This is your definitive guide to 5:2 diet recipes, tips, tricks and low calorie food swaps.
What is the 5:2 diet?
The 5:2 diet plan is simple. For two non-consecutive days a week you must limit yourself to 500 calories a day (600 for men) and the rest of the time you can eat normally. Though, you may be disappointed to hear, like we were, that normally doesnt mean you can feast on takeaways and family-sized Galaxy bars, rather, you need to stick to the recommended daily calorie intake (2, 000 for women, 2, 500 for men).
How does the 5:2 diet work, then?
The 5:2 diet is essentially a fancy name for intermittent fasting. Fasting is seen as a more effective way to lose weight because by cutting down on your calorie intake intermittently, rather than all at once, your body goes into repair mode and not starvation mode. This repair mode causes the body to restore damaged cells, which uses more energy, whereas starvation mode causes your body to store fat.
So, what are the pros of the 5:2 diet?
We asked nutritionists, health writers and experts what they thought about the 5:2:
1. Your cognitive function may be improved which can help to prevent conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia.
2. Felicity Cloake, Guardian columnist and award-winning food writer says: 'The 5:2 diet is the only one I've ever tried which feels doable long-term the idea of depriving myself of anything seven days a week is so depressing I inevitably give up, but nothing seems so terrible about fasting for a single day at a time. After all, I can always have that cake tomorrow!'
3. Fasting for short periods may help to give your digestive system a rest.
4. Angela Dowden, author of The 5:2 Diet Cookbook, says: 'Fasting is a routine you can sustain and it's adaptable too - later on you can do just one day a week to keep weight off. Also it really does seem to help re-educate your eating habits, which is key to sustained weight loss.'
5. Initial studies suggest intermittent fasting may have the ability to increase lifespan.
6. Dr Sarah Schenker, author of The Fast Diet Recipe Book, says: 'Although you will find the fasting days challenging to begin with, you quickly get used to dealing with hunger pangs and some people feel empowered by fasting, others talk of a sense of freedom or relief by not having the dilemma of choosing what to eat.'
7. It may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.
8. Kate Harrison, author of The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe Book, says: 'The 5:2 is the first diet Ive ever wanted to stick with for life its incredibly simple and flexible. Plus, itll save you money and, of course, you can still enjoy your favourite dishes, so 5:2 means never having to feel guilty about food again.'
9. Fasting is believed to reduce the levels of IGF-1 in the blood (a growth hormone which seems to lead to accelerated ageing and can cause cell divisions like those found in cancer).
Sounds great, are there any cons?
1. After fasting, you may find yourself overeating.
2. Emma Woolf, Times columnist, as seen on Channel 4s Supersize Vs Superskinny, says: 'Whats wrong with 5:2? Whats right with it, more like. Its unbalanced and unhealthy, alternating fasting with feasting. Its the ultimate all-or-nothing cycle of hungry days and high-calorie days. Extreme dieting triggers over-eating, and causes mood swings. Like every other miracle diet its unsustainable over the long-term.'
3. Side effects may include difficulty sleeping, bad breath, dehydration and anxiety.
4. Fiona Nave, registered paediatric dietitian/nutritionist, says: 'It's not a sustainable diet it's a diet which will see weight rebound. There are short-term health risks to consider. People could find they get dizzy, feel sick and could even pass out. And if someone was diabetic, for example, it could be extremely dangerous.'
5. Restricting food can lead to nutrient deficiencies if your body doesn't get all the essential minerals and nutrients it needs.
6. Alan Aragon, Mens Health advisory board member, says: 'Researchers have yet to do a prospective randomised controlled trial, where they assign some people to fast and others to eat the same amount of food in a more typical pattern, then follow them both see what happens.'
7. This diet is not suitable for pregnant women, Type 1 diabetics, children or people recovering from surgery.
8. Fasting can leave you with less energy, which can affect your ability to function with daily tasks.
9. There is concern that the 5:2 diet can encourage eating disorders among vulnerable people.
So, now you know the facts, here are some 5:2 diet recipe ideas thatll keep you under the 500 calorie threshold:
Banana Oat Muffins