The Optifast diet, created in the 1970s, is a complete meal replacement program aimed at weight loss. The Optifast diet involves swapping your usual meals with prepackaged shakes or bars while also providing comprehensive behavioral support. This medically supervised program focuses on transforming your food habits and comes in three phases personalized to your needs, all while closely tracking your progress toward improved health and emotional well-being.
The Optifast weight loss program has been cited in more than 130 studies, including the International Journal of Obesity, Journal of Medical Economics, and Obesity Surgery. According to the 2019 OPTIWIN study, at 26 weeks, participants in the Optifast program had an average weight loss of 12.4% of their body weight, compared to 6.0% in the food-based group. In this article, first, we’re going to cover what Optifast is and how it works. Then, we’ll move on to the pros and cons of the Optifast diet and compare it to other weight-loss diets.
What is the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet refers to a Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD) program designed for weight loss. It restricts your daily caloric intake to below 800 calories, forcing your body to use its fat stores for energy. The program offers products like Optifast shakes, bars, and soups, which are scientifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of people on this diet.
A 2006 study from the Department of General and Digestive Surgery at Flinders Medical Centre in Australia showed that the diet can significantly reduce liver size and fat content. Another 2018 study published in the Journal of Medical Economics found the program to be cost-effective for treating obesity in the U.S.
How does the Optifast diet work?
The Optifast diet works in three main phases: Active Weight Loss, Transition, and Maintenance. In the Active Weight Loss Phase (months 1-4), you’ll replace all three meals with Optifast products to achieve rapid weight loss.
Transitioning occurs during months 4-6, where you shift to a balanced food-based diet while attending classes to change your approach to food. This phase involves replacing two meals a day for more gradual weight loss. The Maintenance Phase (months 6 to 24) is for those seeking variety, where you replace just one meal a day. It focuses on diet and lifestyle support to help you maintain your weight loss.
A study published in Obesity Journal in 2019, led by researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine, found that the Optifast program resulted in a 12.4% weight loss at 26 weeks compared to 6.0% in a food-based diet.
How effective is Optifast for weight loss?
Optifast is a clinically recognized total meal replacement program that’s been shown to lead to significant weight loss. An 8-year study using Optifast’s 420-cal protein supplement reported an average weight loss of 66.0 lbs for men and 47.3 lbs for women. However, long-term maintenance varied, with only 30% of women and 58% of men keeping the weight off for at least 18 months.
Another 1992 study from the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo found that by the fourth week, weight reduction with Optifast’s very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) was significantly greater than a supplemental low-calorie diet. However, by the eighth week, the weight loss effects were similar between the two.
As a side note, research from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center indicated that Optifast-70, with 420 kcal/day, led to a decrease in electrocardiographic voltage, suggesting it might have some cardiac considerations. This means that the Optifast diet is effective for weight loss, but long-term success and health impacts may vary.
What are the health benefits of the Optifast diet?
The following list outlines the benefits of the Optifast diet.
- Sustained weight loss: The Optifast program has been shown to lead to significant weight loss at 26 and 52 weeks, helping individuals achieve their weight loss goals.
- Improved body composition: Participants in the Optifast group experienced greater reductions in fat mass, waist circumference, and total body fat compared to those in the food-based group.
- Structured meal plan: The Optifast diet provides a structured meal replacement program, making it easier for individuals to follow and adhere to their weight loss journey.
- Convenient and time-saving: Optifast shakes serve as the primary component of the meal plan, providing a convenient and time-saving option for individuals with busy lifestyles.
- Nutrient-rich: Optifast shakes are formulated to provide essential nutrients, ensuring that individuals receive adequate nutrition while on the diet.
- Medical supervision: The Optifast program is typically conducted under medical supervision, allowing healthcare professionals to monitor progress and provide support throughout the weight loss journey.
- Long-term success: The sustained weight loss achieved through the Optifast program can lead to long-term success in weight management, helping individuals maintain their weight loss goals over time.
What are the health risks of the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet, which involves replacing regular meals with Optifast meal replacements, can have some health risks associated with it. Common side effects of the Optifast diet include constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and bad breath.
- Constipation: Some individuals may experience difficulty passing stool, leading to discomfort and bloating.
