This article is for those of you that don’t feel like you need to read a huge treaty just to get to grips with the 5:2 diet. It’s pretty simple really, and it doesn’t take much to understand it. In the UK this has now become a huge phenomena, ever since it was mentioned in the BBC programme about fasting on 5th September 2012. Actually, the day before I published this article, here in the UK there was an article on the 5/2 fasting Diet in the Sunday Times supplement.
Fasting is something that we recommend, we go into detail about it in the Lean Ape Living book, now also available for the kindle and in print in the US or the UK, but not the 5:2 diet specifically. In fact, there is nothing revolutionary about the ratios, it’s just a simple way for people to set themselves a target for their eating habits. I covered Intermittent Fasting in general in the guide to IF, but today I wanted to talk a little bit about this specific way of eating, which is just one of many approaches to IF in general.
First let’s recap on IF, then go over the 5 and 2 diet.
Intermittent Fasting (often abbreviated to IF) is basically just a way of eating that involves missing meals, or severely restricting the calories eaten at meal time. There are a myriad of approaches, from skipping breakfast, to eating once a day, to going 24 hours without food, to extended fasts covering a few days or more.
The beauty of this approach is that we can chop and change it to suit our lifestyle, our needs, and when we find we get most hungry throughout the day.
And this is where the 5/2 diet comes in.
What is the 5:2 Diet?
This approach, and it is one that has become very popular here in the UK right now, not sure about the US, will have us eating whatever we want (within reason) on 5 days of the week. And for 2 days, either consecutively or spread throughout the week, we severely limit our calories. Or eliminate them totally.
The approach that has become the most popular in the UK is one where you simply limit your calorific intake to 500-600 calories a day on the fasting days, and actually still eat 3 meals.
The issue with this as I see it is that it may be counter-productive to try to eat 3 meals that contain such a small amount of overall calories. But that really is down to personal choice. You may be better off simply having one meal within the 24 hour window and making it more substantial. Maybe something from Alexis’s Low Carb Cookbook (Death to Pasta). Only $1.99 in the US and a steal in the UK (hint!): UK Edition.
But whichever approach you take you will be eating minimally for 24 hours. I would recommend missing breakfast personally, so that you can at least make two meals slightly more filling. But for many people the idea of missing breakfast goes against what they have led to believe is right.
Missing breakfast has been a total eye-opener for us, we hardly ever eat it now, and it is still the approach I believe works best for weight loss, and for staying lean. But the 5 and 2 diet is certainly a great step in the right direction.
Implementing the 5:2 Fast Diet
The best way to go about getting the most from the 5:2 fasting diet is to be sensible. You may well have read that you can eat whatever you want on the days you are not fasting, but this is simply not going to be the case. If you force-feed yourself on regular eating days then you are simply not going to reap the weight loss benefits this approach can have.
But if you eat sensibly, or just as you usually do on regular days, then the 5 and 2 diet will work very well indeed.
Most people will find that on the day after the fast they are hungrier than normal, this is to be expected. So overall calories will be up slightly. But the beauty of this approach is that you wil not eat twice as much as normal, not unless you totally force yourself to do so.
So overall your calorie levels are going to be well down for the week as a whole, and the result? Well, pretty obvious really, right?
Maximizing How the 5:2 Diet works
To get the absolute best results I would really recommend that you try to eat totally minimally during the day, and eat the majority of your calories on the fasting day in the evening. This has a number of benefits:
- You have something to look forward to all day
- You will be burning more fat for fuel throughout the day
- You can be more sociable as you can eat a decent meal with family/ friends etc.
- You will be a lot less hungry the following morning
And point 4 is what can really make a difference to how well you do on the diet. By eating in the evening, and having most of the days calories then on the fasting day, you won’t wake up with quite such an appetite.
Although 500 or so calories is not very many you can still eat a decent meal if you have most of them in one sitting, so this is certainly something to consider.
But overall the one thing to bear in mind with this approach to eating is that for 2 days of the week you limit severely the amount of calories you consume.
