rapid Weight Loss Just Water Weight?

When people hear it’s common to lose 8-13lbs in their first two weeks following the South Beach Diet, they could be forgiven for thinking that all of that weight-loss is water weight. The answer is that much of that weight is likely to be water-weight because you are cutting out many carbs. It is common to lose water weight with many diets and then, after that, you will start losing fat too. But, in answer to the question, it’s not just water weight. Some of it will be fat-loss. How much depends on your unique body.

Can The South Beach Diet Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

The South Beach Diet was designed specifically to improve heart health by eliminating bad carbs that play havoc with your blood sugar levels. When you stabilize your blood sugar levels, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes certainly decrease.

Can You Follow The South Beach Diet While Breastfeeding?

You’ll need to consult your doctor but I would recommend you start in phase 2 of the South Beach Diet if you are currently breastfeeding your baby. This will ensure you don’t deprive yourself or your new-born of any essential minerals and vitamins.

What Should You Do If You Experience Low Blood Sugar?

Symptoms of hypoglycemia can occur during phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. This is why snacking is built into the diet. Be strategic about your snack in order to make sure your blood sugar levels don’t get too low. Make sure you snack frequently and have your snacks between meals so you can stop low blood sugar symptoms before they start.

Where Can I Find Out More?

There are many great options available for those who wish to follow the South Beach Diet. Here are my top recommendations.

Websites And Forums

The Official South Beach Diet Website is crammed full of helpful information, articles, and guides and is a great place to learn about having a healthy lifestyle:

The South Beach Diet Message Boards is a great place to hang out, learn more about the diet, and get your questions answered:


south beach diet book

The South Beach Diet book will be a comprehensive guide for getting in-depth about the diet. It is highly recommended:

south beach diet supercharged

The South Beach Diet Supercharged is another great addition and I highly recommend it. It has tons of easy-to-prepare recipes and provides lots of information about nutrition and exercise when following the South beach Diet:

south beach diet quick and easy cookbook

The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook is another must-buy and contains 200 recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.

Wrapping up

The South Beach Diet is pretty easy to follow and concentrates on teaching you healthy food choices. The weight-loss, while common, really is just an added benefit because the diet was originally developed to improve heart and cardiovascular health. So, if you want a diet that will help you lose weight and improve your overall health, the South Beach Diet is worth trying!

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