5/2 Diet


5/2 Diet


Although the fad around the 5/2 diet seems to have calmed down, I do occasionally still hear it cropping up. About a year and a half ago, I decided to go on the 5/2 diet after hearing of it's success stories. I managed to keep it up for about 3 months until I decided that like most diets, it wasn't worth the effort. I have now chosen to write this post, explaining my opinion of it. 

The concept

On a 5/2 diet, the idea is that twice a week you restrict your calorie intake to about 500 calories and the other 5 days you eat pretty much what you want. Normal diets tend to limit food intake every day and this is known to be unsustainable so people give up very quickly. The 5/2 diet allows you to eat freely most of the week, so one would think that it would be a diet that is easy to keep up over a long period of time. You get to choose your fast days and most people opt for week days with a few days in between each one so they can treat themselves at the weekend- eg. I chose Monday and Thursday. In theory, it is a do-able diet and for many people it is easy to fit around their schedule. It allows you to eat out, indulge and continue eating all your favourite meals. Surely that is worth it for just two 500 calorie days?

However

As I said, I was on the diet for about 3 months. In this time, I had many horribly grumpy days without food, a few wasted workouts as I lacked energy and all in all, failed to see results. I wanted to share with you my top 5 reasons why I do not believe the 5/2 diet is a good route to go down. Have a look:

5. There is nothing worse than feeling hungry
- On a fast day, it is very important to plan out your meals carefully and know what is low cal but will still keep you satisfied. Failure to do so will leave you with a rumbling stomach all day, which is obviously an extremely unenjoyable experience. Keeping to such a low calorie consumption will leave you feeling drowsy and tired and not alert for the day. This means you will not be on the ball when it comes to working or thinking as your brain needs food for energy. Not exactly ideal for school, uni or work...

4. Waste of a workout
- If you are fasting, you will not really be able to exercise. For our muscles to work efficiently, we need sufficient nutrient levels and so without a solid intake of food, you will feel dizzy and too tired to have an intense workout. Also, we make our gains from the food we consume after exercise. It is unlikely you will be able to fit in a protein shake or chicken breast into your 500 cals as a post workout snack and therefore will fail to make necessary gains.
Of course there is the option to use these fast days as rest days, but as we know, we make the gains in our rest times and so lack of proper nutrition will do nothing for us. We are only wasting the workouts we did earlier in the week.

3. Over indulging
- On the non fast days, you are in theory allowed to 'eat what you want'. However, this in a lot of cases, just turns into binge eating. 'Well I ate nothing yesterday so I can eat more today to compensate.' Yes this is technically true, but then what was the point of fasting? Your body doesn't care what day the cakes are consumed, it all just gets stored as fat...

2. Starvation mode
- When you deprive the body of food, it goes into starvation mode. This means that your metabolism slows down and any food you do eat, is stored as fat. Whilst fasting for one day at a time should not have this effect, depriving your body in the long term can do. Lets say on a normal day you consume 2000 calories, that gives a total of 11000 on a 5/2 diet week. This is a reduction of 21% of calorie intake for a normal diet. Your body is therefore likely to think it is being starved. If on normal days we are indulging in fatty, snacky food then this cannot end well.

1. Why calorie count?
- Not all calories are created equal and the 5/2 diet does not take this into account. By cutting down to 500 calories you don't leave yourself with lots of healthy option. You may see that a biscuit is only 50 calories and decide this is worth it for a 1/10 of your allowed intake. Obviously, not a healthy choice. On the other hand, a chicken breast is a very healthy choice. But weighing in at about 250 calories, it takes up over 1/2 of your daily allowance. Therefore, you wouldn't choose it.



Overall, whilst the 5/2 diet seems like a good choice, it really isn't. By limiting your calorie intake, you are likely to be missing out on key nutrients that we all need to stay healthy in our day to day life.

If you are motivated enough, clean eating everyday is the best option, however obviously many people struggle with this. My advice, like the 5/2 diet, is to start by picking 2 days a week. On these 2 days, eat clean, avoiding all snacky foods such as ice cream, biscuits, cakes, chocolate etc. Once this becomes a habit, try increasing this to 3 days, then 4 etc. Before you know it, you will be seeing the results you wanted in a healthy way!