A month ago my wife told me about this fasting diet that Dr. Joel Kahn had mentioned on a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast. It is a bit ironic since I am typically the one that listens to the RRP. Anyway, it perked my interest. I had done some fasting in the past and found it left feeling quite good and with a decrease in appetite. I usually do this for a day or two prior to starting a diet to get a good kickstart. My weight has increased a bit higher this season due to the off-season and struggling a bit during the first few months of the year with the sickness and loss of my Mom.
Dr. Kahn had mentioned the numerous benefits from this fasting and how it had really made a difference for him. I started to dig in and find out more about this thing called the Fast Mimicking Diet, or FMD for short. The diet was developed by Valter Longo, Ph.D. who is a professor of Gerontology and Biology at USC and has been studying fasting for the past 30 years. He has published a book called The Longevity Diet that outlines his principles of the FMD and the diet that accompanies it. The FMD fast has been studied to help cure cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease in addition to overall health and longevity. The FMD also ties in to close association with some of the principles of the Blue Zones, where people live much longer than most places on earth.
So, after reading all the benefits of this I decided to jump in and give it a try. The FMD diet is a 5-day fast that includes specific foods provided by a company called ProlonFMD that you take according to their outlined schedule. Dr. Longo does not profit from this company and all profits are donated to a CreativeCures.org, which is a non-profit to find inexpensive cures for serious diseases. The 5-Day plan costs about $200 USD and provides food that helps alleviate some of the symptoms of a total water fast while still making the body think it is fasting. After the 5-Days you then gradually resume a normal, hopefully healthy, diet.
I purchased my first 5-day plan a couple weeks prior to my starting date of May 7th, so I could look it over and prepare myself mentally. I am currently in the midst of training for my sixth consecutive year of participating in an Ironman Triathlon, so I was a bit apprehensive how I was going to fit this in with my heavy training. The plan highly recommends minimal exercise during the 5-days due to the reduced caloric intake. I picked May 7th because it was the Monday start of a recovery week for me, which is where I cut back on the training volume to allow the body some rest before ramping up training again.
Along with the fasting food kit, you also get a 15-minute consultation with a counselor from Prolon. During the call, they go over the details of the fast and answer any questions you may have. They also recommended that I do the fast once-a-month for the first 3 months and then once every 4 months thereafter. Not sure if that is a general rule or particular for my situation.
Morning Weight – 191 lbs
The night before starting the FMD I had a bit of a restless night sleep. I think I was a bit anxious about the severe reduction in calories and how it would be. It felt like I had a race in the morning. I was fairly confident that I could do this, but I was a feeling that it would not be easy.
I started out the morning with what they call an “L-Bar” which consists of some ground up nuts pressed together with some coconut oil and little sweet taste to it. I was surprised at how good it was. I found myself savoring every morsel of it since this was all I was having until lunchtime except for a cup of Spearmint-Lemon tea and couple Algal Oil supplements, which were all provided.
The rest of the morning went pretty well without too much issue. They allow you to have one unsweetened, caffeinated beverage/day if needed. Since I am a coffee drinker, I had started to taper off my multiple cups of coffee per day the week prior to starting the FMD so it would not be such a shock and avoid the headaches. I saved my one cup of “joe” for when I got into work so I could settle into my day. Ahh!
Work has been pretty busy so before I knew it it was time for lunch. I had to let my dog out, so I went home to prepare and eat my lunch. The lunch consisted of a dehydrated Tomato Soup, Kale Crackers, a few green olives and a couple supplements. I thought the soup was just going to be like watered-down marinara sauce, but it had some nice seasonings and things in there. It got quite thick too, so it felt a little more hearty than I thought it would be. The Kale Crackers were really good and filled in any hunger void in my stomach. The olives were a nice treat too. I took my dog for his walk and headed back to work feeling surprisingly satiated.
The afternoon went even better due to another “L-Bar” as a snack. This helped to curb that afternoon hunger that always hits. Really didn’t feel any issues or side-effects of hunger this day. Full speed ahead!
