When asked to trial the ProLon 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet, I was sceptical.
As a health and nutrition coach, my advice is based on promoting long-term lifestyle changes — no gimmicks, and forget about juice cleanses or diets that cut out whole food groups — and instead focusing on making simple, sustainable, and well-balanced food choices for that individual. So I was pleasantly surprised.
What is ProLon?
ProLon is a patented five-day, plant-based meal plan that provides you with a daily meal kit containing all you’ll eat for each day. It contains some macro- and micronutrients that are scientifically selected for inclusion, but the low-calorie content and specific nutrient breakdown are designed to mimic fasting, and so provide some of the benefits you can get from fasting.
According to ProLon, it’s a “programme of scientifically designed meals that give you the nourishment you need without activating your body’s food sensing system. Your body ‘thinks’ that it’s on a prolonged fast, allowing for fasting gains, but without all the hunger pains.”
Each small box, helpfully labelled Day 1 through to Day 5, contains a nut-based energy bar, two soups, a variety of snacks (including kale chips, olives and even the occasional Choco-crisp bar), energy drinks and supplements. You can eat the contents in any order and at any time of the day, but you must stick to the food for that day. Day 1 was slightly higher in calories with approximately 1,200, while Days 2 to 5 were approximately 800 calories. Wearing my nutritionist hat, I quickly realised that the taller you are and the more active you are, the harder this fast would be. For the first time ever, I was grateful for my five-foot frame.
Why do it?
“ProLon is a scientific eating plan that directly lowers circulating insulin and as such is an excellent way to lose the most toxic and voluminous fat on the body.”
– Lauren Bramley
ProLon claims its diet can help rejuvenate your body while getting it to eat real food, helps your body reset and rejuvenate, and supports your body’s natural processes of intracellular clean-up and cell renewal. It also helps maintain lean body mass while lowering body fat.
ProLon came on to the market after 20 years and US$36 million in research and development. Initial clinical studies seem promising. Over a three-month period, ProLon was shown over three cycles to help individuals lose an average of 2.6 kg and 4 cm off their waist circumference. In another study on fast-mimicking diets, published in the magazine Science Translational Medicine in 2017, it aided in maintaining healthy systolic blood pressure and helped the body to rejuvenate.
What intrigued me most is that the brain behind the ProLon fast is Dr Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, a man well known for research into longevity.
Here in Hong Kong, ProLon is also recommended by Dr Lauren Bramley, MD, LMCHK, MSc Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at her medical and anti-ageing clinic. Based on her medical expertise, “ProLon is a scientific eating plan that directly lowers circulating insulin and as such is an excellent way to lose the most toxic and voluminous fat on the body, which centres around the abdomen, buttocks, chest, and back. As insulin is a hormone that can negatively impact many other hormones, including thyroid, reducing it improves other hormone levels and ratios to be truly anti-ageing. People look and feel much better with lower insulin levels. The sweetener used in ProLon is inulin, a natural substance that actually preserves muscle, burns fat, and improves insulin resistance — this cannot be said for any other sweeteners found in weight loss products.”
This — in addition to the growing body of research showing that fasting can promote cellular regeneration — encouraged me to take the first step. And so with an open mind and prompted by the promises of longevity and anti-ageing, I opened my first box.
What to expect?
“By Day 4, I felt like I could go on forever; by the start of Day 5, though, I was glad I wasn’t.”
– Beth Wright
After the elation of committing to a “new plan” has passed, you’ll likely feel hungry and (if anything like me) at a bit of a loss with all the extra time on your hands — time you’d usually spend chatting over a long meal, a glass of wine, grocery shopping or simply making dinner. This hit me around Day 2.
At the halfway point of the plan, I was feeling great. By Day 3, I was clear-headed and more energised, sleeping better and noticing that some of my inflammation and bloating had gone. I was waking up without an alarm and with a spring in my step, feeling that now is a good time to read up on all the benefits of fasting to keep me going! By Day 4, I felt like I could go on forever; by the start of Day 5, though, I was glad I wasn’t. This was the hardest day for me, but by the end of the day I felt a real sense of accomplishment, not to mention that I looked and felt great in the days following!
