What is the 5:2 Diet?

5:2 Diet Meal PlanThe 5:2 diet (also known as the 5/2 diet) is a fasting diet plan that limits the calorie intake for 2 days, then eating normal for 5 days. This type of diet is called ‘intermittent fasting‘.

The general idea behind the 5:2 diet is calorie restriction on the two (non-consecutive) given days. That is, for two of the 7 day week, you eat extreme low calorie (but highly nutritional) foods, while the other 5 days you can eat what you normally do. This diet doesn’t require a full fast (as in water only), but just a carefully planned couple of days each week.

The 5:2 diet came to popular attention in August 2012, with the BBC Horizon’s documentary on it featuring reporter Michael Mosley trying the diet, talking to experts about the benefits, and resulting in a 5 week loss in weight of approx 15-20lbs and a number of blood tests showing dramatic improvements in cholesterol and glucose levels, among other things.

How Do I Do the 5:2 Diet Plan?

Effectiveness of the fasting diet plan

How effective is the 5 & 2 diet? Click here for more information.

The two days of fasting require keeping your intake below a set number of calories: 500 for women, 600 for men. The normal average intake of calories (at least in North American or European countries) is 2000. This means scaling back the calories to about 1/4 of the ‘normal’ amount on the two fasting days. The obvious part of following this fasting diet plan is to plan your meals to ensure you stay below the daily calorie count. For example, a good starting plan will set your calorie limits to 150 at breakfast, 100 at lunch, 200 at dinner and 50-100 for snacks throughout the day.

To give an example of some ‘typical’ foods, a hard boiled egg would be approx. 77 calories, one can of Coke is 150 calories, and a medium banana is 105 calories.

For more information on how to do an intermittent fasting diet, click here.

What are the Health Benefits of this Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan?

One of the long-term ideas behind this type of diet is that it promotes your body’s IGF-1 hormone (normally a growth hormone that causes aging) to go from growth to repair, meaning it works at making your body heal, rather than just grow.

The other factors to consider with this diet are more concerned with your current weight. Lower calorie intake for most people will equal less fat. This is because, unless you’re a full time athlete, most people do not require the amount of calories they eat each day as they don’t burn that energy away, and as a result it turns into fat. The 5:2 diet promotes lower calories on a weekly basis and high nutrient foods during the fasting days.

Not a ‘Real’ Fast

Just as a very important note to all the readers, this type of diet is not a true ‘fast’ as the name implies. You don’t go for two days without eating. While true fasts can be a mental and physical cleansing time, they should not be done often, especially if you currently have a medical condition or are pregnant.

No one promoting this fasting diet plan should tell you to not eat two days a week. If the body doesn’t get enough nutrients weekly, it starts building a more durable fat, which is made for long-term safety, and is harder to lose. Not eating for two days on an regular basis will build this type of fat and will make it hard to slim down if that is your desire. If you wish to do a true fast, please consult a doctor or clinic and do so with their assistance and monitoring.

The Fine Print

As with any diet, the 5:2 diet is just a stepping stone to a healthier body. You should consider exercise, drinking lots of water, getting a good amount of sleep, cutting out bad habits like smoking, and attempting to eat healthier when on your 5 day ‘eat anything’ segment. While this diet suggests that you can eat anything you want on those 5 days, and the 2 day fast will negate any effects of it, the less fatty, processed foods that you eat, the better your health will be and the faster progress you will make.

As with anything, use common sense. If you feel ill when on this fasting diet plan, consult a doctor for bloodwork, or discontinue the diet for a few weeks to make sure you’re over any sickness. And of course, don’t be on this diet while pregnant, or have any other major health-related issues without getting a doctor’s permission first.

So How Can I Burn Extra Calories When on the 5:2 Diet Plan?

If you’re really trying to lose some weight and get in shape, you can take the next step beyond choosing what to eat and burn off some of those extra calories. Going to the gym or going for a run are two of the best ways to burn off calories, but since we know many people either have no time to hit the gym, or doing 30 minutes on a treadmill just isn’t your cup of tea, we’ve put together a few other options for how to burn those extra calories, and some fat as well.

This can help with your health and vitality whether you are on the 5:2 diet plan or not.

How can I get more details on how to do the 5:2 diet plan quickly and easily?

If you’re ready to fast-track your weight loss and reclaim your health, I invite you to download our complementary fasting guide.

This guide is based on the steps I took to lose weight and drastically improve my health. It’s the same guide that has achieved outstanding results for thousands of people worldwide.

Click below for more details and to access the guide instantly…

5:2 fasting guide

Also, check out these posts on burning some extra calories when on the fasting diet plan…

Exercising while on a Fasting Diet

Burning Calories by Keeping Cool

5 Ways to Burn Calories (Besides working out!)

14 thoughts on “What is the 5:2 Diet?

