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The Promise

You won't go hungry on The 5-Factor Diet. Creator and celebrity fitness trainer Harley Pasternak says it's a lifestyle plan, not a diet. Each part of the plan revolves around the number five. You’ll prepare and eat five, 5-ingredient meals a day (each takes 5 minutes to prepare) and do 25-minute workouts (consisting of five, 5-minute segments) five times a week.

Pasternak promises that eating a balanced meal five times a day will keep your blood sugar low and stable. This helps your mood and gives you energy all day long.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

Each 5-Factor five-ingredient meal must include all five must-have food groups:

  1. Protein (egg whites, fish, lean meats/poultry, fat-free dairy)
  2. Complex carbohydrates (vegetables, sweet potato, wild rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal, quinoa)
  3. Fiber (whole-grain cereal, beans, wild rice, flourless wheat bread, fruits and vegetables with edible skins and seeds)
  4. Healthy fat (from fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, rainbow trout, or peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed)
  5. Sugar-free drinks (water, sugar-free soda, coffee, tea, or an unsweetened energy drink)

The 5-Factor Diet doesn’t mention alcohol specifically, but on the diet’s “cheat day” you may eat or drink anything you like.

Level of Effort: Medium

Limitations: You can eat anything you want on your weekly “cheat day." Otherwise, all your meals should be limited to dishes made with foods from the five must-have groups mentioned above.

Cooking and shopping: You’ll spend minimal time and effort on cooking if you stock your refrigerator and pantry with Pasternak’s top picks for 5-Factor foods.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: Required. The plan depends on exercise as much as diet. You must do the 25-minute 5-Factor workout five days a week.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: You can easily modify the 5-Factor Diet for vegetarian and vegan diets, though the protein sources for vegans are somewhat limited.

Gluten-free: The breads Pasternak allows are flour-free. You may substitute gluten-free alternatives as long as they are low-sugar.

Low-salt, low-fat: The plan is already geared toward low-fat and low-salt foods and may be adjusted further if needed.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Just your groceries. You’ll spend roughly the same amount on groceries if you keep the bulk of your protein purchases to eggs, lean meats and poultry, and fat-free dairy, as opposed to seafood.

Support: You do this diet on your own.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Does It Work?

Though scientific research on The 5-Factor Diet is lacking, the plan uses sound nutrition principles of healthy eating and weight loss. Carbohydrates with lower glycemic index (GI) values raise blood sugar levels less than foods with a higher GI, but their use in weight loss has not been as well studied.

Still, there is research that suggests that a diet of low GI foods is more likely to cause weight loss, at least in the short term. Research is mixed concerning the weight loss advantage of eating smaller meals more often, but this may have other health benefits.

Just by eliminating junk food, simple carbs, and high-calorie drinks, as in the 5-Factor Diet, most people are likely to see a dip on the scale. The amount of weight that you can lose, however, depends on many things, including your size, gender, and activity level. The plan does not address the differences in calorie needs of each individual. Calorie counting is not a feature of this diet plan.

Though exercise is an important part of the 5-Factor Diet, the recommended amount falls a bit short of the 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity coupled with strength training that most experts recommend.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

The weight loss and increased activity that The 5-Factor Diet promises are key to the prevention and treatment of many conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. But the plan would have to be modified to make it appropriate if you have these or other conditions.

Two components of the plan, lower GI foods and smaller, more frequent meals, are both known to keep the blood sugar at a lower level, but the amount of carbohydrates would have to be tailored to your own diabetes treatment plan.

For those who are watching their cholesterol, there have been some studies that show low GI diets are helpful at lowering cholesterol levels. But you will have to be careful about how much fat and salt you are eating, as well, if you were told to limit them in your diet.

If you have kidney disease, there may be too much protein in this diet for you. Check with your doctor or dietitian first.

The Final Word

The 5-Factor Diet is a bundled diet and exercise plan that may help you lose weight and become more active. There are no pre-made foods or supplements to buy. And it provides simple recipes that promise no more than 5 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep time. It even tells you what staples to keep on hand so you will always be able to get a quick meal together. Food choices are varied enough that you can have a balanced diet and not get bored of foods. Being able to have a day when you can enjoy any food you want is a big plus, too. But you will have to be very organized and motivated to stay on track.

This may not be a good choice for those who have to travel a lot for work, have an inflexible schedule, or prefer to eat out, as food prep and timing may be a problem.

The exercise portion of the program might have to be changed if you are trying to follow the exercise guidelines of the American Heart Association. Talk to your doctor about your fitness goals before starting this program.

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