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How to Limit Calories on the 5:2 Diet's Fasting Days

The 5:2 Diet allows 500 calories to women and 600 calories to men for the two modified fasting days each week. But what does 500 or 600 calories look like? Well, depending on your food choices, they may not look like much. That's where your understanding of the GI, as well as knowing how to make optimal food choices, is the key to your 5:2 Diet success.

On your fasting days, you should choose foods that keep you satisfied and that also stay within the 500- or 600-calorie per day limits. You can do this by selecting foods that are higher in protein and that have low GI scores. This strategy can help keep your blood sugar on an even keel and keep you feeling satiated.

Choosing foods that have a low GI score and/or that are higher in protein will make sure that you don't experience any wild blood sugar swings, subsequent food cravings, or that uncomfortable empty feeling in your stomach.

Doing so doesn't mean that you have to live on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet forever, but on your two fasting days each week, we do advocate choosing those types of foods.

Furthermore, remember that eating 500 or 600 calories on your fasting days doesn't guarantee that you won't be hungry at all. When you consider how much you eat during the day or what kinds of foods you typically eat, 500 or 600 calories is really just a drop in the bucket.

For example, if your typical morning involves a large sugar-laden latte and a bagel with cream cheese from your favorite coffee shop, you may be consuming your entire fasting day's caloric limits before you're even halfway done with breakfast.

Not only that, due to the high GI scores coupled with the moderate to low amounts of protein in those foods, the rise (and fall) in blood sugar that you'll inevitably experience will make it that much more difficult to complete a successful fast.

On the other hand, instead of buying your typical high carbohydrate to moderate-to-low protein breakfast, you choose a cup of black coffee or green tea, a hard-boiled egg, one strip of bacon, and a bowl of strawberries, you'll have consumed less than 250 calories, which isn't even half of your fasting day caloric limit.

Even better, you've now chosen an all-around healthier breakfast, you'll stay fuller longer, and even when you start feeling hungry again, it will be a mild, tolerable feeling, not a crash-and-burn one.

Here are plenty of other tips you can employ to ensure your successful completion of two fasting days per week:

  • Fasting days are not no-fat days, but they are low fat. So apply healthy fats judiciously (for example, a teaspoon of olive oil on a mixed-green salad rather than an unmeasured amount that drenches everything).

  • If you need that full-stomach feeling, opt for salad. Overdoing your caloric limit on dark leafy greens is difficult, so you can eat extra spring mix or baby spinach leaves. Just be sure to check how much healthy fat you're adding.

  • Opt for healthy fats. Whether you're on a fasting day or not, be sure to opt for healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, ghee, or organic butter from grass-fed cows.

  • More flavor equals more satisfaction. The more flavorful a food is, the more satisfied you'll feel eating it. Adding some lemon or orange juice or some citrus zest to your meals can add that flavorful punch to really brighten the foods you're eating and make them more enjoyable.

  • To get the most accurate calorie count, weigh and measure your food after it's been prepared. Doing so does require a kitchen scale. Kitchen scales are relatively inexpensive. You can purchase one online or in most stores that have a cooking/kitchen section.

  • Avoid white starchy carbohydrates on fasting days. These white carbs, which include white bread, white rice, pasta, and white potatoes, have high GI scores. If you eat them, you'll experience a not-so-welcome insulin surge and blood sugar crash. Instead, stick to fresh fruits and vegetables to help curb your carb cravings.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Thirst can often mask itself as hunger. So grab a cup of herbal, green, or unsweetened black tea, a cup of black coffee, or a big glass of water and see how you feel afterward. Doing so not only can help fill your stomach, but it can also take your mind off the hunger.

    The human body is more than 70 percent liquid, so drink at least eight cups of fluids — especially water — each day. On fasting days, drink even more fluid than that, in the range of 10 to 12 eight-ounce glasses.

    Want something refreshing to drink that isn't plain water, coffee, or tea? Try infusing filtered water with cucumber and mint or strawberries. Add some ice (but if you're in the middle of a fast, skip eating the fruit) and enjoy!

  • Steer clear of alcoholic beverages on your fasting days. A 2012 study found that many Americans consume more than 300 calories per day from alcohol. That's a lot of empty calories when you're limited to 500 or 600 on your two weekly fasting days.

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