The fasting mimicking diet is very simple the answer to “what it is” or “how it works” could be summed up in one word “fasting”.
In fact, it is a very low-calorie more or less depending on the subject instead of prolonging the calorie restriction over time it is concentrated in a few days.
Precisely for this reason, it is not suitable for everyone, for example, those who train in any sport or gym it would be better to avoid during the heaviest and most demanding weeks and to be evaluated in a week of unloading.
What Is The Fasting Mimicking Diet?
It has been known for decades that calorie restriction can potentially bring benefits in terms of longevity.
However, you cannot stay “on a diet” forever not only for reasons of sustainability but also simply because a more or less chronic calorie restriction goes from “advantageous” to “disadvantageous”.
Valter Longo tries to do just that by developing what is known as the “ Fasting Mimicking Diet ”. This is followed only for a few days at intervals of months, based on the metabolic and health status of the reference subject.
This means that the fasting-mimicking diet does not at all preclude the return, after 4-5 days of calorie restriction, to another diet that is certainly more sustainable and less restrictive.
Another very important aspect to understand is that this diet is not designed to increase muscle mass for body recomposition or to improve performance in a particular sport but it is a standardized protocol that has as its purpose lastly.
The improvement of health parameters and in particular of the metabolic ones with the aim of increasing longevity and preventing degenerative pathological states as much as possible.
How Many Days To Follow Diet Mimics Fasting?
Diet Mimics Fasting is a diet that consists of five days where the total calories undergo substantial differences, as well as the number of macronutrients to be taken.
Regarding both the first day and the other four following days, the macronutrients must be divided between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or they can be consumed in 2 main meals and 1 lighter snack from a caloric point of view.
The protein intake is very low and insufficient for any adult subject. This means that this protocol works, and works harmlessly, just because it is followed for 5 days.
Do not think of prolonging it for two weeks or a month, with the (false) belief that this will preserve your health better. No, your health takes away from you.
How Is Fasting Practiced?
Assuming that in principle, this is a choice that the nutritionist or doctor must plan the diet provides on average to follow a fast-semi-fasting up to 800kcal / day for 3-5 days, once:
- per month for overweight or obese people with at least 2 risk factors for diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases.
- on every two months for people of normal weight with at least 2 risk factors for diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases.
- in every three months for people of normal weight with 1 risk factor for diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases.
- every four months for healthy people with normal nutrition and who practice little sport.
- every six months for healthy people with proper nutrition and who practice regular physical activity.
Longo recommends a variable frequency based on the subject’s health and nutritional status, as well as his general lifestyle.
The more you are at risk of diseases and being overweight, the more frequently it is recommended to implement this protocol which will have at least in the short term metabolic and health parameters.
As well as a lowering of weight and fat, which will lead to improvements in health even in the long term.
However, he also recommends following the diet at least twice a year for those who already follow a healthy lifestyle and are in good health.
Benefits and Advantages of the Fasting Mimicking Diet
The aim of the diet is the improvement of health and indeed from a study on 100 patients who followed the protocol for 5 days a month for three months there were positive results which in any case must be contextualized:
- Loss of almost 4 kg
- 12 mg/dl decrease in glucose in subjects with high fasting glucose values
- 6 mmHg decrease in blood pressure in subjects with moderately high blood pressure
- 20 mg / dL decrease in cholesterol
- A decrease in subjects at risk of 60 ng/ml of IGF1
- 25 mg / dL decrease in triglycerides
- Decrease of 1.5 mg / dL and in most cases return to normal levels of the C-reactive protein
The results are excellent, as well as the same as those obtained with any other calorie restriction.
It is the shortage of nutrients to have these positive effects and this is not an insignificant aspect there is no need to eat little for prolonged times as the effect is only to lose weight, excessively, also losing a lot of muscle mass and a temporary suppression of the system important immune.
Instead, it is enough to do it only for a few days also avoiding drastic and important caloric restrictions as happens to those who fast for a few days by drinking only water.
Diet Mimics Fasting And Longevity
In the beginning, Dr. Longo experimented with his idea of a Fasting Mimicking Diet on mice, administering it with a duration of 4 days and with a frequency of 2 times a month.
The mice studied were 16 months old, which is an age comparable to around 50 years of humans.
The motivation for the choice of sample question is precisely explained by the fact that Longo’s goal is to find a food strategy that reduces aging and increases longevity.
This can be measured experimentally with the maximum amount of life expectancy and with the observation of the development or not of pathologies that are well associated with advancing age.
