What Is The 5 2 Diet
The 5:2 diet was the first of the intermittent fasting diets to really hit the mainstream. It was popularised initially in August 2012, when the BBC aired a horizon broadcast called Eat Fast and Live Longer. In the episode, Dr Michael Mosley explored the concept of an intermittent fasting diet in great detail, undergoing the 5:2 diet himself with good results.
He Published his findings on the diet in a book called the fast diet in early 2013. Shortly after, another journalist, Kate Harrison, published a book on the same topic, called the 5:2 Diet Book. From here, hundreds of websites, apps and books sprung up extolling the virtues of the so called 5:2 diet. While each variant had its own slight differences, the basic principle of all of them remains the same.
What Is The 5:2 Diet
Put in its simplest terms, the 5:2 diet means that you eat a ‘normal’ diet on five days a week, and fast on two days a week. Except it’s not really fasting at all, but it’s an extreme calorie reduction on those two days. The general recommendation is to eat around 25% of your normal caloric intake on two days of your choice every week, which is usually set at about 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. Then, on the other five days, you eat a normal level of calories.
The appeal of the 5:2 diet was instantaneous. The tabloids picked up on it as the diet that let you eat whatever you wanted as long as you had two days of very low-calorie eating. For dieters, this was certainly an attraction – no restrictions made the diet so much easier to follow. Reports at the time suggested that even if you changed nothing about your overall diet, except for including two 500-600 calorie days a week, you could lose about pound a week.
The maths more or less adds up on paper. A pound is thought to be roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories. So if you usually eat 2,000 calories a day and you drop to 500 calories twice a week, you’re ‘saving’ 1,500 calories each day, which equates to 3,000 calories a week close to the magic pound mark.
Of course, a lot depends on what you do with your ‘normal’ eating days, and this is where the diet can fall down for some people. If you overeat five days a week those two fasting days are not going to do much for your weight and overall health. In fact, some people found that they were actually eating more than normal on the five days, negating any calorie save on the other two days.
Therefore, most advocates of the diet suggest adopting a healthy, balanced diet on the five ‘normal’ calorie days to boost your weight loss and other potential benefits of the diet. Those benefits are reported to included improved brain function, a reduction in the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, improved cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control.
Potential Risks And Side Effects
There are some groups of people who are advised not to undertake the 5:2 diet, and that includes those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, when any restricted eating is inadvisable. Those with diabetes should only follow a new diet with advice from a doctor or their diabetic nurse, though there is some evidence that the 5:2 diet could be beneficial if properly monitored. The 5:2 diet is also not recommended for children or teenagers, who need a full calorie balance to help fuel natural growth.
There are some side effects on the 5:2 diet to be aware of. If you have never fasted before, the 500-calorie days can be hard to get used to. The first few weeks, you might find that you lack energy, find it hard to concentrate, or feel week and dizzy. You may also find that you get headaches or fatigue easily. Your body is not used to functioning on just 500 calories. There are ways of combating these side effects.
The key thing is to make sure that you eat you 500 calories and you eat foods that are low in calories but high in nutrition. You will want to eat foods that will fill you up for as long as possible within your calorie budget. Protein is important, as this will help you feel fuller for longer – think lean meat, eggs and legumes. You should also make sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as these are generally low in calories and enable you to fill your plate.
How To Eat On Fast Day
It is up to you how you spread you 500 calories on a fast day. Many opt to skip breakfast and not eat anything until lunchtime, when they will get around 200 calories of their allowance. Keeping 300 calories aside for dinner. Others prefer to have a single 500-calorie meal once a day, while others will graze on low-calorie foods throughout the day.
It’s really important to stay hydrated, as not taking in enough fluid will lead to headaches and dehydration. Drink plenty of water – around eight glasses a day – but you can also have herbal teas, regular tea and coffee. Just be sure to add any sugar or milk to your calorie intake. Hot drinks can make your stomach feel fuller, which can stretch the time between eating to help you manage your fast days.
It’s also advised that you spread out your two fasting days, and not to do them back-to-back. It’s best to look at you weekly schedule and see what days you can best handle a fast day. For most people, it’s better to avoid weekends, as these can be difficult to navigate with a lower calorie limit, especially if you’re spending time with family or friends. Mondays are popular -many feel it’s a good way to start the week after an indulgent weekend – and then you can choose any other day of the week that suits you lifestyle.
The more accommodating your fasting days can be to work around your life, the more likely you are to stick with it. You can even change your days week on week if things crop up – don’t miss a working lunch because you’re fasting; simply switch your days around.
On your other 5 days of the week, try to eat healthily to maximise the benefits of the diet. Make sure that you eat plenty of lean protein, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, some dairy, legumes and healthy fats. It might be helpful to keep an eye on your calorie intake to ensure it stays roughly within your recommended level. The average is considered 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men, but it is worth using an online BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) calculator, which works out the right amount of calories for you based on your age, height, weight and activity level.
Maintaining The Diet
As with all diets, the success that comes with weight loss while sticking to the plan can be met with rapid weight gain after leaving the diet behind. This is certainly going to be true if you’re eating what you like on five days a week and relying solely on the two calorie-reduction days to boost weight loss.
For real, long-lasting success on the 5:2 diet, there are two key approaches. If you don’t intend on staying on 5:2 diet long term, then your focus needs to be on changing your overall eating habits. The calorie-reduction days can help the initial weight loss but the real results will come from changing what you eat on the other five days. If you have been eating badly, this is your chance to improve your diet and make it more balanced. That way, when you opt take out the two fasting days, you are overall eating fewer calories than you were before and making healthier food choices.
This is more sustainable in the long term, helping you keep the weight off and feeling better in yourself thanks to all the healthy foods you’re eating. The other option is to keep two fasting days in your week as a lifestyle choice, never giving it up. For many followers of the diet, this is their preferred option, not seeing it as a ‘diet’ but as conscious decision to eat less twice a week. This will help you to maintain your weight loss and also allows for the odd ‘treat’ day without it having any large impact.
However you choose to follow the diet long term, there’s no doubting that the 5:2 diet is here to stay. It’s the most popular of all the intermittent fasting plans and is easy-to-follow solution for first-timers to a fasting regime. Indeed, a popular and successful diet with many long term health benefits. I would definitely recommend the 5:2 diet, but as always please check with your doctor before undertaking any new diet. If you have any 5:2 diet stories or any other diet story please leave a comment as I would love to hear from you. Thank you.
Shawn Founder of Weight Loss Pro