The 5:2 diet plan shot to fame after British TV presenter, Michael Mosley, put the diet to the test for BBC2's Horizon programme (Eat, Fast and Live Longer).
This is a diet with a difference. Rather than resigning yourself to an indefinite period of food restrictions and dietary changes, you only diet for two days a week. The rest of the time you eat what you like. The ultimate ‘part-time’ diet.
How does it work?
The theory behind the diet is based on science. When we fast or greatly restrict our calorie intake, levels of a hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1) are lowered. High levels during adulthood indicates a faster turnover of new cell growth, which also increases the risk of rapidly dividing cancer cells. Lowering the level of IGF-1 by restricting calories, may therefore help protect against common diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Following this diet you can eat anything you would normally eat as long as you stick to the calorie limits on your two dieting days. This is 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women. On your ‘days off’ you eat your usual foods without calorie counting.
You can choose to eat your calorie allowance during one sitting or spread out during the day. Your two fasting days don’t have to be consecutive, so you could choose a Monday and a Thursday if you wanted.
You can eat whatever you like to make up the calories, but you are likely to find yourself choosing lower calorie foods which you can eat more of rather than, say, two chocolate bars.
How much weight can you lose?
While many find they can successfully lose weight following the diet, it isn’t a quick weight loss diet. The amount of weight lost by most people seems to be around 1-2lb per week, which is a sensible amount. Of course, those who choose to binge excessively on their ‘eat as you please’ days, are unlikely to see much in the way of weight loss.
- The freedom to eat as you please for five days each week with no thoughts of dieting;
- The diet may be easier to stick to on a longer term basis as you are not deprived of your favourite foods;
- Can help you become more ‘calorie aware’ as quickly learn foods with the lowest calories to keep you going on fast days;
- No special ‘diet’ foods to buy and no extra costs involved;
- Should result in a steady weight loss;
- Can help you become aware of how much you normally eat, or ‘mindlessly’ eat each day;
- Associated health benefits of weight loss,
- May help you live longer, though this has yet to be proved.
- Hunger and the temptation to give in on ‘fast’ days could lead to weight gain instead;
- You may feel lethargic and lacking energy on fast days;
- Some may feel tempted to overeat on non-fast days which will negate any weight loss benefits;
- The diet doesn’t teach you about healthy eating so may be nutritionally unbalanced if you eat unhealthy food;
- You need to plan ahead for fasting days. For example, no energetic sports, lunch appointments etc.
Since there hasn’t been any long term research into the benefits of following the 5:2 diet, it’s impossible to say whether or not it will help you to live longer. However, as a solution to losing weight, it can certainly work as many successful followers have found. For those that have tried and failed with other diets, this could well be the one that provides the weight loss results you’re looking for.
Always consult a doctor before commencing any weight loss or fasting plan.
If you want to try the diet and find out whether it has any effect on your IGF-1 levels, you can request an IGF test which will provide you with your IGF-1 count. After a few weeks you can retest to see whether your levels have lowered significantly or not.
IGF test – Blue Horizon Medicals
If you want to give the diet a go, you can find lots of support and helpful advice in the following 5:2 diet books which can be downloaded as an e-book or purchased as a regular hard copy. They also provide recipe ideas and calorie counted snacks and meals to help keep you going on diet days.
To Help Get You Started:
Here are a few 5:2 diet and recipe books to help get you started.