The 5:2 diet (also known as the 5/2 diet) is a diet 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.
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. To give an example, a hard boiled egg would be 77 calories, one can of Coke is 150 calories, and a medium banana is 105 calories. The obvious part of following this diet is to plan your meals to ensure you stay below the daily calorie count. 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.
For more information on how to do an intermittent fasting diet, click here.
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 your current health and 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 pushes 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 diet 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 heavy 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.
As with anything, use common sense. If you continually feel ill with this diet, 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.
Burning Extra Calories
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 accumulated a few other options for how to burn those extra calories, and some fat as well.