I Tried a Fasting-Mimicking Diet and It Was So Much Easier Than It Sounds
Let’s Just Get to the Point:
It is possible to reap the benefits of fasting (there are many) without the risks associated with unproven “detoxes” like the Master Cleanse. L’Nutra’s ProLon 5-Day Meal Program is based off scientific discoveries that help achieve positive effects of fasting while staving off downsides by infusing the body with the appropriate nutrients and nourishments.
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You don’t have to tell me that cutting calories and limiting food intake are key to many of my life’s goals: losing weight, saving money and not having to spend so much time cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. Many decades of studies in the field of longevity research have also concluded that restricting caloric intake—specifically through fasting—comes with a host of other benefits as well, namely slowing down aging, improving overall health, lowering inflammation, improving damaged cells and increasing life span.
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The premise of a fasting diet might sound simple enough (just skip meals, right?), but the execution is anything but. Aside from roadblocks like feeling hangry and lacking willpower, water-only or trendy “detox” diets can be punishing on the body when not done properly under the guidance of a professional. Enter: L’Nutra ProLon 5-Day Meal Plan ($250), an alternative to risky DIY options that is both turnkey and—most importantly—developed from years of scientific research and clinical testing. Invented by Dr. Valter Longo, professor of biological sciences and director of the Longevity Institute at USC, ProLon is billed as a fasting-mimicking diet (also known as a fasting-with-food plan), which tricks the body into fasting mode while allowing the consumption of certain carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids and nutrients. The plant-based meal plan is intended to be done five days at a time, with a menu of soups, vegetables, nut bars and supplements that tally up to anywhere from 700 to 1,100 calories a day. I cleared my social schedule for a week, and took the diet for a trial run.
Day 1: Monday
I peer into my box and pull out the kit for my first day of the program. The food comes rationed and individually prepackaged, which makes it simple for people on the go. For the first day of the diet, I’m allocated a whopping 1,100 calories, which is also the amount I consumed in one sitting on Friday night—just from wine.
9:00 a.m.: I down the breakfast L-Bar while walking to the subway. Although I’m generally not a fan of sweets in the morning, the nutty bar tastes pretty good. A piece of it tumbles out of the packaging and lands on the ground. The entire bar is 280 calories and I bemoan leaving 50 of them on the sidewalk.
9:30 a.m.: The ProLon plan allows for a cup of coffee “in case of emergency.” It’s Monday morning, so it’s an emergency. I take two algal oil (vegetarian omega-3s) supplements with the coffee.
11:00 a.m.: “I’m hungry,” I say to my computer screen while aimlessly deleting emails. Rummaging through my meal kit, I uncover kale crackers and a bag of olives. I’m going a little bit off the meal plan order, but the savory foods are really satisfying. “Be careful,” my coworker says. “You should save the good stuff for when you’re really hungry later.”
1:30 p.m.: I keep picking up my tomato soup blend packet and putting it back down. A combination of being too lazy to go prep it in the cafeteria and knowing that this is my main meal of the day, is keeping me from eating it. I’m planning a late night in the office, so 3 p.m. seems like a better time to enjoy my soup. I eat the chocolate bar meant for post-dinner dessert and down a mug of lemon spearmint tea instead.
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3:00 p.m.: I can’t wait any longer and go to the kitchen to make the tomato soup. It’s delicious. I mix the packet with eight ounces of water and microwave it. The texture is thicker than I anticipated thanks to potato starch in the mix. There are bags of chips in the kitchen by the communal microwave. I’m not allowed to eat the chips. I’m not even allowed to look at them.
5:00 p.m.: I’m hungry, like I usually am at 5 p.m. But instead of walking around the office looking for people who have food they want to share, I just house my second nut L-Bar of the day. The nut-heavy bars make me feel bloated, yet still hungry at the same time. It’s a weird feeling.
8:00 p.m.: I have my minestrone soup. It’s really good.
Day 2: Tuesday
8:00 a.m.: I wake up and don’t feel hungry or bloated. If this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of the week, I can totally do this.
