How does the medifast diet plan work?

Can you imagine losing up to 10 pounds in the first two weeks?

That’s exactly what Maryland mother Nnedi achieved. Although in subsequent months the weight loss was lower – she lost a total of 160 lbs in 10 months.

Medifast can work but you need to know the facts, research, and any issues you might face.


Medifast Has a Long Track Record

Medifast has been around for a number of decades, and at one time was only available via physicians. Now you can be order products on-line.

How Medifast Works

Medifast offer meal replacement products – typically formulated to be low-calorie and low-fat, and containing optimum levels of vitamins. The formula will generally take users into a mild state of ketosis.

The most popular plan is called 5 and 1. This plan (800-1000 calories daily) comprises 5 meal replacements and one “real” meal containing a lean protein, vegetables or salad. Medifast claims a weight loss of 2-5 pounds per week during the first two weeks and 1-2 pounds a week thereafter on this plan.

Medifast Has Undergone Clinical Trials

  1. One Johns Hopkins University study showed that Medifast results in significant weight loss (67 lb average loss in males and 57 lb average loss in females). Note that this study looked at patients who attended Medifast clinics.
  2. Another compared Medifast with diabetes medication. The study found Medifast more effective at controlling type 2 diabetes than an ADA-recommended program (more).
  3. A third study (source) showed that Medifast meal replacement programs were better than “those typically reported for obesity pharmacotherapy [i.e. drug treatment], and that retention of customers was “better than most commercial programs reported”.

Success Stories

Medifast have a number of “success stories” – including Nnedi Uzowihe-Igwe of Maryland, USA. Nnedi appeared in People magazine describing a massive transformation that resulted in a 160lb weight loss between June 2004 and April 2005.

We were contacted by Nnedi and confirmed that she has maintained her weight loss.

Issues to Be Aware Of

Protein fasts and low-calorie meal replacements are a drastic solution, and appropriate for drastic situations.

Given the choice between gastric bypass surgery or Medifast, then Medifast is be a better answer.

One issue with Medifast is the long-term consequences – especially weaning off the program. The transition phase is 4-6 weeks, and starts off by introducing oatmeal at breakfast, and fruit for snacks.

Exercise must become a part of life (5 days a week). It begins fairly low-key during the restrictive part of Medifast – but once transitioning – it is more important.

Due to low energy intake and exercise levels – it is likely that some muscle loss will occur during the weight loss phase. To rectify this, gradually include strength training during the transition phase to build up muscle tone.

Medifast Advantage

The standard 4-week package plan costs $315. However – that’s the cost of the 5 replacements- you will still need to buy your daily “lean and green” meal (lean protein plus salad/vegetables). Dieters have the option to enroll in their Advantage program for significant savings.

Advantage Membershipoffers the best value;

  • Free standard shipping on qualifying orders
  • Free 56 Medifast Meals – 28 with this order, and 28 with your second order ($132.00 value!)
  • Free BlenderBottle® – a must-have for mixing your Medifast Meals
  • Free Online meal planner and support community
See Medifast now

Programs for Men & Women

Different formulations are used for men and women.

The men’s shakes have a higher soy protein content.

A diabetic program is available – with very good success rates: “after 34 weeks, 24 percent of the Medifast users decreased or eliminated their diabetes medication, compared to 0 (zero) percent on the standard food diet”.

Final Thoughts: Does Medifast Work?

Behavioral changes are critical to the long-term success of Medifast. Unless these lifestyle changes are applied, then the weight could swing back on like a yo-yo. It’s worth taking a look at the post 10 Questions To Ask Before Changing Your Diet.

I don’t believe Medifast is for the person who wants to lose a few pounds.

This is a serious program for serious situations, and it may be advisable to follow the program while receiving regular support from a clinic or health professional

Ample proof exists that the program does work and can lead to significant weight loss provided the transition phase is followed correctly.

What You Can Eat and What You Can’t

Medifast has more than 70 meal replacements. The meal you provide each day should include 5-7 ounces of lean protein, three servings of vegetables, and up to two servings of healthy fats.

You can also have condiments, sauces, dressings, and one snack per day. Snack choices include celery, Jell-O, a Popsicle, pickles, gum, or mints, and half an ounce of either walnuts, pistachios, or almonds.

Alcohol is off-limits; so is everything that is not on the approved food list.

Level of Effort: Medium

You’ll need Medifast’s meal replacements for most of your food, but you have some flexibility for the meal you provide.

Limitations: You’ll mostly eat meal replacements. There is some variety: Medifast has more than 70 meal replacement options including shakes, bars, cereals, and snacks like pretzel sticks. Fruit, dairy products, and starches aren’t allowed in the 5 & 1 Plan.

Cooking and shopping: Meal replacements simplify meal planning and preparation. Plus, you won’t have to make many trips to the grocery store.

Packaged foods or meals: Required.

In-person meetings: Optional. There are more than 100 nationwide Medifast Weight Control Centers.

Exercise: Daily exercise is encouraged, but the program doesn’t offer a specific workout. Make your workouts half as long and half as intense while your body adjusts to getting fewer calories.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: Vegetarians on the 5 & 1 Plan should avoid high-carb legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) until reaching their goal weight. The plan is trickier for vegans, since many of the meal replacements are made with dairy or eggs.

Gluten-free: Medifast says that more than 40 of its products are certified gluten-free. The Medifast web site lists its most popular gluten-free items.

What Else You Should Know

Costs: Prices vary, but a 4-week supply of meal replacements will cost at least $300 plus shipping. A seven-pack of any meal replacement (smoothies, oatmeal bars, shakes, or other foods) costs $16.95.

Support: Medifast’s “Take Shape for Life” program provides free access to a personal health coach. You also have free online access to food journals, nutrition guides, a weight-loss blog, and chat rooms.

What Dr. Michael Smith Says:

Does It Work?

The Medifast 5 & 1 Plan provides only 800 to 1,000 calories a day. You will lose weight due to the severe calorie restriction, but it’s an approach that will be tough to stick with.

Research shows meal replacement diets can work and are safe. Studies show they can also help keep the weight off if you’re able to make lasting changes to your lifestyle.

Getting enough nutrients would be a concern on such a low-calorie diet, but the replacements are enriched with nutrients to help offset any deficiency that may occur.

Medifast cuts out certain food groups, including dairy, so you’ll have to take steps to make sure you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D from other sources.

The lack of energy often caused by very-low-calorie diets may make exercise a challenge, but regular exercise is critical if you want to keep the weight off.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

Research shows that meal replacement plans can help control blood sugar in people with diabetes. But drastically reducing how much you eat could lead to dangerously low blood sugar if you take diabetes medicine. Work with your doctor to monitor your blood sugar and know what action to take if it falls too low.

Medifast could also be good for someone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Weight loss helps each of these conditions and may even reduce the need for medicine. Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medicine.

The Final Word

If you’re looking to make big changes in your weight and your health, Medifast can deliver results. But those extreme changes may make sticking with the program a challenge.

And to keep the weight off, you’ll need to transition successfully into the maintenance phase. While limitations ease up at that point, you will need to learn to live with and accept some restrictions in your diet to make it work for the long-term.

Remember, this is an extreme diet, so don’t try it without talking to your doctor first.