Personally I’ve never tried The Fast Diet, commonly called the 5:2 diet, however while I’ve researched it today for this post it came to my attention that I probably should. It’s very simple in its approach, you eat normally for five days and then have a reduced calorie intake on the other two days, I think the only problem I would have is that sitting at my desk all day I turn to food when I’m avoiding the inbox. A habit I intend to break.
So what is The Fast Diet? Well it was created by Michael Mosley, he has a book on it and everything, and as above it is very simply a fasting diet, but on just two days. Michael recommends that on your two fast days, which could be taken on any days, either consecutively, on alternate days or just random, that women consume 500 calories and men 600 calories, a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake.
On the days you’re fasting you should eat high protein and high fibre food such as meat, fish and vegetables, avoiding refined carbs and sugars such as pasta, rice and potatoes. You should consume no or low calories drinks such as tea and coffee, as well as lots of water and snack on things like almonds and carrots, avoid alcohol which is bursting with calories, and do some fasted exercise should you wish. The exercise shouldn’t be intense training, and if you feel light headed or ‘uncomfortable’ you should stop – pretty reasonable – but as there has been proven benefits of fasted cardio I would definitely encourage a pre-brekkie run.
The 5:2 diet also encourages you to have a fasting buddy – that would probably be a lot easier for me as they could smack chocolate from my hands when I’m craving its sweet goodness – and to fast on days when you’re busier, I guess to distract you. However, you shouldn’t be too busy that you would end up exhausted and hungry.
You’re probably thinking ‘what about non-fasting days?’ It’s pretty common knowledge that the
normal calorie intake of women is 2,000 per day, while men it is 2,500 and while you can follow this as a guideline, The Fast Diet website has a nifty tool that calculates your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – your resting calories basically, so how many calories you’d burn if you did naff all in a day – as well as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) – or as it says, how many calories you should be eating to maintain your weight. Eating the right amount of calories, and not overeating on non-fast days is key to the 5:2 diet, it’s not that you need to calorie count just eat normally.
If you stick to the 5:2 diet you should lose 1lb a week if you’re a women and slightly more if you’re a man. Intermittent fasting is back by scientists around the world, and has been known to help with diabetes as it promotes insulin sensitivity, lowers cholesterol, and helps with dementia and cancer. I’m a little sceptical but otherwise it seems pretty effective.
But a day in the fasting world is not a day in the real world because if your last meal is at 7pm Sunday, your next meal won’t be until Tuesday morning. So that is over 24 hours, right? Well there isn’t any specifics according to Michael. It is 36 hours if you fast from your last evening meal to the breakfast two days later, but if you choose to fast from 2pm one day to 2pm the next, well, that is 24 hours. It’s using your judgement. I’d be curious to know if there is any studies to find the benefits, if any, of a 36 hour fasting compared to 24 hours.
And if you don’t lose weight? The diet is flexible. So it could be the 4:3 diet if you wanted it to be, or alternate day fasting (ADF) which is pretty much what it says on the tin but could lead you to lose 2lbs a week instead of 1lb.
Who can’t 5:2? Well, a lot of people, but essentially starving your body for a day wouldn’t be for everyone would it. If you are already underweight, pregnant, recovering from an operation, recovering from an eating disorder, type 1 diabetic or someone in frail health – so an elderly person – then you are discouraged from the 5:2 diet. So what if you’re of normal weight? Again, it’s not aimed at you, sorry, but the few studies they’ve conducted on people of normal weight following the fast method have found some benefits, so it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable for you to do it.
The only drawbacks I see are the initial cravings and potential hunger pains, but as someone who went from a high calorie diet to less than 1000 calories a day, I know that that subsides over time. After a few weeks, a month max, you’ll be more tolerant and as Michael says you won’t be dominated by the fear of hunger.
All of this can be found in Michael’s book The Fast Diet, his revised versions and Fast Exercise should you wish to find out more, or visit the website here.
Do you follow the 5:2 diet? Share your progress, thoughts or feels below.