To clarify: we’re not advocating for or denying the effectiveness of any diet. We’re simply here to help you understand the basic principles and make an informed decision as to what may or may not work for you! Let's have a look at the 5:2 diet.
Fad or Fab? The Basics of the 5-2 Diet
The 5-2, aka The Fast Diet, is one of the most popular diets in recent years. It’s based on intermittent fasting; on two of seven days you only eat 500-600 calories, and on the remaining five, you eat your normal intake. The 5-2 diet is a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix – although it can be one. Fasting works because it forces your body to use its own energy stores to keep you going, while boosting your metabolism at the same time. Here’s some research for further reading.
Normal days: dieters eat normally without calorie and food restrictions
Fasting days: dieters restrict their total calorie intake to a quarter of their normal – 500 calories for women, 600 calories for men.
There is no specification as to which days should be for fasting. However, there must be at least one normal day between fasting days. People typically choose Tuesday and Thursday as fast days to avoid having to fast on the weekend.
An easily digestible guide to the 5-2 Diet
Normal days: No restrictions on your intake. However, you should be aware of over eating and overcompensating for your fasting days. Do that and you might actually pick up weight! Try to stick to healthy portions and meals.
Fasting Days: To help make 500 calories seem like a normal amount of food, the diet provides guidelines and tips.
- Have three small meals throughout the day, or opt for two slightly bigger meals for lunch and dinner.
- Eat a good portion of vegetables – most are great for low calorie meals.
- Eat fish and lean meats that have less calories – especially when baked, grilled or steamed.
- Combine vegetable soups with shredded proteins – the liquid content helps you feel fuller and more satisfied.
- Drink lots of liquids – tea, coffee and still or sparkling water. No juices or alcohol, as they are calorie dense and often full of sugar.
Will it work for you?
The 5-2 Diet stacks up reasonably well if you’re looking at diets for weight loss as well as lifestyle diet changes. The fasting days force you to consume less calories, but you need to ensure you don’t over-eat on “normal” days and cancel out all your gains. For success, you must eat normally and in stay in control – as a long-term solution, it requires a fair amount of discipline and commitment
To amplify the effects of the 5-2 diet, try combining the intermittent fasting with some daily exercise.
When to avoid this diet?
There’s not yet enough information to suggest whether or not intermittent fasting poses any immediate health risks. However, there are some scenarios in which you should probably avoid the 5-2 Diet:
- If you have a history of eating disorders.
- If you often have low blood sugar levels or have type1 diabetes.
- If you have any known nutrient deficiencies.
- Women should be cautious with this type of diet; there have been cases in which menstrual cycles have been disrupted, or out of the ordinary hormonal changes have been experienced.
At the end of the day, this is not a diet that is designed to starve you until you reach your goal weight. It's not a notoriously dangerous diet, nor is it highly acclaimed. As with most diets, if you are considering this one, be cautious and aware of how you your body responds, and how you feel.