Tips to survive
I won’t lie, not eating real meals and going low-calorie isn’t for the faint-hearted. That said, after the first two days you’re on a roll — and with the right strategies you can absolutely survive five days and reap all the benefits that come with it.
My top tips include:
Choose a week when you’re mentally in a good space to undertake the fast — no big social events centred around food and wine, and the ability to keep your schedule as flexible as you can.
Start each day with positive affirmations and remind yourself why you chose to do this. Remember that this is entirely your choice, so enjoy the process rather than focus on what you can’t have. It will all still be there in five days!
Depending on how you feel, consider delaying your first meal. You don’t want to end up at 5pm with no food to look forward to and a long night ahead.
You’re allowed one coffee a day — I had more (decaffeinated) and I don’t think it was a disadvantage. I also drank tons of herbal teas — hot and cold — as well as the glycerine drink provided in the meal kit. It’s hard to feel hungry when constantly sipping on a flavoured drink.
I also added herbs and salt to spice up the flavour of the soup. Trust me, it really helped with some of the green-vegetable-based soups!
Go easy on exercise and do lots of activities that help switch on your para-sympathetic nervous system, such as yoga, pilates, stretching and gentle walks, as well as anything that helps detoxification, such as hot yin yoga, infra-red saunas and contrast showers.
Use this “newly found” time to do low-key activities with friends or anything that distracts you from thinking about food! I Marie Kondo’d my apartment and even managed to sort out my wardrobe, possibly inspired by the knowledge that, post-fast, I might even fit into those jeans I’d kept since 2015.
Use the quiet time to catch up on books you’ve been meaning to read but never got round to.
Go to bed early and focus on a good night’s sleep, knowing that sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve health (and is also scientifically proven to aid fat loss).
I also consciously didn’t look at any food-related social-media pages or TV programmes — why torment yourself unnecessarily?
Transition out of the fast sensibly. On Day 6, light foods, soups and cooked foods are ideal. I tend to be an all-or-nothing person, so the temptation to go out for a slap-up meal and glass of wine was huge. I resisted and was really glad I did!
Who’s ProLon made for?
If you’re looking for a quick reboot, a way to recharge yourself or simply to kickstart a new health regime in the New Year, this could be a great option. It’s also a good way to shift a few kilograms and mentally get into a good place to start a healthier way of living. If fat loss is a goal, then clinical trials have shown that the three-month protocol can produce some great results. However, it’s not a long-term solution and I’d highly recommend ensuring you have a proper nutrition plan in place for after you finish the fast.
Also, it’s not for everyone and especially not suitable for those who are pregnant, breast feeding or underweight, or have pre-existing food disorders or any serious medical condition. It’s also not a replacement for a proper nutrition plan and should always be done in conjunction with a health-care practitioner.
When I first embarked on the fast, my goal was to see if it lived up to its multiple claims and genuinely to understand how someone would feel during each stage of the five days. I was surprised by how good I felt by the end and can honestly say that I felt rejuvenated and would probably even do it again.
It’s simple and effective enough to do whenever you need a “reboot”, and to create the momentum to springboard yourself into a healthier, happier you. You’ll also notice that the results should continue after the fast is completed. With newly sensitised tastebuds, a body that’s become used to consuming less food, fewer food cravings and a new appreciation for real food, this usually means that you continue to reap the benefits long after. If anything, I’d say the reset benefits far outweigh the five-day fast itself.
Beth Wright is a qualified health and nutrition coach focused on creating truly personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes for her clients. She takes a holistic approach, looking at nutrition, fitness, hormones, supplementation, sleep and stress to help take people’s health, well-being and performance to a new level. Find out more about her programmes at bfit-thewrightway.com.
This story first appeared in Prestige Hong Kong.