8:30 a.m.: I realize while in an Uber that I left my meal kit at home today. After weighing my options: 1) break the fast 2) starve all day or 3) ask my husband to bring it to my office, I make the solid decision to go with number three.
9:35 a.m.: My husband texts me that he’s planning on working from home today because it’s snowing. I text back: “How do I eat then?”
9:45 a.m.: Husband acquiesces and promise to bring my meal box at noon. I drink emergency coffee all morning.
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12:00 p.m.: Right on the dot, my husband shows up in my office lobby with my food. I inhale both bags of olives while riding the elevator back up to my floor.
12:10 p.m.: I make the mushroom soup. It’s really good and reminds me a little of chicken ramen broth. Starting on the second day, the meal kit comes with a raspberry- or orange-flavored glucose drink that’s meant to be taken for the duration of the fast. This beverage helps to keep my energy level up while the daily calorie intake decreases. From now until Friday, I will only eat 700 calories per day.
5:00 p.m.: It was a long day of meetings, and for the first time in recent memory, I’m not ravenous by this hour. You know the saying “you need to spend money to make money?” I’m thinking, I could make a similar statement. “You need to not eat to not be hungry.” Does that work? No?
7:00 p.m.: Minestrone soup time! With quinoa!
Day 3: Wednesday
8:00 a.m.: Wake up. Feel great.
9:00 a.m.: Drink emergency coffee. Take supplements.
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11:30 a.m.: I’m not hungry at all. A coworker stops by my desk and asks how the fast is going, which reminded me that it was time to eat. It was kale cracker and orange glucose drink time!
1:30 p.m.: By this point, I’ve already tasted everything there is to taste in the kit. The menu doesn’t vary much from day to day. Lunch options alternate between tomato soup and mushroom soup and dinner is always a bowl of minestrone. I really do enjoy the taste of all the foods, so I find the diet extremely easy to follow. My only complaint is that I wish it came with more olives and fewer nut bars, but that’s mainly because I don’t enjoy any kind of bars in general.
7:00 p.m.: The evening hours are getting pretty uneventful by this point. I notice that I’m much less hangry and in a better mood when I get home, which means I can prepare the minestrone soup calmly instead of screaming for food on-demand (usually to my husband or restaurant delivery guy). My energy levels feel good—so good that I’m going to sleep later than ever and waking up earlier than ever and still remaining pretty clear-headed throughout the day.
9:00 p.m.: Take supplements
Day 4: Thursday
9:00 a.m.: I wish I could say I’m off the coffee, but I have a cup. Not because it’s an emergency, but because I’m technically allowed to have a cup a day on the plan and would like to live a little.
12:00 p.m.: I’ve stopped craving junk food and processed snacks. I only crave tomato soup now. Not having to worry about what I’m eating all day is definitely a perk of this plan. Additional perks? A randomized clinical trial conducted between April 2013 to July 2015 with a test pool of 71 adults, showed that those taking the ProLon fasting-mimicking diet for three months showed weight loss, fat loss, lowered inflammation, and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and other age-related diseases. I can vouch for the weight loss bit, anecdotally.
7:00 p.m.: Supplements, check. Minestrone soup, check.
Day 5: Friday
9:00 a.m.: I feel great, but coffee still makes me feel greater.
12:00 p.m.: Five days of soups on the diet is totally doable, but I’m glad today is the last day, as the meal plan is starting to feel repetitive and boring. Although I’m ready to eat other food, I have no interest in anything heavy or unhealthy, not even the free pizza in the office that I would normally be all over.
5:00 p.m.: Aside from the many physical benefits the diet promotes, there are some mental ones too. The plan has helped kill cravings and prime me for a more long-term healthy eating plan. I also fixate less on my weight. I’m only down a couple pounds since Monday, but I feel a lot leaner.
Five days at a time, the ProLon meal plan is not only doable, but enjoyable. The best part? It allows you to modify your normal diet for just one week every three months, yet reap long-term benefits that go far beyond weight and fat loss.