The 5 Factor Diet is a diet and fitness program based on the number five.
It’s amassed quite a fan base over the years. Plus, it’s reportedly been endorsed by a slew of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Katy Perry, among others.
Proponents of the program enjoy it for its simplicity, flexibility, and effectiveness. Meanwhile, critics note that it eliminates several healthy food groups and may not be a good fit for everyone.
This article takes an in-depth look at the 5 Factor Diet, including what it is, how to follow it, and whether or not it works for weight loss.
The 5 Factor Diet is a program developed by celebrity personal trainer and author Harley Pasternak.
The key components of the diet were outlined in the book, 5-Factor Fitness: The Diet and Fitness Secret of Hollywood’s A-List, originally published in 2005 by Pasternak and co-author Ethan Boldt.
Most of the components of the diet plan revolve around the number five.
For example, dieters eat five meals per day. Each meal consists of five ingredients and can be prepared in five minutes or less. Additionally, the plan recommends exercising five days per week and targeting five muscle groups per workout.
The diet also emphasizes heart-healthy fats, lean proteins, and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of how much a specific food increases your blood sugar levels (1).
According to Pasternak, following the diet for five weeks can offer these five benefits:
- helps you look better
- increases your energy levels
- improves your health
- boosts your mood throughout the day
- improves performance
The 5 Factor Diet is a program developed by personal trainer Harley Pasternak. It claims to help you look and feel better by changing your diet and exercise routine.
Both the diet and exercise components of the 5 Factor Diet focus on the number five.
Dieters consume five small meals per day on the plan, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. Each meal should contain five ingredients each and take less than five minutes to prepare.
Each meal should be comprised of five elements, including:
- one lean protein
- one carbohydrate with a GI below 80
- 5–10 grams of fiber
- one healthy fat
- 8–12 ounces (237–355 mL) of a sugar-free beverage
Dieters are allotted one so-called “cheat day” per week where any foods are permitted. That said, you should still aim to eat five meals on these days.
Additionally, dieters are encouraged to exercise at least 5 times per week. Each workout should last 25 minutes and consist of 5 minutes of each of the following types of exercises:
- cardio warm-up
- upper-body strength
- lower-body strength
- core training
- cardio workout
Unlike other diet programs, the 5 Factor Diet doesn’t instruct followers to take any supplements. Still, protein powders and multivitamins are permitted.
Counting calories or logging your food intake is also not required, making it an appealing option to many dieters.
On the 5 Factor Diet, you should eat five meals per day, which contain five components and take five minutes or less to prepare. You should also exercise five times per week following a pre-defined workout plan.
The 5 Factor Diet sets specific guidelines for which foods you should eat and avoid while following the diet.
Foods to eat
The 5 Factor Diet encourages a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, which are grouped into five different categories.
Some of the foods that you can enjoy on the diet include:
- Lean proteins: skinless poultry, egg whites, cottage cheese, seafood, skim milk
- Low-moderate GI carbohydrates: vegetables, oats, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, beans
- Fiber-rich foods: wild rice, flourless wheat bread, fruits and vegetables with skin, vegetables, lentils
- Unsaturated fats: olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil
- Sugar-free beverages: water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, diet soda
Foods to avoid
No foods are entirely off-limits on the 5 Factor Diet, as the plan provides weekly “cheat days” where dieters can eat any foods they’d like.
However, many foods should be limited on the diet, including any that don’t fit into the categories outlined above.
Here are some examples of foods to avoid:
- High fat proteins: fatty cuts of beef or pork, bacon, full-fat dairy, egg yolks, fried meat
- Refined carbs: white pasta, white rice, chips, crackers, bread or tortillas made with flour
- Sweets: candies, chocolates, cookies, cakes, pastries, muffins
- Saturated fats: coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, palm oil
- Processed foods: convenience meals, fast food, breakfast cereals, instant soups, processed meat products
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, sweetened coffee, energy drinks
The 5 Factor Diet encourages a variety of lean proteins, complex carbs, high fiber foods, unsaturated fats, and sugar-free beverages. All other foods should be limited on the diet.
Though there’s no research on the 5 Factor Diet specifically, certain components of the diet may support weight loss.
For starters, the program emphasizes that you consume a source of protein with every meal.
Research suggests that protein can increase feelings of fullness to reduce hunger and appetite, temporarily boost metabolism, and preserve lean body mass during weight loss (
Fiber is another essential nutrient that’s encouraged on the diet.
In addition to promoting feelings of fullness, some studies show that eating more fiber could be linked to increased weight loss, decreased body fat, and improved dietary adherence — even without cutting calories (
The program also involves exercising five days per week, with a workout regimen that consists of both aerobic and resistance training.
Studies show that combining these two types of exercise could be more effective at improving body composition, enhancing physical function, and maintaining muscle mass and bone density during weight loss than either type of training alone (
The 5 Factor Diet promotes regular exercise and encourages eating plenty of protein and fiber, all of which can support weight loss.
In addition to promoting weight loss, some aspects of the 5 Factor Diet could be associated with other benefits.
