Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that revolves between fasting and eating on a regular basis.
The 5:2 diet, also called as The Fast Diet, is now a days, the most popular intermittent fasting diet.
It was generalized by British journalist Michael Mosley.
It’s called the 5:2 diet because five days of the week are normal eating days, while in the other two days calories are restricted to 500–600 calories per day.
As there are no requirements about which types foods to eat but rather when you should eat them, this diet is more of a lifestyle.
Many people find this way of eating to be easier to follow than a traditional calorie-restricted diet (1).
This article explains everything you need to know about the 5:2 diet.
How to do the 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet is really very simple to explain.
For five days of the week, you eat normally and there no need to restrict or limit calories.
Then, on the other two days, you reduce your calorie intake to a one fourth(1/4) of your daily needs. This is about 500 calories per day for women, and 600 for men.
You can choose any two days of the week you prefer, only requirement is at least one non-fasting day should be in between them.
One common way of planning the week is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, with 2-3 small meals or 500-600 calories and in remaining days eat normally as you eat.
It is important to notice that eating “normally” does not mean you can eat anything. If you binge on junk food, then you definitely won’t lose any weight, and you may even gain weight.
You should eat the same quantity of food as if you hadn’t been fasting at all.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
There are very few studies on the 5:2 diet precisely.
One study showed that the 5:2 diet caused weight loss same as regular calorie restriction. Along with this,the diet was very effective at lowering insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity (8).
The 4:3 diet may be useful for reducing insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, irregular heartbeats, menopausal hot discharges and more (10).
One random confined study in both normal-weight and overweight individuals showed major improvements in the group following 4:3 fasting, compared to the control group that ate normally (12).
After 12 weeks, the fasting group had:
- Lowered body weight by more than 11 pounds (5 kg).
- Reduced fat mass by 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg), without change in muscle mass.
- Reduced blood triglycerides level by 20%.
- Raised LDL particle size, which is a good.
- Reduced levels of CRP(C-reactive protein), an important marker of inflammation.
- Reduced levels of leptin by up to 40%.
The 5:2 diet for weight loss
If you want to lose weight, the 5:2 diet can be very effective when done correctly.
This is especially because the 5:2 eating pattern helps you in very few calorie intake.
Therefore, it is required not to compensate for the fasting days by eating to much in remaining non-fasting days.
That said, fasting protocols similar to the 5:2 diet have shown a lot of key role in weight loss studies:
- A recent review found that modified alternate-day fasting caused weight loss of 3–8% if followed for 3–24 weeks (15).
- In the same study, participants lost 4–7% of their waist circumference, means that they lost a significant amount of harmful belly fat.
- Intermittent fasting causes a much smaller reduction in muscle mass when compared to weight loss with conventional calorie restriction (15, 16).
Intermittent fasting is even more effective and helpful when combined with exercise, like as endurance or strength training (17).
How to eat on fasting days
There is no such rule for what or when to eat during fasting days.
Some people work best by starting the day with a small breakfast, while others find it best to take food as late as possible
Usually, there are two eating patterns that people follow:
- Three small meals: Usually breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Two slightly bigger meals: Only lunch and dinner.
Since calorie intake is restricted to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men so, it is important to use your calorie budget smartly.
Here are a some suggestions of foods that may be useful for fast days:
- A large portion of vegetables
- Natural yogurt with berries
- Boiled or baked eggs.
- Grilled fish or lean meat
- Cauliflower rice
- Soups of miso, tomato, cauliflower or vegetable)
- Low-calorie contained cup soups
- Black coffee
- Still or sparkling water
There is no specific, correct way to eat on fasting days. You have to experiment and figure out what works best for you.
Delicious low-calorie meals
There are so many of websites with tasty and healthy meal plans and recipes for the 5:2 diet.
- Check out this site for lots of low-calorie meal ideas.
- This site gives ideas for 10 fasting days that can be very useful.
- You can find all kinds of information and recipes on the chat forum of the official Fast Diet website.
- There are also so many books available for the 5:2 diet, one such book is the best-selling book named The Fast Diet.
What to do if you feel unwell or uncontrollably hungry
During starting of fast days, you can expect to have episodes of uncontrollable appetite. It is also normal to feel a little weakness and tiredness during fasting days.
However, you’ll be surprised at how fastly the hunger disappears, mainly if you try to keep busy with work or other tasks.
Additionally, most people find that the fast days become easier after the starting days of few fasts.
If you repeatedly find yourself feeling ill or faint during fast days, have something to eat and take advice of your doctor about whether you should continue or quit.
Intermittent fasting is surely not for everyone, and some people are unable to follow it.
Who should avoid the 5:2 diet, or intermittent fasting overall?
Although intermittent fasting is very safe for healthy, well-nourished people, it is not good for every person.
Some people should avoid calorie restrictions and fasting totally. These people are:
- Individuals with a history of eating disorders.
- Individuals who often experience lower blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia.
- Pregnant women, breast feeding mothers, teenagers, children and individuals with type 1 diabetes.
- People who are malnourished, underweight or have nutrient deficiencies.
- Women who are planning for a baby or have fertility issues.
Some women have reported that their menstrual cycles stopped while they were following this dietary pattern. However, things went back to normal when they came back to a regular normal diet.
Therefore, women should be careful when starting any form of intermittent fasting, and stop doing it immediately if they feel any adverse effects.
The 5:2 diet is an easy and effective method to lose weight and improve metabolic process.
Many people find it much easier to follow than a conventional calorie-restricted diet.
If you’re thinking about losing weight or improving your health, the 5:2 diet is certainly something to consider.