In a nutshell, periodic fasting has one feature it is able to promote the regeneration of substantial parts of the immune system starting from stem cells.
Thus, fasting causes the destruction of a large portion of immune cells (hence the immune suppression effect) and activates the stem cells.
When the organism resumes eating, the stem cells trigger the regeneration of the immune and nervous systems, while the newly regenerated immune cells have the characteristics of younger and more functional cells.
This effect is known in the scientific literature as reverse immunosuppression.
The effects demonstrated by fasting in this experimental study on animals have already been demonstrated for some time and are expressed through metabolic pathways triggered by the simple “nutrient scarcity”, or by caloric restriction in general.
In short, the same effects would be obtained by subjecting the mice to severe caloric restriction in a cyclical manner for a few consecutive days.
If you think about it in the end, fasting has also, and above all the meaning of “caloric restriction”, temporary.
The same diet if followed for five days every two months, leads to a calorie restriction compared to those who do not follow it and continue with the normal diet.
Side Effects Of The Fasting Mimicking Diet
- Some people experience a feeling of weakness during the days of dieting. Others report having no problems and still others have more energy. This depends somewhat on the biochemical individuality of each of us and also on metabolic health.
- However, the general tendency is to feel exhausted, tired, and sometimes with a headache. So much so that, among the main warnings, Valter Longo even recommends undergoing diet in the presence of another person.
- Typically during the second or third cycle of the diet, the headache is greatly reduced or ceased altogether.
- Most people are hungry during the first 2-3 days of the diet but then this effect is greatly reduced during the second or third cycle of diet. In short, a situation similar to the one described above as regards headaches.
- Some people experience mild back pain during the diet which disappears once they return to their normal diet.
How Many Calories To Take In The Fasting Mimicking Diet?
There are well-defined caloric values, regardless of the subject and his needs it is clear that a sedentary and slightly out of shape person for the same weight consumes less than a worker who moves all day and who also trains.
On day 1 1100 kcal should be taken: 10% from proteins, 45% from carbohydrates, 45% from fats. On days 2-5 800 kcal: 50% from carbohydrates, 50% from fats. For the other days, there are no particular indications.
Day 1 (1100 calories):
- 125 grams of carbohydrates.
- 55 grams of fat approximately.
- 25 grams of protein.
Day 2-5 (800 calories):
- 100 grams complex carbohydrates
- 45 grams of fat
Practical Example Of A Fasting Mimicking Diet
It is a 5-day diet that has a different distribution of calories and macronutrients between the first day and the remaining four.
It’s recommended that the diet includes a protein intake of 0.7-0.8 g / lbs of body weight, to be obtained preferably from vegetables and fish, a carbohydrate intake greater than 50-55%, and a moderate fat intake in fish, extra virgin olive oil and dried fruit.
Finally, Valter Longo recommends taking multivitamin supplements and omega-3 supplements.
Usually, it is preferable to start the diet on Sunday evening, to finish it, like this, on Friday evening.
This is to allow people not to have to particularly sacrifice their social relationships and not to go out on Saturday nights.
The integration allowed and recommended:
- 1 omega 3/6 supplement.
- 1 multivitamin/mineral supplement.
- Sugar-free tea.
- Water at will.
After the first day, as you can see, proteins are not covered.
The only ones that are taken are those contained in the dried fruit you consume to reach the fat content and the ones contained in the legumes used to reach the carbohydrate content.
- Breakfast: 1 cup of tea without sugar or coffee (without caffeine and without sugar), 20 g of almonds
- Lunch: cabbage and carrots with 10 g raw extra virgin olive oil
- Dinner: vegetable ratatouille with tomato, green beans, and 10 g extra virgin olive oil
+ multivitamin and omega-3 integration during the day
There are no specific directions for breakfast. However, the main foods to be consumed are vegetables and dried fruit so a “balanced” breakfast – in reference to the diet could be:
- 1 cup of unsweetened tea
- 30 g of nuts
Foods Allowed In The Fasting Mimicking Diet
Carbohydrates are mainly obtained from the consumption of vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, carrots, and legumes – which, like vegetables, are preferable to cereals.
Fats are obtained from the consumption of olive oil and dried fruit. The very few proteins are instead obtained automatically from the consumption of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or dried fruit.
Finally, Longo recommends drinking a lot and preferring tea to coffee, obviously without sugar (even 3-4 cups).
