The Difference Between Fasting Mimicking And Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become a common lifestyle choice for many people. The habit of restricting food consumption to certain days or certain time periods during the day is thought to protect tissues and organs, improve cognition, and potentially promote weight loss (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

But there's another eating plan, called fasting mimicking, that's easy to confuse with intermittent fasting. In reality, the two couldn't be more different.

Intermittent fasting is a flexible system of eating that focuses on when you eat, not what you eat. Some people choose to fast every other day or a few days throughout the week. Some people choose a daily window of time when they fast (18–20-hour windows are popular), while getting their nutritional needs met during the remaining hours. When you do choose to eat, some people follow strict food regimens while others eat whatever they desire.

Intermittent fasting has been proven to help those with conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and neurological disorders, according to the National Institute on Aging. This is attributed to something called metabolic switching, which causes the body to use ketones, stored in fat, as an energy source rather than glucose.

The structure of fasting mimicking

Fasting mimicking is a specific, five-day eating plan developed by biology researcher Valter Longo, Ph.D., at the Longevity Institute at University of Southern California. His company, L-Nutra, markets it as the ProLon diet plan, which they say fights aging by promoting regenerative changes.

The diet is followed for five days, after which you can go back to your regular eating habits. The company sends you five boxes of food, one for each day of the plan. According to SHAPE, soups, prepackaged bars, olives, crackers, and supplements are all included in the system, with no substitutions allowed.

The foods are plant-based, whole-foods and are extremely low in calories. The first day's plan totals about 1,100 calories, while each additional day provides about 750 calories. Because of this, they recommend avoiding workouts while participating in the diet plan. L-Nutra says on their website that this type of fast stresses the body to "go beyond fat burning associated with reduced calorie intake to cellular regeneration and rejuvenation."

Before embarking on any eating plan, including intermittent fasting and fasting mimicking, remember that it's always best to speak with your doctor first. They can discuss any medical contraindications, and provide valuable advice about how to get started, or what to try instead.