The 5:2 diet – benefits and drawbacks of periodic fasting

Last modified: December 11, 2019

A diet refers to what you eat. It doesn’t have to mean that you want to lose weight or optimise for athletic performance. However, many people associate diets with these two things. Regardless of the goal, it is a good idea to have a healthy diet that will work long term. Therefore, it is important to choose a diet that is suited to your own goals and needs. One option is the so-called 5:2 diet, which involves periodic fasting. In this case, you eat as you normally would for five days during the week, but you decrease your calorie intake for the remaining two days. The reduced number of calories can result in weight loss.

What the 5:2 diet involves

This diet involves eating normally for five days during the week and fasting for two days – which is where the name 5:2 comes from. The two fasting days should not come directly after each other, since this exposes the body to significant stress.

In this case, fasting does not mean not eating at all. During the fasting days, you eat around 1/4 of the amount of food you would normally eat. This corresponds to roughly 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. You can decide for yourself how and when you want to take in these calories. If you would like to take in a greater volume of food (larger portions), it is possible to eat a large amount of leafy green vegetables without increasing your calorie intake. If you would like to feel full, eating cheese or eggs is another approach. However, in this case you can only eat very small portions. In order to ensure that you are eating the correct number of calories, it is a good idea to use a kitchen scale and weigh the food.

Benefits

Since the number of calories is reduced during the two fasting days, it is definitely possible to lose weight with the 5:2 diet. This is true even if you continue to eat like you normally do for the remaining days. This is one of the reasons that this method is as popular as it is. For those who are overweight, a diet that reduces calories and leads to weight loss is obviously a good thing, but there are also other benefits. For example, there are sources – primarily based on animal experiments – that claim that this method can reduce both high cholesterol and blood sugar. It is said that this might reduce the risk of both diabetes and high blood pressure.

Drawbacks

In order to become healthier with the 5:2 diet, and not just lose weight, it is important to track what you eat also on the non-fasting days. This does not need to be as strict as other diets, such as the Keto or Paleo diet, but you should make sure you have a balanced and varied diet over all days of the week. Otherwise, the risk is that you will not take in all of the nutrients that your body needs. The 5:2 diet recommends three meals per day with no snacks and a reduced intake of sugar and saturated fat.

Another aspect of the 5:2 diet is that it can be challenging to be physically active during the fasting days. This is simply because you are not taking in as much energy. Because training and physical activity is a precondition for feeling well, this is not optimal. Therefore, the 5:2 diet is not recommended for those who exercise a lot.

Getting started with the 5:2 diet

If you have medical issues or suffer from a chronic disease, it is always a good idea to consult a physician or dietitian before getting started with the 5:2 diet. If you get the green light, it may be time to invest in a kitchen scale. After this, you can read about general tips and then start looking for recipes to use during your fasting days.

It is the fasting days that are the focus of the 5:2 diet. Ideally, these should not follow each other. This is because it can be beneficial to have a few days to recover. You can also be flexible with what days you’re fasting. On one week, you might fast on Monday and Wednesday. For the following week, you might fast on Tuesday and Thursday. This allows the 5:2 diet to be adjusted according to your social life.

Tips for meals

The good thing about the 5:2 diet is that you can generally continue to eat as you normally would for five days during the week. You only need to restrict your diet on two days. During the fasting days, your motivation can drop, but using different types of low-calorie smoothies, soups, salads, and other options, it is possible to create delicious and nutritious meals during these days.

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