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Optavia Diet Weight Loss: What is It and How Does It Work?

Optavia Diet Weight Loss: What is It and How Does It Work?
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 4 min read

A healthy diet and exercise are the most traditional ways of losing excess weight. It is the mainstay of treatment for conditions that affect our overall health and has been providing noticeable results for years. However, the simple measure of cutting out junk, opting for greens, and taking a daily walk doesn't provide individuals with long-term results. This is the primary reason why different diet programs were created. One of the most interesting diets to hit the mainstream market is the Optavia diet, which targets fat loss through lowered calorie consumption. 

Let's take a deeper look into the diet below:

What is the Optavia Diet?

Optavia is a weight-loss or maintenance plan that requires followers to eat a mix of purchased food created by the company and specific homemade meals. The diet aims to lower/limit calorie intakes by providing users with meal options that have already been portion controlled and calorie approved to ensure followers' success. The diet doesn't take the one size fits all approach with its program, as they provide followers with different program options that will best suit their needs and goals. They also have special considerations for those diagnosed with diabetes and the elderly.

These special programs slightly deviate from Optavia's original 5&1 plan that first debuted in 2017 and can be further customized by a health care professional to accommodate symptoms of underlying conditions. Optavia also offers followers a helping hand in the form of expert diet coaches that can be consulted to help individuals learn "Habits of Health." In addition to following a meal replacement plan, Optavia followers are requested to participate in a moderate-intensity exercise routine to support the diet's efficacy. Once weight loss goals are achieved, the brand offers a maintenance plan which helps users keep the weight off.

Optavia Diet Consumption Overview

Depending on the Optavia Diet plan selected, individuals will eat between 3-5 of the company's premade meal replacements (fuelings) daily. Optavia Fuelings are Optavia-branded meal preps that are high in protein, contain added probiotics, low in carbs and calories. Fuelings use whey protein powder, sugar substitutes, small portion sizes, and soy protein isolates to create low-carb, high-protein meals/drinks. 

There are 50 Optavia fuelings products to choose from. These include pasta, bars, shakes, cookies, puddings, cereals, soups, and more. Those on the Optavia diet must also consume 1-3 low-calorie meals made by themselves. It must consist of lean protein and non-starchy vegetables (lean and green). 

Below we take a look at their plans:

  • Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan: 5 Optavia fuelings and 1 "lean and green" meal per day. The meal plans must be capped at 800–1,000 calories in total.

  • Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 Plan: 4 Optavia fuelings and 2 "lean and green" meals, plus 1 snack per day. The meal plans must be capped at 1,300 calories in total.

  • Optimal Health 3 & 3 Plan: 3 Optavia fuelings and 3"lean and green" meals. This plan is typically suited for those seeking a weight management option after a short-term diet.

The meals are typically consumed according to schedule (equal hours apart) and divided across the day to ensure maximum results are achieved. 

How does the Optavia Diet Work?

The Optavia diet relies heavily on significant calorie reduction to promote weight loss. Calories represent the energy in food. The body has a continuous need for energy and uses the calories from food to support different body/brain functions. No matter the food source, calories are converted to physical energy or stored in the body as fat. The aim of calorie reduction is to have the body deplete its calorie intake on energy rather than fat. 

Optavia "fuelings" meals only carry approximately 100–110 calories each. This means that the user will only consume approximately 1,000 calories daily, leading to a calorie deficit—weight loss. This means that the body will not store any unnecessary fats, leading to the consumed calories being used up along with present fat stores. The body will be forced to convert fat into energy. Although weight loss will be achieved using the Optavia method, the body cannot be sufficiently maintained with less than 1000 calories. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, women need a minimum of 1200 calories to function and avoid unhealthy or disordered eating, while men require 1500 calories. It should be noted that drastically cutting calorie intakes can also lead to fluctuating appetites, cravings, and slower metabolisms. Evidence shows that these adverse effects can last for long periods of time, even after the restrictive diet is discontinued, which in hindsight, makes it harder for individuals to lose weight. 

Is the Optavia Diet an Effective Choice?

