What is the 5/2 Diet | Benefits | How to Start the 5/2 Diet | Tips for Eating | Who Shouldn’t Try the 5/2 Diet | Potential Side Effects
Fasting has a long history and has proven to have various health benefits. Fasting is not a diet but is an eating regime and should be included in every healthy individual’s lifestyle. The unique feature of the 5:2 diet (5/2 diet) is you can eat pretty much whatever you like for five days of the week. It is a simple weight loss strategy that is easy to follow.
A study conducted on evolutionary principles says that the agricultural revolution and modern technologies have dramatically reduced or eliminated vigorous exercise and fasting. The study results indicate that intermittent fasting and exercise enhance your critical thinking and are also essential for optimal health. Fasting reduces the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, also the occurrence of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the 5:2 diet, also known as the 5/2 fasting diet or 5 2 fasting diet, by cutting down your calorie intake just for two days, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. People find it easier to stick to as it gives them the freedom to eat normally for 5 days of the week.
What is the 5:2 Diet?
5/2 (5:2) intermittent fasting is a modified fasting regime that allows the consumption of 20–25% of energy needs on your fasting days. You will follow severe energy restrictions for 2 non-consecutive days a week with eating as desired for the remaining 5 days. The 5:2 diet is a type of intermittent fasting. Generally, a person eats 2000 calories a day; hence eating 500 to 600 calories on fasting days is considered ideal in this diet.
Another important thing to note is, fasting should be done on alternate days and not on consecutive days. This helps to balance your nutritional requirements. You should space out your fasting days and fast, for example, on Mondays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Saturdays. This diet gives you more flexibility and is simple to follow.
Benefits of 5:2 Diet
1. Helps In Weight Loss
Obesity is a major health concern, and the focus of most diets is to achieve fat burn. Abstinence of food allows you to use the stored fat for energy. Intermittent fasting is an excellent strategy for weight loss and also has some independent health benefits. Eating for a set period of time makes you eat fewer calories. Intermittent fasting boosts your metabolism and shows promising results on fat loss and insulin sensitivity.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity indicated that intermittent fasting leads to considerable weight loss in obese men.
When we stop snacking between meals, our insulin levels go down. This facilitates the release of stored sugar from fat cells leading to weight loss. Intermittent fasting influences your hormone function; it lowers insulin level, enhances growth hormones and norepinephrine, which facilitates fat burning. It also increases the metabolic rate, thus helping you lose weight.
2. Improves Your Hormone Functions
During your fasting period, various changes take place in your body. The changes in hormonal function initiate cellular repair and healing of your body.
Intermittent fasting mainly affects these hormones;
One of the most significant benefit of intermittent fasting is lowering insulin levels. When you consume food, it increases your calorie levels resulting in the release of insulin. The most effective way of lowering insulin is to avoid food, exactly what intermittent fasting does during the fasting window. Lowered insulin means more fat is burned.
Growth hormone enhances the breakdown and utilization of fat by reducing both lipoprotein lipase activity and insulin’s inhibitory action on hormone-sensitive lipase. It also preserves muscle protein, muscle mass, and bone density.
According to studies, fasting enhances growth hormone secretion, which helps to preserve the muscles as well as burn fat.
- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
Dietary restriction in intermittent fasting decreases energy consumption without compromising any nutritional value. It brings some powerful changes in the metabolic processes of the brain by increasing stress resistance, breaking down fats and ketogenic amino acids. With neuroprotective effect, BDNF helps in the generation of new nerve cells, enhances cognitive functions and learning.
Intermittent fasting increases the production of BDNF, leading to the prevention of dysfunction and dysregulation of neurons.
3. Reduces The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Many health professionals recommend dietary interventions for managing diabetes.
A diet regimen that lowers insulin resistance and blood sugar levels can be beneficial in type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting improves morning fasting glucose levels and reduces postprandial variability.
Intermittent fasting is a simple and accessible nutrition intervention. It results in significant improvements in diabetic glucose control. According to experts, it is a safe and tolerable diet for diabetic patients that results in zero incidences of hypoglycemia. It often leads to weight loss by reducing caloric consumption, which is beneficial for many people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Improves Heart Health
Intermittent fasting is a calorie restriction diet that reduces body weight and improves various cardiovascular risk factors. It is believed to lower blood pressure, insulin resistance and increase heart rate variability. Studies have indicated that when the frequency of eating is reduced, it results in better cardiovascular stress adaptation. This lowers cardiovascular risk factors.
Alternate day fasting reduces age-related inflammation and fibrosis. Intermittent fasting guards your heart against ischemic injury and helps in recovering post-myocardial infarction (MI) via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
5. Delays Aging Process
Oxidative stress is the primary cause of certain chronic diseases and aging. Intermittent fasting improves your body’s resistance to oxidative stress and helps fight inflammation.
Calorie restriction reduces the release of growth factors like growth hormone and insulin. This reduces the accelerating aging process and mortality in many. Intermittent fasting allows your body to repair cells and DNA, thereby improving health and longevity. Also, reducing chronic inflammation, intermittent fasting helps people live with a better quality of life.
6. Triggers Autophagy
Diet interventions promote metabolic and cellular changes resulting in adaptation to periods of limited nutrient availability. This nutrient starvation activates autophagy. The term “autophagy” means “self-eating,” where damaged and unwanted cells are eaten up by the body.