Dinner was a Minestrone soup which was a bit heartier than the Tomato Soup and also took a little longer to prepare. It didn’t look like much, but it filled that void. For dessert, a Choco-crisp bar which reminded me of some rice crispies bound together by chocolate. Not real sweet, but a nice little after dinner treat.
So Day 1 was done and I was feeling pretty good. The total calories for Day 1 is around 1100 which would be the highest of the 5 days. Tomorrow it would only be 774 calories and continue for the next 4 days.
Morning Weight: 189.8 (-1.2 lbs)
Day 2 consisted of similar foods. L-Bar for breakfast, Vegetable soup for lunch and Mushroom soup dinner. This day was a bit of a struggle for me. I felt really hungry and tired. I was wondering how I was going to make it to Friday. I was working from home this day too and not sure if they had something to do with it. It was just me home alone with my thoughts and every time I walked by the pantry it was calling out to me. I had originally planned to do a light bike workout on the trainer but nixed it cause I wasn’t feeling great. I stayed on track with the plan though.
The Prolon FMD kit provides you with a bunch of tea bags(hibiscus, spearmint, and spearmint-lemon) to help keep your stomach feeling full and also keep you hydrated. I tried keeping some liquids going in as much as possible. This really helps, but you will be peeing a lot!
The kit also introduces what they call L-Drink on Day 2. It is a sweet glycerin mixture that you add to the provided water bottle based on your weight. The more you weight the more you get. You then fill up the remainder of the bottle with water or even better tea. I really liked the Hibiscus tea with this and then cooled it in the fridge. This is supposed to provide you more calories throughout the day.
Day 3 – Hump Day!
Morning Weight: 187.7 lbs (-2.1 lbs, Total: 3.3 lbs)
On Wednesday, Day 3, it was a different story. I felt really good on Day 3! My mind was clear and I didn’t have any hunger pains. I had a lot of meetings at work too, so it didn’t give me too much time to think about it. I ran home at lunch to prepare my soup. I could have taken it in a thermos or something, but I thought the break in the day would be good.
Day 3 also happened to be a gorgeous Spring day. Since I was feeling so good, I decided to go for a short bike ride(~8 miles) at a very easy pace. So glad I did too. I needed to keep my muscles activated a bit. I also felt more energized by it too. I saved my evening meal for after the ride to replenish some of the calories lost.
Morning Weight: 186.0 (-1.7 lbs, -5 lbs Total)
Day 4 was pretty much the same as Day 3. Still felt really good and the plan food was enough to satiate me. It was actually kind of refreshing to not have to prepare such big meals like usual. I also noticed that I was savoring my food much more and eating slower. Definitely, something I need to do more.
I decided to go for a short twenty minute run with my pup, Bentley. I kept the pace easy and didn’t push it much. Felt really good too. One more day to go!
Day 5 – Vacation Time
Morning Weight: 185.3 (-0.7 lbs, -5.7 lbs Total)
The final day of my FMD fast was the start of our vacation to the Carolinas and a couple days in Savannah, GA. I made my lunch soup in the morning and poured it in a good thermos. The fast was great for driving since we didn’t have to stop for a long lunch like we normally would do. We stopped for a pee stop where I also had my soup and kale crackers. Unfortunately, the traffic was awful the first half of the trip until we got past Richmond, VA. Due to the stress of stop-and-go traffic, I didn’t really have much time to think about eating anyway.
We finally got down to Wilmington, NC around 8:30 PM. 11 hours later! The owner of the place we stayed didn’t provide instructions on how to get into the lock box, so we never got into the condo until about 9:30 PM. I ended up eating my last soup at ~10PM. FMD DONE…vacation time!
Overall the fast went amazingly well with the exception of Day 2. I have been feeling pretty good since. It also seems that my appetite has decreased a bit and I feel full more quickly when I do eat. I don’t have as much desire to snack like I usually do. I forgot to bring my scale along with me on vacation so I am not sure if or how much weight I have regained. I have been pretty active too, so that may keep my weight down.
I severely decreased my training during the fast but felt like I picked up right where I left off when I got back to it again. My hope is that it will pay for itself in recovery in the long run. I am going to try the fast again next month, probably after Eagleman 70.3 race, so stay tuned.