Optavia is considered a high-protein diet due to the large portion (10–35%) of the diet being dedicated to protein intake. As mentioned before, the diet uses meal replacements to create a calorie deficit to facilitate weight loss. Research shows that a calorie deficit diet is effective in getting rid of weight/fat quickly. A short-term 16-week PubMed study followed 65 people on Optavia's 5 and 1 Plan. The results showed the following:

  • The individuals following the Optavia diet plan had lost a significant amount of weight. They also had lower fat ratios and decreased waist circumferences by the end of the trial compared to the control group. On average, those on the Optavia plan lost 5.7% of their body weight

  • 28.1% of the Optavia participants lost more than 10% of their body weight by the end of the study. This points to additional benefits—reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

  • Individuals on the 5&1 plan who completed at least 75% of the coaching sessions lost more than twice the weight as those who participated in fewer sessions

It should be noted that participants on the Optavia plan were eating 800–1000 calories daily. In contrast, participants in the control group consumed 1500 calories or more daily. Studies suggest that a drastic reduction in calorie intake, as seen in the Optavia group, is an effective weight/fat loss approach that provides short-term results. While another study pointed out that the latter (1500+ calories consumed daily) is a more sustainable approach to long-term weight loss. 

Pros and Cons of the Optavia Diet Explained

According to a PubMed study abstract,  a low-calorie diet is quite beneficial for rapid weight loss. While this may seem like quite an advantage, the disadvantage that joins it is equally as striking. For this weight loss to be maintained long-term, exercise initiatives must be made, and the low-calorie intake must be maintained.

This can be a problem for those with underlying conditions like vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, and more. In these cases, low-calorie diets paired with increased activity/exercise can lead to mental and physical fatigue, nausea, and even diarrhea. This is mainly because the body doesn't have the energy to power basic biological functions.

Below we expand further on the pros and cons of the Optavia diet:


  • Rapid weight loss: Weight loss is noticed in just a couple of days, and individuals see decreasing numbers on the scale and dress size weekly.

  • Overall Convenience: Purchasing pre-portioned, packaged foods is easy and convenient. The portions and calorie counts are already done. 

  • Reduced risks: Being increasingly overweight can put individuals at risk of developing health conditions (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure issues, osteoarthritis, etc.). Increased weight loss induced by the diet eliminates these risks. 

  • Improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels: While gradual weight loss can also improve blood sugar/cholesterol levels, there are some cases where immediate intervention is needed. The rapid weight loss caused by following the Optavia diet can provide individuals with instant blood sugar/cholesterol regulation.

  • Support: Optavia diet plans come with a coaching program, which offers ongoing support and guidance that helps individuals stay on track, increasing the possibility of successful outcomes. 


  • Nutrient deficiency: Due to limited calorie consumption, individuals will not receive enough nutrition from each meal. Optavia plans also limit food groups, which further cause vitamin and mineral deficiency. 

  • Reduced mental and physical ability: Limited calories and nutrition cause the brain and body to function slower. Individuals may be prone to brain fog, headaches, muscle cramps, and pain.

  • Pressure: While the Optavia coaching support is encouraging, it can also cause unnecessary pressure as individuals who complete the plan are encouraged to become coaches. This causes individuals to push their bodies, taking on more strain than they can handle. 

  • Cost: The plans are expensive—lean and green meal prep ingredients and fuelings are quite costly in the long run.

  • Cravings, hunger, and side effects: The highly restrictive nature of the diet can cause hunger, cravings, fatigue, and other uncomfortable and undesirable symptoms. Experiencing these emotions can cause overeating, binge eating, or eating disorders.

  • Weight regain: Weight regain is common after restrictive diets. As users return to normal calorie intakes, the weight will gradually reappear. 

Bottom Line 

Although the Optavia diet encourages followers to consume lean protein and non-starchy vegetables and discourages the consumption of sweets and higher-calorie foods, it isn't exactly healthy. The diet is very restrictive, making it hard to follow/stick to. The lowered calorie intake fuels vitamin/mineral deficiencies, while the meals and other products created by the brand aren't nutritionally balanced or healthy. The protein isolates used in Optavia products combined with additives can cause GI side effects such as bloating, nausea, stomach upset, and more. 

These adverse events, paired with already low energy levels due to the limited calorie intake, can be harmful long term. The diet also does not support the creation of positive, long-lasting habits. Relying on pre-made meals means individuals aren't learning to make incremental lifestyle changes to facilitate weight loss, further suggesting that results from the diet are, at best temporary. So, although the diet is effective in some sense, user safety is compromised, resulting in it becoming an obstacle rather than an accelerant to achieving the ideal BMI. 


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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.