- What Is the 5:2 Diet?
- Health Benefits of 5:2 Diet
- Can You Lose Weight With 5:2 Diet?
- Cons of 5:2 Diet
- 5:2 Diet Foods
- What You Can Eat
- What You Can’t Eat
- How to Do the 5:2 Diet
- Sample 5:2 Diet Plan
- How Many Meals Should You Eat on the Fast Days?
- Should The Two Fast Days Be Consecutive?
- Can You Exercise On a 5:2 Diet?
- Who Should Not Follow The Eating 5:2 Diet?
- What to Do if You Feel Unwell?
Various diets use intermittent fasting- an eating pattern that includes periods of fasting in between. The 5:2 fasting diet popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley is, as of now, one of the most popular of fasting diets. Those supporting it report significant benefits from fast weight loss to decrease chronic diseases. Since there is no one-size-fits-all for diets, there are those for which the 5:2 diet works wonders and those who shouldn’t do it. What goes into the diet? Is it safe? Is it healthy? Continue reading to find out.
What Is the 5:2 Diet?
The 5:2 diet also called a Fast Diet, is a form of intermittent fasting that involves eating normally for five days of the week and going on a fast for two days, reducing the calorie intake to about 25% of their routine, which works out close to 500-600 calories. The diet shot to fame in 2013 because of the British journalist Michael Mosley, a former doctor. Mosley wrote the book ‘The Fast Diet’ which outlines the 5:2 diet protocols.
Fasting has been around for hundreds of years in all culture and several diets have sprung up over the years around it. The 5:2 diet is appealing to many people as there are no restrictions on what can be consumed on the non-fasting days as most other diets do. Many have also modified the diet to include a high-fat ketogenic diet on the non-fat days and consume zero calories on the fasting days. Since the fasting days involves consuming meager calories, it might be harder to follow for some people.
Health Benefits of 5:2 Diet
Here are the benefits of the 5:2 fastings:
- Studies show that intermittent fasting has health benefits, including increasing insulin sensitivity, reduced morbidity, stress resistance, and increased lifespan.
- When it comes to losing weight through calorie restriction, it is much easier for people to stick to intermittent fasting than to go on continuous calorie restriction.
- Studies support the claims of the 5:2 diet as there is visual weight loss similar to standard calorie restriction and decreased insulin levels in the body.
- The diet can help reduce insulin resistance, seasonal allergies, asthma, menopausal hot flashes, and other symptoms.
- The diet promotes weight loss in those looking to lose weight by a calorie deficit.
- The 5:2 die is just as good as other diets with alternate-day fasting for weight loss.
Can You Lose Weight With 5:2 Diet?
So, is the the 5:2 diet helpful for your health? Yes, and it mostly depends on how well you manage your calorie intake throughout the week and the healthy foods consumed along the way. Intermittent fasting’s theoretical basis is that by limiting the opportunity to eat food, you are also compelled to eat less overall and lose weight by the lowered calorie intake. You can also achieve the same by going on a calorie deficit throughout the week. However, the 5:2 diet allows you to indulge a little on the rest of the days and strictly cut calories on two days.
If you consume more calories than what you cut out on the two fasting days, the diet doesn’t help you lose weight. Therefore the key to making it work is maintaining a steady calorie intake for five days and fasting on two days, so the total calories consumed during the week is less than the total calories burned.
Cons of 5:2 Diet
The diet also comes with a few drawbacks such as:
1. Difficulty in Adjustment in the Beginning
Although the diet is sustainable long term, the hardest part is that it requires some serious dedication. Since you will have to go through meager calories for two days, you will feel tired, weak, exhausted, and moody on those days without much energy to indulge in activities. It might also interfere with your other plans as there’s not enough energy for it. Once you are on a diet for a few months, the body eventually adapts to anticipating fasting on the two days, and the symptoms improve.
2. Risk of Overeating
Calorie restriction always brings with a risk of overeating as the body tries to overcompensate for the absence of food it perceives as starving. Some people are also tempted to underestimate their calorie intake preceding the fasting days and indulge in some binging as they fast for two days. Cumulatively this results in people not reaching their weight goals.
3. Not for All
The diet is not suitable for people who have:
- A history of eating disorders
- Teenagers and pre-teens who are actively growing
- Have nutrient deficiency conditions such as anemia
- Have fertility issues or are trying to conceive
- Have diabetes
5:2 Diet Foods
To make the best out of the 5:2 diet, you need to eat healthily during the five days you are not fasting while maintaining a steady calorie intake. These are the diet foods that you can include in it:
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains are excellent sources of energy, fiber, and all the nutrients the grains offer. Since the cereals retain all their nutrition and fiber, they will keep you full and satisfied for longer hours and avoid hunger pangs. Carbohydrates from whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, quinoa, and brown rice, along with other grain varieties you prefer, can be added to the diet.
Vegetables are your primary source of fibers and micronutrients. You can add cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, squash, and any others that you prefer. When it comes to vegetables, a rule of thumb is to load the plate with as many colors as possible!
3. Foods High in Fiber
Fiber-rich foods act as roughage to help with gut health, make sure to add some protein along with it. Add lots of beans, lentils, legumes, oatmeal, and sprouted grains to your snacks to keep hunger at bay which might otherwise make you indulge in unnecessary calories.