Autophagy plays a vital role in tumor suppression; hence it is associated with the prevention of cancer. It optimizes your body’s functioning by creating new cells and removing disintegrated ones.
7. May Prevent Cancer
Periodic fasting has a powerful anti-cancer effect. Cancer cells are vulnerable to nutrient deprivation and are significantly dependent on certain metabolites. Fasting brings alteration in growth factors and metabolite levels. Fasting creates an environment where cancer cells lose their ability to adapt and survive. According to research studies, fasting also improves the effects of cancer therapy and reduces the side effects of the treatment.
Glucose is the fuel for most cells, including cancer cells. Fasting leads to a glucose-depleted state that stops or alters this growth. Intermittent fasting also enhances your immune cells making them more effective against cancer cells.
8. Helps You Sleep Deeper
If you are struggling with sleep issues, eating close to bedtime can be one of the reasons. When you follow a regular eating pattern, your body gets adapted to a consistent sleep schedule. By building a strong circadian rhythm, intermittent fasting helps you sleep better and deeper.
A pilot study has revealed that periods of fasting promote sleep quality and reduce nighttime awakening. The study also indicated that fasting increased daytime performance.
Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting activate various cellular responses, which improve autophagy, bring hormonal balance, and prevent the risk of chronic diseases. Following fasting patterns increases your healthy life span and prevents oxidative and metabolic stresses.
The 5:2 diet makes you aware of your eating habits and meal portions. You learn to follow mindful eating and choose nutritious food with this diet.
Intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting brings similar results as that of daily calorie restrictions. Periodic fasting pattern is believed to help in weight loss, cardiovascular health, and improved insulin resistance.
A 12-week controlled weight-loss trial revealed that the modified fasting regime like the 5/2 diet combined with physical exercise brings significant weight loss.
For a more detailed explanation of the health benefits of intermittent fasting, read here.
Also want to see the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting results page – click that link.
How to Start the 5:2 Diet?
The 5:2 is a simple and straightforward diet. You will choose two non-consecutive days of the week for your fasting. On those fasting days, you will eat small meals, restrict your calorie intake, and on other days you will eat normally.
By choosing non-consecutive days for fasting, you avoid feeling emotional exhaustion or hunger; this increases your chances of sticking to this diet regime. When you follow the 5:2 diet regularly, it becomes easier and more satisfying. Continuing the same diet routine for at least three months is recommended to experience any positive results.
However, on non-fasting days eating normally means eating as much as your body needs for daily functioning and not overindulging. You should avoid binge eating and choosing unhealthy processed foods on your eating days. If you eat uncontrollably, you will not get the results as expected.
Tips for Eating on Fasting Days
The 5:2 fasting diet should be high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate, and a low fiber diet. With this type of micro and macronutrient intake, the 5:2 is believed to be a safe and acceptable weight-loss diet strategy.
There is no perfect way of eating on fasting days. Every individual is different, and you will have to plan your meals based on your needs. Some prefer light breakfast to start the day while some delay their first meal to get through the day.
You can choose any of these eating patterns;
- Three small meals as breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Having only breakfast and late lunch
- Having a single meal as dinner
The main aim is to reduce your calorie intake. Choose high-fiber, high-protein meals that will keep you full for longer.
You can consider eating;
- Boiled eggs
- Lean meat
- Grilled fish
- Non-caloric tea or coffee
- Plenty of water
There is no specific way of eating; you can choose based on your preference. If you need help in planning suitable meals for you, you can select a customized meal plan here.
Avoid eating processed food, excess fat, and refined carbohydrates to limit your calorie intake. Remember, you can drink water and other non-caloric beverages on your fasting days. Take a look at intermittent fasting safe drinks here.
Who Shouldn’t Try the 5:2 Diet?
Intermittent fasting and 5:2 diet generally are safe for healthy adults. However, people who should avoid any kind of dietary restrictions or fast are;
- people with a history of eating disorder
- pregnant and lactating mothers
- someone having a nutritional deficiency
- a person experiencing extreme variations in blood sugar
- children and teenagers
If you have any underlying health condition, then consult your doctor before following any fasting routine. But if you are a healthy adult and want to shed some weight and live a healthy lifestyle, the 5/2 diet is a great option.
Potential Side Effects of the 5:2 Diet
Generally, you may experience headaches, severe hunger, fatigue, irritability, difficulty in concentrating, and mood swings during any fasting diet. During the 5:2 diet, you may feel extreme hunger after fasting days, leading to unintentional overeating. Also, making unhealthy food choices can result in weight gain.
If you experience extreme hunger, try to drink water or tea and meditate or take a nap. Such side effects will disappear once your body gets accustomed to your diet routine. If you experience any severe symptoms, consult your healthcare provider.
You can also check our guide on Intermittent Fasting side effects and how to overcome them.
It is a well-known fact that every fasting interval can improve metabolic biomarkers and thus enhance insulin sensitivity. Adapting to a 5:2 fasting regime is a feasible and sustainable diet strategy to promote overall health. It is a simple diet and has no complicated meal planning or calorie counting.
You need to make conscious efforts to adapt to the 5:2 diet and make healthy food choices. In a way, it helps you in mindful eating and brings a positive impact on your health. The results of this diet are promising. If you can follow regular eating and not eating intervals comfortably, it can bring great results.
I recommend starting here to learn more fasting – with the Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting.
Also need help fasting? Check out these Top 6 Fasting Mobile Apps we recommend to help you on your journey.