The 5:2 fasting diet- what do we think about it?

Posted: 2013-09-09

The 5:2 fasting diet is proving to be a very popular weight loss solution as it promises to shed pounds quickly by fasting for 2 days and eating normally for the other 5. The idea is that on fasting days you only eat 500kcal for women and 600kcal for men, but then you can eat ‘normally’ for the other 5, no limits.

As you can imagine, we are not huge fans. Firstly, extreme calorie restriction triggers overeating because your body thinks it is going into starvation so it begins to crave high calorie foods. It’s not just your lack of will power, it is in our nature, and how we have survived for centuries.

The day after your first ‘fast’ day, you wake up needing and wanting food. Throughout this next day you are more likely to eat more calories than you would have normally. Also, this ‘eating normally’ doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthy. The majority of the population don’t have what we would regard a healthy diet, so to restrict calories for one day (therefore severally lacking nutrients) and then to go back to the ’normal’ diet (which is also lacking in nutrients), can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This can then cause difficulty sleeping, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue etc.

We would never recommend a fasting diet to someone who wanted to lose fat. Our reasoning for this is because when you drastically lower calories our metabolism slows down because our bodies are cleaver and don’t want to burn unnecessary calories, so we start to burn less calories. The hormone testosterone is then decreased and the hormone estrogen increased.

Testosterone can help massively with fat loss, not to mention having a positive impact on mood, motivation and alertness. This change in hormones and metabolism means that once you have lost ‘weight’ (weight, not necessarily all fat!), you plateau, and then slowly start to ease back into your old ways, the weight will come back on - and probably more. What you used to eat is now too much for your metabolism to cope with, so the extra energy is stored as fat.

Exercise is something that a lot of people trying to lose weight start to do. On a fasting diet it is not safe to do. This is because calories are so low that it puts the body under a lot of stress, then you go along and exercise and it introduces more stress to an already stressed body! This can cause a lot of nutrient deficiencies and long term health complications.

Like all diets, it is not sustainable and it doesn't address the underlying eating habits. A sensible eating plan where you don’t get hungry is the best way to go. This keeps the metabolism fired up, all hormones in check, high nutrient intake and the feeling of satiety. All of these put together equals a successful and sustained fat loss.

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