After you finish the diet on the sixth day, it is necessary to adopt a diet based on complex carbohydrates and to minimize the consumption of animal foods by introducing fish.
As you can see, it is a totally vegan diet during fasting, that is with the absolute exclusion of products of animal origin.
It is certainly low-calorie (1100 total kcal in the first day and 800 kcal in the remaining four), as well as being highly low-protein (25 g on the first day and even less in the remaining days).
How Many Pounds Can You Lose With The Fasting Mimicking Diet?
A study shows that on average, subjects lose almost 8 pounds. An important number for such a short period of time.
“Short” because a more physiological and prolonged weight loss considers weight loss in weeks, months, and not in 5 days – in this case, it is in fact recommended to lose 0.5-1% of body weight per week.
For example, for a 130 lbs person, it is 300-600 g every 7 days, certainly very far from Longo’s numbers. But, as already mentioned, they are still different strategies and to evaluate pros, cons, and subjectivity.
Who Can Do It And Who Can't Do This Diet?
Fasting mimics diet should always be done under the supervision of a doctor or nutritionist.
In particular, Prof Longo has created a network of doctors and nutritionists specializing in the fasting-mimicking diet, in order to maximize the beneficial effects and minimize the risks.
However, in theory, any nutritionist or physician should be able to understand the physiology and biochemistry of fasting and assess the individual’s nutritional and health status and then make the best decision about implementing the strategy.
- Fasting mimics diet can be followed by all healthy, normal-weight adults between 18 and 65-70 years of age. Some may have side effects, due to rare genetic mutations or metabolic disorders that make prolonged fasting for several hours not feasible.
- If you notice side effects in addition to those considered “physiological” at first, such as weakness, exhaustion, and headache (reported by those who follow the ketogenic, at least in the first week) it is advisable to stay under medical supervision or avoid this dietary practice.
- People over 70 can only do it if they are healthy and overweight or obese and in the absence of a weight loss of more than 20% in the previous 5 years, under the approval of a geriatrician. In general, FMD is not recommended for people over 70.
- It can be done by people with specific diseases for which FMD has been “tested”, and sometimes designed or recommended as a therapeutic nutritional alternative. The approval of the specialist doctor of the disease is required, together with the specialized nutritionist, who chooses the best way to proceed.
Who Can't Do The Diet Mimic Fasting?
- Pregnant women
- People who are anorexic or underweight, malnourished, or with low levels of muscle mass.
- Those over 70 or particularly weak people of any age.
- People with medical conditions without the approval of the attending physician and nutritionist.
- If you use drugs, if without the approval of the attending physician and nutritionist biologist. The ideal solution would be to stop taking medications during the five days of the diet.
- This diet must never be combined with insulin or drugs that lower sugar levels. Even after ending the diet, the patient may be insulin sensitive enough to reach too low blood glucose levels.
- People with particularly low blood pressure or who take medicines for hypertension without the approval of a specialist doctor. Also in this case the motivation lies in the fact that calorie restriction, fasting, and therefore also DMD have the effect of reducing blood pressure.
- People with rare genetic mutations block the body’s ability to produce glucose from non-glucose precursors such as glycerol and amino acids.
- Sportsmen during training or competition periods. Clearly, carbohydrates are especially important for intense muscular efforts.
- Do not combine this diet with very hot and prolonged showers especially in summer or hot periods.
Fasting Mimicking Diet Kit
Many people find it difficult to prepare meals that adhere to all of Longo’s really restrictive guidelines on the diet. For this reason, “ready meals” kits have been designed to be able to follow it with extreme simplicity.
Clearly, the kits contain every single meal and all the indications about the day of the fasting-mimicking diet for which it is designed. Meals consist of vegetable and legume soups and minestrone, with olives and some small cereal bars.
The cons of all this are that the kits are really very expensive. That it could be a waste of money and a clever marketing operation to produce and distribute “don’t eat” kits.
In fact, the fasting-mimicking diet is complex simply because you have to fast, or almost, and access to food is really reduced allowing the consumption of only vegetables and dried fruit with a very small amount of cereals.
Pros And Cons Of The Fasting Mimicking Diet
The positive effects of the fasting-mimicking diet are comparable to other low-calorie diets – the advantage is that this diet allows when repeated cyclically to shorten the time and not prolong the calorie restriction over time.
Among the cons of the diet, there is an almost non-existent scientific basis, lack of indication on the diet to be taken on normal days, no personalization of calories to be introduced in relation to the type of person, the side effects analyzed, and commercial aspects.