The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days a week and then reducing your calorie intake to between 500 and 600 calories a day for two days. This part-time dietary approach, or intermittent fasting style, focuses more on when you eat, than what you eat.
fasting, and intermittent fastinghave been around for years and studies, such as a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine (opens in a new tab)found that it may have many health benefits, including weight loss, blood sugar regulation, cell regeneration, and better brain health.
“It’s a pretty flexible diet because for five days you’re not restricted, so if you have a social event you can go to, you can plan to fast on the days you’re not eating out,” explains a functional medicine practitioner. Danny Ly. “It also keeps you in a calorie deficit for the week, which means you’re more likely to lose weight.”
If 5:2 isn’t your style, there are other plans you can try, including 16:8 intermittent fasting and alternate fasting. Read on to learn more about the 5:2 diet and whether it’s right for you.
What is the 5:2 diet?
“The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting that suggests two very low calorie days, usually no more than 500 calories,” Ly says. “The other five days of the week, you eat ‘normal’ without having to track calories or restrict food types.”
Sometimes called the Fast Diet, the 5:2 was popularized by Dr Michael Mosley (opens in a new tab). Since then, the diet has been expanded and renamed “The New 5:2”.
“When following The New 5:2, plan two days a week as 800-calorie fast days and follow a healthy Mediterranean-style diet for the rest of the week, with no calorie restrictions, just sensible portions,” says Mosely .
“Intermittent fasting, including in particular a mediterranean diet, is a great tool for those who want slower, steady weight loss or weight management. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure and can be a support plan for people with these conditions. It offers more dietary freedom by restricting calories to only two days a week.
Mosley explains that on fasting days, your body will enter a state of ketosis. “You’ll lose visceral fat and get a better insulin response,” he says. “This, in turn, will make it easier for you to stick to sensible portion sizes and avoid snacking for the rest of the week.”
What are the benefits of the 5:2 diet?
According to Ly, a study in the Clinical Nutrition Journal (opens in a new tab) found the 5:2 diet to be a safe and effective protocol for weight loss. It was also generally accepted by researchers as “easy to follow”.
The addition of additional factors for dieters, such as group support, increased membership and impact, research in PLOS A (opens in a new tab) found.
Although there aren’t many studies specifically on the 5:2 diet, research on intermittent fasting has found great health benefits. These include changes in body composition, fat loss, better heart health and lower blood sugar.
A study published in the Canadian family physician (opens in a new tab) found that intermittent fasting may promote weight loss in the same way as calorie restriction, and may also help lower cholesterol.
Search in the Journal of the Nutrition and Dietetics Academy (opens in a new tab) who examined the health benefits of alternate-day fasting, which is similar to the 5:2 diet, found that it could reduce insulin resistance, asthma, and even menopausal hot flashes.
“Fasting can increase innate healing mechanisms in the body, such as autophagy, which is where your body cleans out old and damaged cells,” says Carolyn Nicholas, certified health coach in functional medicine and director of the Health Coaching app. Power (opens in a new tab). “Fasting can also help you become ‘metabolically flexible,’ essentially switching between burning glucose or ketones (fats) for fuel.”
How to eat on fasting days
One of the great benefits of the 5:2 diet is that you only have to limit your calorie intake for two non-consecutive days a week. Dieters should only eat 25% of their usual calories, which equates to around 500 for women and 600 for men. Depending on your preferences, this can amount to three small meals or two larger ones.
Ly says, “It’s important to be savvy here and learn to ‘stretch a calorie.’ It is important to eat low calorie foods like vegetables, low calorie fruits like berries, lean proteins like chicken, turkey or fish, cauliflower rice and soups low in calories.
“Another popular approach is to fast in the morning to save calories for the evening meal, but this can lead to binge eating if you are too hungry, so I would be cautious with this approach. Using black coffee in the morning as an appetite suppressant works well for some too.Make sure you stay on top of water and fluid intake.
Why not invest in one of the best water bottles to help you stay hydrated?
Nicholas adds, “There is no real hard and fast rule when it comes to these fast days other than calorie count, however, remember that not all calories are created equal. Start with the mindset. Instead of thinking, ‘What can I eat?’, turn it around and ask yourself, ‘What can I eat?’
“Fresh vegetables, low glycemic fruits such as berries, nuts, seeds, olives, other good fats, and high quality proteins like wild caught fish or pastured meats and eggs are good choices. good options,” she adds. “Fresh vegetables will give you a lot of fiber and they are naturally lower in calories, so you can eat more of them. Good fats and protein will also help you feel full longer, give you energy, and can also help you with food cravings.
How to eat on regular days
One of the great things about the 5:2 diet is its simplicity – that and the fact that you can pretty much eat whatever you want five days a week, although a healthy, balanced meal plan is advised. Dieters can consume a “normal” amount of calories five days a week.
But Nicholas warns: “It’s really not a pass to go crazy and binge on junk food. If you can stick to the basics I mentioned – eat fresh vegetables, good fats, and lots of fiber – then you’ll start looking and feeling better faster and more sustainably. “
You can expect to lose about 1 lb per week on the 5:2 diet, which is a safe and sustainable amount according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (opens in a new tab) (CDC).
Is the 5:2 diet safe?
The 5:2 diet might be a good option for healthy, well-nourished people looking to lose weight, but it’s not recommended for everyone, says Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart (opens in a new tab).
- People with an eating disorder or a history of an eating disorder
- Pregnant women or women trying to conceive
- Children or teenagers
- Anyone with health problems (diabetics, thyroid disorders)
- Anyone who is underweight or malnourished
- People with low blood sugar and/or prone to dizziness and fainting
Dr Newman-Beinart says: “To be honest, it’s also not a particularly safe option for people with mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety, because a dramatic drop in calories can cause a foggy brain, dizziness and poor concentration, which could potentially exacerbate emotional disturbances.
“Intermittent fasting has been shown to have some health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved insulin metabolism, but research has generally been based on a 16/8 or 14/10 diet.
“These options mean you don’t restrict important nutrients for two out of five days each week, and when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle have been shown to be effective for weight loss.”
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice.