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What Is the 5:2 Diet?

By Rachael Attard, Updated Jul 30, 2018
what is the 5:2 diet

Whether you’re looking to start dieting or are just interested in a change, you’ll know that there are hundreds of different diet plans available.  I’ve been interested in the 5:2 diet for a while and thought it was time to share with you the answer to what is the 5:2 diet?

A Quick Overview

In a nutshell, the 5:2 diet means you eat normally for five days and fast, or partially fast, for the other two.

The interesting thing about this diet is that it is really more of an eating plan that a traditional diet. There are very few restrictions on what you should be eating.

In fact, this is a great diet for anyone who is busy. For 5 days you can eat normally. You don’t even need to think about your calorie count.
what is the 5:2 diet

Understanding The Fast

The 5:2 diet requires that you fast for the other two days per week.

It is important to note that these do not have to be consecutive days. In fact, it is better to try and space them out. A good approach is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays. This will prevent your diet interfering with your weekend activities.

On your fast days, you are still allowed to eat. But, your calorie intake must be restricted to a quarter of your daily needs. This is approximately 500 calories a day for most women.
what is the 5:2 diet

Eating On Fast Days

You will only be eating very small meals to stay under your maximum amount. The best approach is to choose foods high in fiber and protein, such as fruit, vegetables, grilled fish, whole grains, and beans. Avoid high-fat foods as these are higher in calories.

Fruit smoothies are great because they are full of fiber! Also, they are delicious, super-easy to make and healthy, like this one. You can also add some oats to help you fill you up. And soup is also a good idea as research shows it makes you feel fuller, compared to eating the ingredients separately. You can also add a piece of wholegrain bread.

You can choose to eat once, twice or three times per day (it doesn’t really matter). But you must stay within your total calorie count.

When fasting you can drink water, tea, and coffee. But, you must remember that if you have milk and sugar, this will count towards your calorie intake.
what is the 5:2 diet

Why Fasting Works

The 5:2 diet is simply another approach to reducing your weekly caloric intake. The basis of this is that your weekly intake is approximately 3,000 less than it needs to be. This assumes that you eat only your caloric need on non-fast days (i.e. just eat normally).

But, fasting actually does more than just restrict your calorie intake.

Research suggests that fasting for a period of 8 hours or more can retrain your body to start burning fat for energy instead of sugar from food. 

You can easily go over 8 hours without food when you sleep. By opting for just lunch and dinner you can extend the time of the fast to get the maximum benefits.

This fat burning stage is known as ketosis. It is the same process that is adopted in the keto diet. The difference is that you are doing it for short periods of time; not constantly depriving your body of glucose.

In fact, intermittent fasting has been linked with several other health benefits:

  • Reduce the effects of aging by maintaining the youthful state of the mitochondrial in your cells.
  • Cells repair faster.
  • Lowers insulin resistance, decreasing the likelihood of you contracting type 2 diabetes
  • Decreases inflammation in your body.
  • Can improve heart health.

what is the 5:2 diet

How To Start The 5:2 Diet

  • You simply need to pick two days when you will reduce your calorie intake. If 2 days seems like too much, you can always just start with 1 day per week and see how you go.
  • Stick to your normal eating plan on the other days.
  • Create a meal plan for your fasting day and stick to it. Try to get the most amount of fiber and nutrients you can for under 500 calories. Fruit and veggies are where it’s at!
  • Keep a low-calorie snack handy in case you feel faint.
  • Tell your friends and family to ensure they support you.

That’s it! The 5:2 diet is so simple that anyone can start today without having to do any preparation.

But, it is important that you stop if you are feeling unwell and if this continues you visit your doctor.

It is normal to feel hungry and even anxious when you first start fasting. This should pass after doing it a few times; making it a relatively simple process.
what is the 5:2 diet

When Not To Fast

You should be aware that if you are suffering from any of the following, intermittent fasting is not the right eating plan for you:

  • If you have a history of eating disorders.
  • When you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Any woman attempting to conceive, especially if this involves fertility treatment.
  • You’ve already lost a lot of weight and may have nutritional issues.
  • You have issues with adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems or hypoglycaemia.
  • It might also be a good idea to avoid fasting at the start of your menstrual cycle.

what is the 5:2 diet

Fasting It Up

The 5:2 diet requires a basic understanding of food to ensure you know how many calories you are consuming. If you’re not sure, here you can find out how to calculate your daily food intake

For it to be truly effective, you need to keep your calorie intake below 2,000 on the 5 normal days and at or below 500 on your fasting days.

Remember to keep drinking water, it hydrates you and keeps you feeling full!

Would love to hear from anyone who has tried the 5:2 diet? What was your experience? xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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One comment on “What Is the 5:2 Diet?”

    Mai says:

    Hi! Is it ok for me to intermittent fast on the two days of the 5:2 diet (not eating breakfast)? Will this help me lose fat especially around my stomach thanks! xx