- Diarrhea: Others may have loose, watery stools, which can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Nausea: Feeling sick to the stomach is a common side effect of the Optifast diet and can affect adherence to the program.
- Bad breath: The lack of solid food can contribute to unpleasant breath odor, known as halitosis.
- Muscle loss: Rapid weight loss on the Optifast diet can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue, leading to decreased strength and metabolism.
- Nutrient deficiencies: By replacing regular meals with meal replacements, there is a risk of inadequate intake of essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Incompatibility with certain medical conditions or medications: Some individuals with specific health conditions or taking certain medications may not be able to safely follow the Optifast diet, as it can interfere with their treatment or worsen their condition.
Who should consider doing the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet is a suitable option for individuals with a BMI over 30 who are looking for an effective and sustainable weight loss solution. The program offers a convenient and easy-to-follow meal plan with all the necessary meal replacements, eliminating the need for meal planning and preparation.
However, it’s important to note that the Optifast diet may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and gallbladder problems, should not follow this diet without consulting their healthcare provider. It’s crucial to prioritize personal health and seek professional advice before starting any weight loss program.
What are the common mistakes people make when starting the Optifast diet?
When starting the Optifast diet, there are some common mistakes that people should be aware of to ensure success. One mistake is not following the Optifast meal plan properly. It’s crucial to consume the recommended meal replacements and portion sizes to provide your body with the necessary nutrients and promote optimal weight loss.
Another mistake is not seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or registered dietitian. They can offer valuable support and personalize the Optifast program to meet your individual needs.
How to start the Optifast diet?
To start the Optifast diet, follow the steps outlined below.
- Set clear goals: Determine your weight loss goals and the duration you plan to follow the Optifast diet.
- Purchase Optifast meal replacements: Stock up on Optifast shakes or other meal replacements that are a part of the program, ensuring they provide the necessary nutrients while keeping your calorie intake low.
- Follow the Optifast meal plan: Adhere to the prescribed Optifast meal plan, which involves consuming meal replacements for the majority of your meals and incorporating minimal solid food.
- Monitor your progress: Keep track of your weight loss progress and any changes in your health, and regularly check in with your healthcare professional or registered dietitian for support and guidance.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain hydration and support overall health.
- Engage in physical activity: Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to enhance weight loss and improve overall fitness.
- Seek emotional support: Consider joining a support group or seeking counseling to address any emotional or psychological challenges related to weight loss.
- Maintain a balanced lifestyle: After completing the Optifast diet, transition into a balanced, nutritious eating plan to sustain long-term weight loss and overall well-being.
What foods can you eat on the Optifast diet?
On the Optifast diet, solid food consumption is limited or eliminated, and instead, you can regularly consume Optifast meal replacements which provide all necessary nutrients while keeping calorie intake low for weight loss.
- Optifast shakes
- Optifast bars
- Optifast soups
- Optifast desserts
- Optifast ready-to-drink options
What foods should you avoid on the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet involves refraining from consuming solid foods to maximize weight loss results. To adhere to the diet, it is important to avoid certain food groups, including:
- Solid Fruits and Vegetables: While fruits and vegetables are generally healthy, they are not part of the Optifast meal plan as they contain solid components that are not included in the Optifast products.
- Junk Food and Processed Snacks: These high-calorie, unhealthy fat, and added sugar-containing foods can hinder weight loss progress. Examples include chips, cookies, candy, and other processed snacks.
- Sugary Beverages: Optifast encourages the consumption of non-caloric beverages like water. It is important to avoid sugary drinks such as soda, fruit juices, and energy drinks, as they can add unnecessary calories to your diet.
- Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages should be avoided while following the Optifast diet as they contain empty calories that can interfere with the weight loss process.
- Solid Protein Sources: Since the Optifast diet relies on Optifast products for protein intake, solid protein sources like meat, poultry, and fish should be avoided.
What are the best recipes for the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet recommends incorporating nutrient-rich and satisfying recipes into your meal plan to achieve optimal results. Here are five recipes aligned with the Optifast program that provide necessary nutrients while supporting weight loss goals:
- Vanilla Shake for breakfast: A shake made with Optifast vanilla powder, providing essential vitamins and minerals.
