by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Fasting is an exciting topic in health and wellness, and for all good reasons. It has been linked with a wide range of advantages — from weight loss to boosting our body’s health and life span, and much more. You may be most familiar with intermittent fasting (IF) or even water fasting, but have you ever heard of the Fasting Mimicking Diet?
“Fast Mimicking” is a recent fasting trend that limits calories for a set period of time. Let’s take a deeper dive into this particular diet and see if it’s something that makes sense for you to try.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. Speak with your doctor before trying the Fasting Mimicking Diet to ensure you are healthy enough to do so and that it doesn’t interact with any medications or drugs you may currently be taking. It would also be a good idea to speak with a registered dietician as well prior to implementing it into your nutrition plan.
What is the Fasting Mimicking Diet?
The Fasting Mimicking Diet is a five-day program that can be used as a therapeutic intervention for people who are overweight or obese. It is based on the fasting mimicking diet that was developed by Dr. Valter Longo, an Italian biologist, researcher, and director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet is designed to promote weight loss and reduce risk factors for aging and disease. The diet consists of foods containing low amounts of protein and high amounts of healthy fats, along with specific supplements designed to help your body reach a fasting state.
How Does It Work?
The Fasting Mimicking Diet plan includes five-day prepackaged food meal kits.
All snacks and meals are whole-food derived and plant-based. The food kits are low in carbs and protein while high in healthy fats like flax and olives.
During the five days of dieting, dieters only eat what is contained within the meal kit.
Day one of the diet has approximately 1090 kcal (10% protein, 34% carbs, 56% fat), while days two through five have only 725 kcal (9% protein, 47% carbs, 44% fat).
The low-calorie, low-carb, high-fat content of the meals makes your body generate energy from non-carbohydrate sources after the glycogen stores are exhausted. This process is known as gluconeogenesis. If this sounds familiar, it is similar to a ketogenic diet that helps you get into ketosis.
According to a study, the diet is designed to provide around 34% to 54% of normal calorie intake.
This calorie restriction mimics our body’s physiological response to traditional fasting methods, like cell regeneration, fat loss, and reduced inflammation.
It is recommended that all dieters should consult a doctor or a registered dietician before starting the five-day fasting diet.
It is important to note that the five-day plan is not a one-time cleanse and should be followed every one to six months to get the best results.
What Do You Eat on a Fasting Mimicking Diet?
The Fasting Mimicking Diet meal kit is plant-based and contains all foods needed for the 5-day diet plan.
The first day of the 5-day diet plan provides approximately 1100 calories, with plant-based protein, low carbs food, and healthy fats food sources. The Fasting Mimicking Diet kit is available for purchase without a prescription, and it can be delivered directly to your doorstep. It includes bars, crackers, olives, vegetable soups, and herbal teas.
You can think of it as a meal prep company that sends you full, prepackaged meals.
The plan is five days long and is recommended to be done once a month for at least 3 months. Days two through five have similar foods as day one but in shorter quantities. The goal for the 2-5 days is to eat around 725 calories each day. But this is not just some random 725 calories that you are consuming, as all the foods and nutrients are specifically formulated to improve autophagy.
Benefits of Fasting Mimicking Diet
The important benefits of the Fasting Mimicking Diet are:
1. Aids in weight loss
During a small study by Dr. Longo, the fasting group lost an average of 6 pounds and a greater proportion of belly fat as compared to the control post three cycles of the Fasting Mimicking Diet.
The results are quite interesting. However, it is important to keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that the Fasting Mimicking Diet is more effective than any basic old calorie restriction or ketogenic diet where weight loss is the main concern.
2. Cardiovascular health
During the same study, subjects showed improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels after three cycles of the Fasting Mimicking Diet. This was especially true for those who started out with higher levels of the vitamin, to begin with.
3. May reduce blood sugar levels
It’s estimated that 415 million people (1 in 11) are currently living with diabetes, a figure that’s expected to rise to 642 million by 2040.
Early research indicates that the Fasting Mimicking Diet could play a positive role in diabetes treatment. People who began with high blood sugar levels in the study saw their numbers drop into the normal range, on average.
4. May support cancer treatment
There’s also some promising research showing that the Fasting Mimicking Diet may help to manage certain types of cancer. A study found that the Fasting Mimicking Diet was as effective as water-only fasting in sensitizing breast cancer tumors to the effects of chemotherapy.
Studies in mice have also shown that Fasting Mimicking Diet cycles can reduce cancer incidence and improve cognitive performance.