  1. First attempt not successful. Did not maintain my focus or commitment.

  2. Thank you very much for the great article. As a Muslim, we are encouraged to fast two days a week (Monday and Thursday)! It is not a must, just preferred. We fast from sunrise to sunset. No food or drink is allowed during this period (no water). As you mentioned a true fast can be a mental and physical cleansing time. From a personal experience, fasting is really great. I strongly believe it has many benefits on the mind and body as well if done correctly.

    • Hi Salam
      Thanks you for your insight.
      Although I do not fast like you do (from sunrise to sunset) I do continue to fast not just to maintain my weight but to free the mind and body or the extra weight and burdens that it must carry. You see when your stomach is not full and your mind is not sluggish from trying to digest a heavy meal you start to have more energy think clearer, sleep better and feel better. When you can have this in your life for free why not take it. Some people spend thousands to have access to these feelings when we can experience a little bit of this each week.
      To your health
      Sarah

  3. This is what Muslims are urged to do for a life time plan.
    To fast 2 days a week.

    • Hi Mona
      Thanks for bringing this to our attention, I believe Muslims are urged to fast entirely, whereas the fasting diet plan or 5:2 diet allows people to eat and drink a small amount of food throughout the day. Having said this if this is something you have been doing your entire life perhaps you have some great tips you can share that makes fasting easier?
      To your health
      Sarah

    • Yes but no water is not wise

      • Hi Gary
        Thanks for your insight, there are millions of people throughout the world who fast for religious reasons, it is a part of honoring their faith. If someone is fasting to lose weight, improve their health, improve immunity and decrease their insulin sensitivity (or any of the other many health benefits associated with fasting) then yes I agree we promote and encourage you to drink water throughout your fasting days. Why? Drinking water helps keep the body hydrated which is important since we are made up of more than 70% water, it helps you from being dehydrated, which when people feel dehydrated they often feel hungry and want to eat and lastly water helps flush toxins and waste materials from the body. When fasting you will be breaking down waste and other by products so it is important to flush them out of your body; this will also aid your digestion and improve your overall well being.
        To your health
        Sarah

  4. Where do I find the 4 week challenge?

  5. I have followed this diet for 16 weeks and up to two weeks ago was successful. Lost 21 lbs. For the last two weeks no loss. Does the diet “plateau”.?

    • Hi Karen Congratulations on your success. Yes you may find that you have hit a plateau of some sort. Most people experience this earlier on not after 16 weeks. Just because you have hit a plateau of sorts does not mean that you give up. Many people write in and tell me they thought they had plateaued and then 3 weeks later they get back on the scale and have lost weight again or rather they measure themselves and have lost more inches even through it is not reflected back as a lower number on the scale. You have achieved great results and I would hope this has now become part of your everyday routine so just like any form of diet, weight loss program or exercise your body will hit levels. If your goal is to continue to keep losing weight and inches then keep it up but try incorporating some other changes, such as being more mindful of what you are doing on your non fasting days, incorporating more exercise and looking at your overall nutrition. In addition ask yourself have you hit a plateau because of a change to your lifestyle or environment? Are you sleeping less, more stressed or not being as active?

      The diet plan forms a good basis to reduce your calories 2 days each week but it may require to look at other factors – just like a body builder building muscle sometimes you need to change things up, your challenge that muscle harder to get even more results.
      I hope this has provided you with some food for thought

      To your health

      Sarah

  6. Alice Rodriguez says:

    Isn’t it interesting that we in the Western world think going for 12 hours w/o water is harmful? Millions do this and it seems w/o much harm. As a person with an autoimmune, this has been really helpful in tracking down the food which really bothers me. The list of have-not is endless and really bums me out BUT at least I know what I can put in my mouth w/o too much harm. 1 out of 3 suffer from some kind of skin issue, most all being traced back to what you put in your mouth. If one doesn’t stop putting stuff in their mouths how would one EVER know?

    • Hi Alice Thanks for your comments and interesting insight. Have you been following the fasting diet plan and has it helped you determine which foods are triggers for your autoimmune disease? Did it also help you loose weight or help ease some of the effects. I would be curious to know more if you would like to share?
      In terms of your comment regarding water yes millions of people may do this and as you say it has little impact and harm. I however prefer to drink water on a regular basis; it is what the body is primarily made up of and what the cells need for repair and regeneration. That and because many of us often think we are hungry when in fact we are dehydrated and the body is wanting more water – wanting more fluids this is why I encourage people to drink more water during fasting days than do a total fast.
      To your health
      Sarah

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