Supports blood sugar control
Because the diet encourages eating a variety of carbohydrates with a low GI, it could help your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
For example, according to a large review of 54 studies, following a low GI diet could reduce fasting blood sugar levels and improve markers of long-term blood sugar control, like hemoglobin A1C, in people with prediabetes or diabetes (
The 5 Factor Diet also promotes plenty of foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and can stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels after meals (
Protein, another key component of the diet, may also be beneficial.
Though following a high protein diet may not significantly improve blood sugar control on its own, one review found that it could decrease insulin resistance — a condition that impairs your body’s ability to use insulin to manage blood sugar levels (
Encourages nutrient-dense foods
The diet encourages many nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats.
These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet to promote health and protect against chronic disease (
Unlike many other programs, you also don’t need to purchase pre-packaged snacks or diet foods.
Not only does this make it a sustainable option in the long run, but it can also help ease your transition back to a regular diet following the five-week program.
Convenient and easy to follow
Many people find that the 5 Factor Diet is simple, straightforward, and easy to follow.
The rules are simple to follow. Plus, since most components revolve around the number five, the guidelines are easy to remember.
It’s also convenient and doesn’t require dieters to track their calorie intake, buy specific supplements, or spend hours in the gym.
This can be an important factor to consider if you have a busy schedule and are looking for a diet plan that doesn’t require a major time commitment.
While there’s no research on the 5 Factor Diet specifically, it encourages many nutritious foods and may support blood sugar control. It’s also convenient, simple, and easy to follow compared with many other diet plans.
The 5 Factor Diet requires you to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. This can be challenging for some people, including those who travel frequently or have a schedule without much flexibility.
The program also doesn’t provide any support from personal coaches or peers. Keep this in mind if you need or prefer this type of motivation to stay on track.
Furthermore, though the diet can be tailored to fit the needs of some dietary restrictions — like vegan or vegetarian diets — it may not be suitable for people with certain health conditions.
For example, people with diabetes may need to tailor the carb content of the diet to fit their needs and maintain healthy blood sugar levels (13).
Because each meal is limited to five components, many herbs, spices, and veggies are cut out. These could enhance the flavor and health benefits of dishes, and you may prefer to include them even though they bump up the number of components to more than five.
The diet also eliminates some foods that are highly nutritious and can be incorporated into a healthy diet, such as whole eggs, full-fat dairy, and coconut oil (
Plus, the program is only intended to be followed for five weeks. Although you can repeat it several times as desired, it may not be the best option for those seeking a more long-term and sustainable solution to manage their health.
Finally, the diet sets several arbitrary rules that are not backed by solid evidence — such as only eating 5 foods per meal or exercising 5 times per week for 25 minutes.
Not only is there no research showing that these methods are more beneficial for weight loss or overall health compared with less restrictive diet plans like the Mediterranean diet, but some people may also prefer longer, less frequent workouts or eating fewer meals per day.
The 5 Factor Diet doesn’t provide support from personal coaches or peers, is a short-term program, and may not suit those with an inflexible schedule. Plus, people with certain health conditions should talk to their doctor before trying it.
Here is a three-day sample menu for the 5 Factor Diet:
- Breakfast: nonfat Greek yogurt with raspberries and ground flaxseed, plus black coffee
- Snack: flourless toast with salmon and cottage cheese, plus water
- Lunch: grain bowl with grilled chicken, avocado, quinoa, and Brussels sprouts, plus diet soda
- Snack: oatmeal with sliced apples, walnuts, and whey protein powder, plus unsweetened tea
- Dinner: salad with kale, turkey, boiled egg whites, and olive oil dressing, plus water
- Breakfast: egg white omelette with broccoli, flourless wheat bread with avocado spread, plus unsweetened tea
- Snack: protein shake with whey powder and frozen berries
- Lunch: turkey roll-ups with cream cheese, bell peppers, and tomatoes, plus diet soda
- Snack: brown rice, chicken breast, and asparagus sautéed with canola oil, plus water
- Dinner: tuna salad made with nonfat Greek yogurt, celery, and red onion, plus unsweetened tea
- Breakfast: oatmeal with fresh fruit, sunflower seeds, and protein powder, plus black coffee
- Snack: smoothie with spinach, protein powder, fruit, and peanut butter
- Lunch: grilled chicken with sweet potatoes, lentils, and olive oil, plus water
- Snack: nonfat Greek yogurt with raspberries and chia seeds, plus diet soda
- Dinner: ground turkey with wild rice, zucchini, and sliced avocados, plus water
The sample meal plan above provides some ideas for a few meals and snacks you can eat while following the 5 Factor Diet.
The 5 Factor Diet is a diet and exercise program. It emphasizes regular physical activity and eating small, frequent meals consisting of high fiber foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low GI carbohydrates.
For some people, the plan may be effective for short-term weight loss. It may also offer other benefits, especially in terms of convenience and blood sugar control.
However, it also eliminates many nutrient-dense foods, can be restrictive, and may not be suitable for everyone.
Therefore, it may be better to incorporate some of the principles of the 5 Factor Diet — such as regular exercise and enjoying balanced, nutritious meals — into a healthy, well-rounded diet to support long-term health.