4. Healthy Fats
Fats pack more energy per gram than carbohydrates and are a better source of calories as they keep you full for longer. It would help if you also had fats to absorb a range of vitamins from the intestines. Add sources of healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil, oily fish, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. They offer plenty of energy when your body’s glycogen reserves run out.
5. Lean Protein
You can find healthy sources of animal protein from chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs, giving you a higher quality of protein for the growth and repair process of the body. Proteins also keep you feeling full for longer and provide sustained energy.
What You Can Eat
Here is a list of all the items that you should add to your diet:
- Whole Grains
- High-fiber foods
- Healthy fats
- Lean Protein
- Red Meat (rarely)
- Low-calorie beverages
What You Can’t Eat
- On fasting days, skip beverages other than water and black tea/coffee
- Avoid all types of foods rich in carbohydrates
How to Do the 5:2 Diet
Here is what the 5:2 diet plan consists of:
- Doing the 5:2 diet is quite simple as there are no stringent meal plans you need to adhere to, and you can continue with what you eat regularly. Five days out of the week are the average days when you eat your regular 2000 calorie (or more) diet. On any of the two days of the week of your choice, you will have to bring your calorie intake down to 25% of your normal- 500 calories for a 2000 calorie diet.
- The two fasting days can be on any day of the week as long as there is at least one non-fasting day in between them. Typically people choose to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. You can have very light meals and low-calorie juices on the fasting days to keep the calorie count around 500.
- It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t binge eat or eat excess junk on the non-fasting days as it could add to the total calorie count and defeat the purpose of fasting. The idea is to regularly maintain a lean calorie intake and fast on two days to reduce the overall weekly calorie intake.
Sample 5:2 Diet Plan
Here is what the typical 5:2 diet plans look like:
Fasting Day Meal Plan
The first meal of your day must keep hunger as far away as possible. Every other meal should either be meager in calories or consist of tiny portions that keep the calorie count to within 500.
Carrot, Honey, and rye porridge.
Low-calorie spaghetti Bolognese or cottage pie
Normal Day Meal Plan
The average day means the plan can be your regular diet or something lean similar to this:
Three greek yogurt blender pancakes topped with ½ sliced banana, ¼ cup strawberries, and a little bit of honey
One cup of red curry lentil soup with kale
2 cups of roasted red pepper and spinach pasta
How Many Meals Should You Eat on the Fast Days?
There is no rule in 5:2 fasting about what to eat on the fasting days. Some find it helpful to start the day with a light breakfast, while many others wait as long as possible before taking their first bite. You can go about spreading your meal during the day in two ways:
- Three small meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Two slightly bigger meals that only consist of lunch and dinner
The rule is to keep the calorie count at 500 and focus on nutrient-dense foods high in fiber and protein that make you feel fuller and avoid hunger pangs. Soups and juices are a great way to keep full during a fast. Other options include vegetables, yogurt with berries, boiled eggs, lean meats, and salads.
Should The Two Fast Days Be Consecutive?
It is not recommended to keep two consecutive fasting days since the calorie intake during each day is at a bare minimum. While it is difficult to go on fasting for beginners, even long-time adherents of the 5:2 diet can find it hard to go to the second say on such low energy intake. By the second consecutive day, you would feel irritability, weakness, lethargy, difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, and lack of strength to indulge in physical activities. You will have to give at least a minimum of one day break between two fasting days. You could also give it a two fasting daybreak.
Can You Exercise On a 5:2 Diet?
Yes, you can add exercise to your 5:2 fasting routine but keep the heavy part restricted to the non-fasting days. Exercise demands more energy from the body if you stick to simple stretching exercises or yoga on fasting days. If you need to lose more weight, add some strength training and light cardio on the non-fasting days so you can bring your weight loss to about 2-3 kilograms a month. Eventually, your body will begin to adapt to the fewer calories and lower its metabolism to compensate. If you start feeling weak or lose focus at work, reduce the exercise or increase calorie intake during the non-fasting days.
Who Should Not Follow The Eating 5:2 Diet?
While the 5:2 intermittent fasting is suitable for most healthy people, some should avoid it. Here are the people who should avoid the diet:
- People who have a history of eating disorders.
- People who experience frequent fluctuations of blood sugar levels.
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children, pre-teens, teenagers, and those with type 1 diabetes.
- Underweight individuals, malnutrition or have been diagnosed with nutrient deficiencies.
- Women who have fertility problems or trying to get pregnant.
It has also been observed that intermittent fasting doesn’t work well for some women as it does for men. Some even reported that their menstrual periods stopped while they were on a diet, and it returned to normal once they stopped the diet. Women who have had such effects are not recommended to continue with the 5:2 diet.
What to Do if You Feel Unwell?
It is usual for first-timers to feel weak, uncontrollably hungry, and unwell on the fasting days. However, if you keep yourself busy with work or other activities that take your mind off from being idle or thinking about food, the hunger quickly vanishes. You will also find that it gets easier as the weeks pass and your body begins to anticipate a fast on the regular fasting days. If you get to the edge of dizziness or fainting, then keeping a quick snack close to you can fix it initially. However, if you find that your symptoms don’t improve after weeks or months and start fainting, consult your doctor about continuing with the diet.
The 5:2 fasting is good for losing weight or maintaining weight in the long run in healthy people who have no underlying health problems.