22 Days… Or rather 44, in Beyonce’s case. We are led to believe Beyonce went from 175 lbs to her Coachella body (estimated at around 135 lbs) in that timeframe while following a vegan, carb-free, bread-free, sugar-free and alcohol-free diet. Understandably, many of her fans, along with health professionals, find this troubling. Did Beyonce survive on non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and air during her grueling pre-Coachella 2018 regimen? Did she drop almost a pound a day all while keeping up with her rehearsal and breastfeeding schedule? Is the 22 day plan a starvation diet? Unlikely.
She did not lose the weight in 44 days. Rehearsals for Coachella started well beyond 44 days prior to the performance. Given the production value, advanced choreography, and attention to every last detail (all of which Beyonce had her hand in), it is likely that rehearsals started months in advance. Watching her Homecoming documentary on Netflix, Beyonce is seen at rehearsals over 3 months prior to her Coachella performance. So, when she clocks in at 175 lbs at “5am on day 1 of Coachella rehearsals” she is not a mere 44 days away from stepping onstage. And when she is seen with a whittled waist in her One Woman costume, she is actually still about a month out from her Coachella performance. What does this tell us? Her weight loss occurred over many months, not 6 weeks, and a more gradual weight loss does not fit the “crash diet” mold.
Beyonce did eat carbs, as well as sugar (primarily from natural sources like fruit as well as some added sugars), though she likely limited both to minimally processed options. In fact, she is seen eating an apple (or a similar looking fruit) while describing her “no carb, no bread, no sugar, no alcohol" plant based diet in the documentary. Any nutrition expert would agree that fruit has both carbs and sugar (in the form of naturally occurring fructose). Additionally, after signing up for the 22 Days program meal planner that Beyonce and her trainer promote, it is very clear that the “Beyonce’s Kitchen” plan, described as “the plan Beyonce used to get back into shape for Coachella," it is neither a carb- nor sugar-free plan. Surprisingly, the first week includes carbohydrate-rich blue corn chips or pretzels with hummus as a snack, pancakes (made with sugar and topped with maple syrup) for breakfast, pasta (the REAL kind, not zucchini noodles or even bean based pasta), and wraps made from wheat tortillas (which from a macronutrient standpoint, would be pretty similar to bread, though they would be yeast-free). So, assuming the Beyonce's Kitchen plan that she and her trainer are promoting is truly the plan she followed, it was not carb or sugar free. As a matter of fact, it looks like a pretty healthy, well balanced vegan diet. The claims of it being free of alcohol, bread, meat, fish, and dairy all appear to be correct. But without having discussed the claims with Beyonce directly, it seems like when she spoke about giving up carbs and sugar, she likely was referring to the heavily processed and refined versions of those foods like sweets and candy. This could also have merely been an exaggeration—perhaps she limited her portions of carbs rather than eliminating them altogether.
The 22 day plan does not appear to be a starvation diet. The plan has three options for portion sizes. The smallest (size medium) is considered suitable for most women, while the large is recommended for most men or highly active women, and the extra large is recommended for athletes. Given her rehearsal schedule of dancing, on top of additional workouts, her activity level would likely cause her to need the large portion size in order to breastfeed and keep up with her energy needs while also promoting weight loss and shifting her body composition (read: getting back in tip top Yonce shape). In the promo video for 22 Days, Beyonce is seen performing high intensity strength/circuit training. She also mentions Soul Cycle in her documentary. Her trainer one day notes that between Soul Cycle and rehearsals that day she likely lost between 1500 and 2000 calories. She also recalls in the documentary breastfeeding during rehearsal sometimes, though it is not clear how much she was breastfeeding at that point. The twins would likely have been around 7 months old by the time she was in rehearsals, so she probably was no longer breastfeeding around the clock. Assuming she was eating the large portion sizes, it appears she was taking in around 2250-2300 calories daily. It may not be a lot of calories considering her level of activity and breastfeeding (maybe), which is probably why she reported hunger. But if this is the plan she’s promoting for other women (who likely aren’t burning an extra 1500 calories daily from exercise) it is hardly starvation. Even the lowest calorie plan--the medium portion size plan--still averages around 1650-1700 calories daily for “most women” who are not highly active. This is quite reasonable and is well above the minimum daily energy requirements for the average activity woman to promote weight loss.
Conclusions: Did Beyonce starve herself to lose up to 40 pounds in 44 days? This nutritionist isn’t buying it. Was she hungry at times? Yes—who wouldn’t be after hours of dancing? Did she survive on celery and air as some people on the internet are claiming? Far from it! It appears that she ate a well rounded vegan diet that DID include carbs (and even a little added sugar!) while avoiding processed foods, sweets, alcohol, and all animal products. Her high level of activity and the anti-inflammatory nature of eating clean vegan meals both probably played important roles in her transformation. And yes, the 22 Day program probably would be a healthy option for many healthy individuals looking to adopt a less processed and more plant based lifestyle. However, it would be advised to consult a nutrition professional like a registered dietitian to make sure you are on the right program for your needs and goals, especially if you have any medical conditions, are breastfeeding, or are highly active.
Emmaline Rasmussen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (and former vegan) with a graduate degree in Physiology, Biophysics, and Integrative Medicine from Georgetown University. An animal lover, she advocates for a plant-forward lifestyle tailored to meet an individuals nutrition needs. Emmaline is also the founder of the organization Sound Nutrition, which provides nutrition services for touring musicians, as well as a member of the American Cancer Society’s Speakers Bureau. She works with female artists, though she has not worked with Beyonce.