Or you eat none at all.
Does the 5 and 2 Diet Work?
It does, that is the bottom line.
Unless you pig out big style the day following the fast you are going to lose weight. IF is about the absolute best lifestyle choice you could make if you want to lose weight. Skipping meals, as long as you still eat sensibly, can see the weight fall off you at an incredible rate.
We continually lose weight when we want to by now eliminating breakfast. You stay in fat burning mode until you eat, and it cuts down the total number of calories for the day with ease.
By doing the 5 and 2 diet you get a similar result.
Minimal calories for 2 days means you cut down on the food you eat over the course of the week, it is as simple as that really.
Although there are whole books now dedicated to this way of eating there is not really a simpler way to lose weight.
Eat less for a few days a week, or like us, eat less every day you want to lose weight, and lose weight you will.
A Few Notes of Caution
The problem with this way of eating, as with anything labeled a “diet”, is that they are often only short term solutions. As soon as we use the word “diet” we are asking for trouble really.
We much prefer to encourage people to change their eating habits for good. If the 5:2 fasting diet is going to be a permanent part of your life then great, you will get leaner. But if you are just going to do it for a few weeks, then revert back to eating in a manner that made you put weight on in the first place, then it may not be such a great idea.
Bad habits can return with a vengeance, and you may end up being worse off, and heavier, than before you started. People have a nasty habit of binging as soon as they stop the diet they are on.
My recommendation would be to think about this as a lifestyle change for life. If eating less for 2 days a week is something you can do over the long term then I say go for it.
Or think about what we recommend, simply missing breakfast and enjoying the freedom this gives you.
Don’t Forget the Other Very Important Factor
Our approach is not just about diet. And the sad fact is that all diets often gloss over a point that is so very important: exercise.
It is very important that the weight that you lose on any kind of diet is not just weight but fat. When you under eat you lose fat and muscle as well, and this is not going to result in you looking your best.
We recommend hard exercise 2-3 times a week, with a higher number of calories and carbohydrates on those days. It allows you to build some muscle whilst losing weight, or at the very least keep the muscle mass you already have. In this way it allows you to get lean and look hot!
You look toned, and you look healthy.
So don’t forget that if you are going to try to lose weight then exercise is more important than ever before. You will NOT lose just fat from your body unless you exercise to keep the muscle. If you do not exercise to try to get stronger and build some muscle then you are doing yourself a total injustice. Plus it is actually fun too!
The extra benefit to the exercise is that you will make your metabolism run a lot faster.
And the result is faster fat loss, not just weight loss but fat loss. Exactly what we want, right?
There we have it, a quick primer to the 5 and 2 fasting diet for FAT LOSS; if you implement it correctly.
Hope this article has helped? Are you going to try it? Have you done it and got good results?
UPDATE: Here are a few common questions that I have been asked since this article was first published:
Do I recommend the 5 2 Diet?
Sure, as long as you take note of the above, i.e. exercise. To be honest I recommend that you read our book and follow an eating plan that is sustainable for life. There are countless variations on fasting diets, but the easiest to implement as far as I am concerned is to simply skip breakfast. But the cycling of carbs from day to day, depending on if you exercise, is going to make weight loss a lot easier for many people.
5:2 Diet and exercise?
Very important. As with any diet. If you follow this way of eating then ensure that you exercise on days that you eat normally. Not on fasted days. We follow a plan that gives you higher carb days on exercise days, to build a good looking body and to maximize the effects of the higher carb foods without putting on fat. And this is what I would recommend.
Best way to do a fast diet?
My preference is to simply skip breakfast. It means you can fast every day, burn fat all morning each and every day, but then eat well for the remainder of the day.
How long to do the 5:2 fast diet?
You can do it for life, if you have the willpower! Or simply find that it is not as much of a challenge as you thought. Although we don’t do this particular form of fasting, we do fast every day buy missing morning meals. And the effects have been quite astounding. Find a plan that you can handle, and stick with it. Results come from consistency.