- Creamy Tomato Soup for lunch: A soup made with Optifast tomato soup mix, offering a low-calorie and satisfying option.
- Grilled Chicken Salad for dinner: A salad with grilled chicken, leafy greens, and non-starchy vegetables for protein and fiber (only in the Transition and Maintenance phase).
- Vegetable Stir-fry: A stir-fry with a variety of colorful vegetables, cooked with minimal oil for a nutrient-packed meal (only in the Transition and Maintenance phase).
- Baked Cod with Lemon: A baked cod fillet seasoned with lemon and herbs, providing lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids (only in the Transition and Maintenance phase).
What is the sample meal plan for the Optifast diet?
The Optifast diet is a meal replacement program that consists of consuming Optifast shakes, soups, bars, and meal replacements. Here is a 7-day sample meal plan for the Optifast diet:
- Breakfast: Have an Optifast shake (200-250 calories) in flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry.
- Lunch: Enjoy an Optifast soup (160-220 calories) in options like chicken, tomato, or vegetable, paired with steamed non-starchy vegetables.
- Afternoon Snack: Stay satisfied with an Optifast bar (160-200 calories) in flavors like peanut butter chocolate or caramel almond.
- Dinner: Opt for an Optifast meal replacement (200-300 calories) like a chicken or beef entree, accompanied by roasted vegetables or a salad.
- Evening Snack: Have another Optifast bar (160-200 calories) or shake (200-250 calories) to curb hunger.
- Optional Snack: Include a serving of fruit or raw vegetables (around 100 calories) for added nutrients.
How does Optifast meal replacement compare to regular meals?
Compared to regular meals, Optifast meal replacements offer more precise portion control and calorie restriction. They provide an average of 160-200 calories per serving, with a recommended intake of 5 servings per day, resulting in a total daily calorie intake of around 800-1000 calories. Regular meals, on the other hand, can vary widely in their nutritional content and may not offer the same level of portion control or calorie restriction.
It is important to note that Optifast meal replacements should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional and as part of a comprehensive weight loss program. They are not intended to be a long-term solution but rather a tool to kickstart weight loss and establish healthier eating habits.
How does the Optifast diet compare to other low-calorie diets?
Optifast does have an edge over some other low-calorie diets, mainly because it’s not just about cutting calories but offers meal replacements and behavioral support too. A study by the University of Ulm showed Optifast users lost about 12.4% body weight in 26 weeks, which is more than standard low-calorie diet results. So, if you’re after sustained weight loss and like the idea of a built-in support system, Optifast might be worth a shot.
What types of diets are similar to Optifast?
Optifast is a meal replacement program that offers structured plans for weight loss. Some types of diets similar to Optifast include:
- Optislim: Offers meal replacement shakes and bars for convenience.
- Medifast: Provides meal replacements and low-calorie meals in a structured plan.
- Slimfast: Widely available and affordable, it offers meal replacement shakes and bars.
- Ensure: Offers nutritional shakes and meal replacement bars rich in essential nutrients.
- Optavia: Provides meal replacements and coaching support for long-term success.
- Cambridge Diet: Involves meal replacement products and a strict calorie-controlled plan.
- HMR Diet: Offers meal replacements and coaching support for weight loss.
What are the differences between Optifast vs Medifast?
Optifast and Medifast diets are two meal replacement programs with distinct differences. Firstly, Optifast offers a more intensive weight loss program compared to Medifast diet, involving complete meal replacement with shakes, bars, and other products. In contrast, Medifast allows for the inclusion of one daily ‘Lean and Green’ meal.
What are the differences between Optifast vs Slimfast?
Optifast and Slimfast are both meal replacement programs designed to aid in weight loss. Optifast offers a comprehensive approach, providing shakes, bars, and soups that are formulated to provide all necessary nutrients while promoting weight loss. On the other hand, the Slimfast diet focuses on portion control and calorie restriction, offering meal replacement shakes and bars to replace one or two meals a day.
What are the differences between Optifast vs Optavia?
Optifast is a medically supervised program that involves regular medical monitoring and counseling, while the Optavia diet is a coach-guided program. This means that Optifast is more closely monitored by healthcare professionals.