The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting and involves eating normally for five days each week, and partial fasting for the other two days. The diet began in the UK, spread to Europe, the USA and more recently to Australia.
Like most diets, the 5:2 diet claims to be the one and only diet that helps achieve long term weight loss and is said to have many health benefits besides. As is the case with all fad diets, some of the practices are quite extreme, the research is inconclusive, but there are plenty of people lining up to try the diet and buy 5:2 diet books.
Also known as the FastDiet, this diet basically involves intermittent fasting, where practioners eat ‘normally’ (whatever they want) for five days each week, and consuming restricted calories on the other two days of the week. These two restricted days are supposed to be non-consecutive.
On fasting days, men are allowed to eat 600 calories (2500 kJ) and women 500 calories (2100 kJ).
You can consume these calories however you choose on fasting days, but most people typically have two equal sized meals, usually consumed at breakfast and dinner, or breakfast and lunch. To drink, you can have nothing but water, black coffee or green tea.
The 5:2 diet has some similarities with the Paleo diet, in that it has its foundation in evolution theory. Unlike the Paleo diet, which assumes that our bodies aren’t evolved sufficiently to cope with modern foods, the 5:2 diet assumes that our bodies aren’t equipped to cope with a constant supply of food. Our ancestors lived lives of famine and feast, and that’s what our body is built for, so the theory goes.
It also has similarities to the Dukan Diet, which also advocates on/off fasting.
- You can continue to enjoy foods you like to eat (on non-fasting days)
- Typical weight loss is around 0.5kg per week
- Dieting for only two days a week may be easier than dieting everyday
- Intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious medical conditions
- Intermittent fasting may assist in the prevention of cognitive degeneration diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- It’s really, really hard to do
- Coordinating your fast days around your family and friends can be difficult
- Many people don’t usually last long on the diet - hunger is the most common reason people quit diets
- There is limited evidence of the diet's safety and effectiveness
- There are no carbs on fasting days
- Sleep problems
- Bad breath (commonly associated with Ketosis)
- Lethargy which may affect your ability to exercise (an important part of maintaining a healthy weight)
What 500 or 600 calories per day looks like
To assist you to see what a typical fasting day might look like, here are some breakfast and dinner recipe combinations that add up to approximately 500 and 600 calories:
Bircher Muesli (244 Calories per serve)
Chinese Vegetable Stir Fry (272 Calories per serve)
Spinach & Sweet Potato Frittata (255 Calories per serve)
Garlic Prawn Risotto (327 Calories per serve)
The 5:2 diet may not be suitable for pregnant women and people with specific health conditions, such as diabetes, or a history of eating disorders.
Anyone considering this diet should first consult with their doctor.
This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
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