Optavia Headaches: The Dark Side of Rapid Weight Loss

If you’ve recently started the Optavia diet and are experiencing headaches within the first week, you’re not alone.

We understand your frustration and want to help you determine if your headaches could be caused by Optavia.

Our goal is to provide answers that can help relieve your suffering and put you back on a healthy path so that you can continue to make progress with this diet.

Read on to learn more about the potential causes of headaches while using Optavia and how you can address them.

photo of optavia products that may lead to migraine and headache

What is the Optavia diet?

Optavia is a meal replacement program designed to help people achieve their health and weight loss goals.

It consists of eating five prepackaged meals per day called “Fuelings”, along with one lean and green meal that you should cook at home from fresh ingredients.

And while the 5 and 1 plan is not your typical low-carb diet, it does limit fat and sodium intake which can lead to dehydration and potentially cause headaches.

Can Optavia cause headaches?

The short answer is “yes.”

Optavia can cause headaches becasue it is a low-calorie diet program that can result in fatigue, sleep deprivation, stress, or dehydration.

The long answer, though, is that although headaches and migraines are common side effects of Optavia, they are usually mild and can be avoided with proper dietary and lifestyle interventions.

Let’s explore the long answer with five research-based examples.

Are Headaches Normal On Optavia?

When we’re trying to slim down, the subtle diet tweaks we make – such as cutting back on sugary snacks, caffeine, or sodium – can cause headaches.

How do I know this?

Well, when I started my Optavia diet for the first time, one of the first things that I experienced within the first week was a headache, among other side effects.

So are the headaches and migraines normal on Optavia?

The answer is yes, headaches are normal on Optavia. However, the triggers of the headaches and their frequency can vary depending on how you structure your diet.

According to the article review published in the Neurological Sciences Journal, “certain foods like cheese, chocolate, and alcohol, as well as not eating anything for a while can trigger headaches”.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why this happens. They also tried to see if avoiding these foods helps with the headaches, but they are not sure yet.

For example, one study looked at whether following an elimination diet (where you cut out certain foods) helped with migraine-like headaches, but they didn’t find any difference between that and a fake diet.

However, another randomized controlled trial published in the American Headache Society found that an elimination diet did help reduce migraine headaches.

So, it seems like there’s some mixed evidence on whether diets can help with migraines.

5 Potential causes of headaches on Optavia

Although there are different types of headaches and migraines, here are some of the most common causes.


One study published in the Current Pain and Headache Reports has shown that “Obesity is a major risk factor for severe and chronic migraine, though it is unknown if weight loss can improve migraine frequency.”

Another study looked at how body composition affects migraine headaches.

It found that in overweight and obese people, having higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and lower lean body mass can increase the risk of migraines.

“To reduce the risk of migraines in overweight and obese women, it’s recommended to follow an energy-restricted diet and exercise program,” states the Iranian Journal of Neurology.


One of the side effects that I’ve noticed on Optavia within the first week was thirst and dehydration.

To find out if that’s common (or not), I’ve reached out to Giuseppe Faraco, a Ph.D.

Dr. Giuseppe Faraco is an Assistant Professor of Research in Neuroscience at the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute of Weill Cornell.

According to Dr. Faraco, dehydration is a common side effect of following a low-calorie diet.

The body conserves water by reducing urine output. As a result, dehydration can lead to headaches and migraines.

Dehydration is a common and often overlooked source of headache triggers, particularly in those trying to lose weight.

According to Dr. Faraco, “dehydration narrows the blood vessels in the brain, and it can reduce oxygen and blood supply to the brain; thus, causing headaches and even impacting our ability to lose weight.”

Additionally, a lack of electrolytes can also contribute to dehydrated headaches, says Dr. Franco.

Electrolytes are responsible for allowing our bodies to retain water and support hydration levels in our cells.

“When we are dehydrated, this lack of electrolytes further impairs our body’s ability to stay hydrated and causes headaches as a result,” states Dr. Faraco.

Food ingredients

A study review published in the Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports has shown that diet can trigger headaches in migraine patients, ranging from 10 to 64% depending on the population and methodology.

Common dietary triggers include alcohol like red wine and beer, chocolate, caffeine, dairy products, food preservatives with nitrates/nitrites (MSG), and artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

And while Optavia doesn’t use aspartame in their products, they use other food ingredients that can be triggers for some people.

So what do I do?

I keep using my food journal to properly analyze my food intake. This way, I can identify which food triggers my headaches.

Also, I make sure to follow a balanced meal plan to ensure I’m getting enough nutrients and drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.


Caffeine is another potential cause of headaches on Optavia.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase alertness and energy levels, however, it can also cause dehydration and can trigger headaches in some people.

A study published in the Current Pain and Headache Reports found that “chronic use increases the chance of developing an overuse headache and caffeine dependency, with withdrawal symptoms including headaches.”

What’s more, caffeine consumption was associated with an increased risk of migraine among women who had never experienced migraines before. 

So what do I do?

I absolutely love drinking coffee while on Optavia because it helps reduce my hunger.

However, I’m careful to limit myself to only three shots of doppio per day – not a single shot more!

Stress headaches

Although stress is omnipresent, it can also be a major cause of headaches.

When we experience stress, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol that increases our heart rate and blood pressure. This can lead to headaches in some individuals.

So what do I do?

I try to reduce my stress levels by taking breaks throughout the day and practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. I also work on getting enough regular sleep.

How long do headaches last on Optavia?

For me, headaches related to Optavia are usually short-lived and typically last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.

For example, during my first week in the program, I experienced some dehydration-related headaches.

I don’t believe my headaches were caused by any sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the Optavia Fuelings.

It was more likely that they were caused by dehydration, which I was able to fix by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and supplementing it with electrolytes.

To reduce the risk of headaches, I find that staying hydrated throughout the day is the key.

On the contrary, my wife experienced some headaches on Optavia on day 2 that lasted longer than mine.

She has a lactose intolerance so she cannot eat almost all of the Optavia bars, which contain milk and whey protein isolate.

After cutting out these Fuelings from her diet and drinking plenty of water, she was able to get rid of the headaches.

Should I stop doing Optavia if I have headaches?

I would say yes.

If you are experiencing persistent or severe headaches while using Optavia, it is important to speak with your doctor before deciding whether or not to continue the program.

Certain medications and underlying conditions can cause headaches, so it is important to rule out any medical causes first.

Additionally, if you have severe or recurrent headaches that are disrupting your daily life and/or causing other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, or light sensitivity, it is important to seek medical attention.

The bottom line

Overall, Optavia may cause headaches in some individuals due to dehydration, caffeine consumption, food ingredients, and stress.

The best way to prevent headaches is to monitor your diet for potential triggers, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and practice relaxation techniques.

If you experience headaches that last more than a day or two, it’s recommended that you speak with your doctor or physician

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