May 2, 2024 • 6 min read

A Registered Dietitian’s Thoughts on the 4 Week Gut Protocol Meal Plan

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If you’ve heard of Beachbody, you’ve probably heard of their popular 4 Week Gut Protocol diet plan. The Gut Protocol is a comprehensive meal plan created by Beachbody trainer Autumn Calabrese that explores the relationship between your food choices and your gut health.

The goal of the protocol is to adjust your diet for a “gut reset” that will improve your digestion and allow your gut microbiome to thrive so you can feel your best. It also claims to provide improvements in energy levels and immunity.

While gut health has been linked to several important aspects of overall health including our digestive health, immune function, and mental health, the research on gut health is just emerging. While promising, we simply don’t know enough yet to make all these recommendations.

While the recommendations in the 4 Week Gut Protocol meal plan aren’t necessarily bad, the program doesn’t allow much room for preferences, financial limitations, and other challenges many individuals might have with following a set diet plan.

Not to mention, the program itself is rather complicated, which can lead to frustration and confusion for those who are trying to complete it.

Instead of paying for a complicated diet regimen that may only work for some people, consider working with a Registered Dietitian (RD). RDs can provide personalized recommendations to improve gut health based on your preferences and lifestyle, and they are often covered by insurance.

In the rest of this article, I give my thoughts on the 4 Week Gut Protocol meal plan, how it works, if it’s worth it, and potential alternatives to consider.

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How the 4 Week Gut Protocol works

Popular Beachbody trainer, Autumn Calabrese, says she created the 4 Week Gut Protocol due to her own struggles with digestive issues that were the result of an undiagnosed food sensitivity. 

This motivated her to help others with similar issues overcome their uncomfortable symptoms and feel their best. 

The 4 Week Gut Protocol digital kit includes the digital program, the 4 Week Gut Protocol Cookbook and food list, the Get Started Guide, Portion-Control Containers, and a Core Ball.

Calabrese claims the program is easy to follow and includes videos that walk you through the process step-by-step.

Each week, you watch a video that is roughly five minutes long and includes what she refers to as the “4 pillars”remove, replace, replenish, and rebalance—to help encourage a gut reset.

During the four weeks, you are instructed to remove common foods that cause gut issues and replace them with foods (and their recommended supplements) that replenish the gut flora and rebalance the mind-body connection. 

This is done by managing stress and following a moderately intense no-impact workout routine that includes four workouts a week that are less than 30 minutes long. Calabrese states her program and workouts were made for every body.

The 4 Week Gut Protocol includes brackets that help you calculate your appropriate calorie needs and create a food list and container plan based on those. Once you know your calorie target, you then find your container plan. Each container has different colored squares with numbers next to them that represent how many of that container you get to eat in a day. 

For example, the number six next to the green square indicates you’ll be eating six servings of vegetables a day. To learn which food group each colored square represents, you have to watch the Colorful Eating Habits video and read the corresponding PDFs.

I don’t know about you, but this does not sound very simple to me.

4 Week Gut Protocol food list (plus which to eliminate & reduce)

As if the above steps weren’t enough, there is also a 4 Week Gut Protocol food list that includes which foods you should eat and those you should eliminate or reduce. This list tells you what to put in your containers to make your meals and snacks. 

There is a regular and vegan-friendly food list available. Below is a breakdown of which foods to remove, reduce, replace, and replenish.

During week one, you are instructed to begin removing common foods that cause gut issues. This is encouraged throughout the entire four weeks and beyond for the best results. This list includes: 

  • All dairy products
  • Anything containing gluten
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Processed soy products
  • Corn 

You can also consider removing eggs, nuts, and legumes, but it is not required in the program.

You are then encouraged to reduce your intake of foods such as:

  • Added sugars (no more than 10g per day)
  • Caffeine (no more than 200mg per day)
  • Coffee (no more than 8oz per week)
  • Red meats (no more than once per week)

Once you have removed any potential foods that may cause gut challenges and limited those mentioned above, you are instructed to begin replacing and replenishing. It is encouraged to replace the foods above with:

  • Fermented foods (3 servings per week)
  • Plants (goal is 30 different plant foods per week)

You are then encouraged to replenish your gut with Beachbody products that include a Shakeology vegan shake, their Revitalize prebiotic/probiotic blend, and their Energize plant-based pre-workout.

Last, you work on rebalancing your gut through stress management by including Calabrese’s “no-impact” program 4 Weeks for Every Body which includes four 30-minute workouts per week aimed at every fitness level.

Is the 4 Week Gut Protocol program worth it?

You can purchase the 4 Week Gut Protocol program videos for $59.95 or you can get a more comprehensive program kit for the cost of $99 to $180 depending on which package you choose.

It is important to prioritize our gut health, particularly for those who suffer from frequent uncomfortable gastrointestinal challenges. However, the 4 Week Gut Protocol is complicated, costly, and questionable. In my opinion, it’s not worth the trouble.

In the video where Beachbody trainer Autumn Calabrese advertises the 4 Week Gut Protocol, she mentions that nearly 70% of Americans are suffering from digestive issues. She implies that this is related to undiagnosed food sensitivities, but no research supports this claim.

She also goes on to discuss the impact of her program on weight and heavily advertises her clients’ success in losing weight during the program despite it being geared towards improving gut health. 

This gives the impression that she is using weight loss to entice consumers to purchase her program. Does she have her consumer’s best interest at heart or is this just a way to make more sales?

Autumn Calabrese calls herself a nutrition expert and holistic health coach, but these are not protected titles—meaning there are no standardized training or legal requirements to call yourself this. It’s unclear how much training or experience she has in gut health nutrition.

Registered Dietitians (RDs), on the other hand, are nutrition practitioners who have completed the required education and training to be nationally and legally recognized as professionals in their field.

So, instead of purchasing an expensive, complicated, and questionable program that may or may not provide any significant results in terms of gut health, consider working with an RD specializing in gut health.

An RD has an extensive knowledge base in nutrition and is a safer option for those looking for nutrition advice. An RD can develop a personalized protocol plan that helps you heal your gut naturally and considers your preferences, financial limitations, and present health conditions.

An alternative: working with a Registered Dietitian to develop a 4-week gut protocol meal plan

If you are trying to change the way you eat to improve your gut health, an RD can offer invaluable insight into ways you can do this that work for you and your lifestyle.

An RD who specialize in gut health can help you figure out the best and worst foods for your gut health issues and give you personalized advice along the way. They can create a tailored gut protocol program backed by research, like the 4 Week Gut Protocol, but without all the unnecessary fluff. 

This protocol would be individualized to fit your specific needs, preferences, and food intolerances. Even better, your appointments may be covered by your health insurance.

You can use Zaya Care’s free Dietitian Search Tool to take the first step toward gut health with an RD on your side. 

When you request an appointment with one of our RDs here at Zaya Care, we’ll check your insurance so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay, if anything at all.

It’s worth noting that 90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for nutrition care with a registered dietitian as we are in-network with many major carriers.

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Meghan is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from San Jose, California. She received her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University in 2015. Following an unexpected cross-country trip that landed her in Florida, she completed her didactic training through AdventHealth Orlando. Meghan has extensive experience in multiple aspects of dietetics including critical care, motivational interviewing, writing, and research. She is passionate about health and wellness and has dedicated her free time to breaking down complicated nutrition topics and disseminating them to the public through the arena of writing.