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The Upsides and Downsides to the 5:2 Diet

The benefits of the 5:2 Diet are similar to other fasting methods, but some people may not find it as restrictive as, say, the full 24-hour, no-calorie intermittent fasting method.

The pros of the 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 Diet aims at promoting a healthy and, most importantly, sustainable lifestyle. In this fasting method, you need only to fast twice per week, but unlike other fasting methods, due to its modifications, you'll most likely never go more than 12 hours without eating — and much of your fasting time will occur during sleeping hours.

Some of the pros of the 5:2 Diet include the following:

  • You'll never go a full day without eating. With the start of a new week, having your first fast day fall on Monday may make the most sense for you. But again, pick what works best for you. Just know that you never have to fast for a full day.

  • You have flexibility in choosing which days to fast each week. Those days may vary from week to week, depending on your engagements and obligations. You may find that fasting not from dinner to dinner but from lunch to lunch is most convenient for you. You're allowed to do so.

    While following the 5:2 Diet, you're encouraged to make it your own. Play with what days and times work best for you. It's more important to complete two successful modified fasts per week than to force yourself into following a rigid schedule of fasting days/times. To that end, because family and social functions typically occur on Saturdays and Sundays, you may find it best to avoid fasting on the weekends.

    To avoid getting burnt out on fasting, try not to fast on consecutive days. The emotional and psychological challenges that a back-to-back fast pose may set you up for failure or for an overly indulgent feast on your next day back to normal eating. Besides, as the science has shown, the majority of fasting benefits are had within the first 16 hours. There's no need to push further and make yourself miserable.

  • You have the freedom to enjoy food without guilt with common sense. Because the 5:2 Diet only requires a biweekly fast, you're left with five days in which to eat as you normally would eat. However, doing so doesn't mean overcompensating or treating yourself for having made it through your fast days. This fasting method works on the premise that you're greatly restricting your weekly caloric intake.

    Though you may feel like you've earned it, don't go hog wild on your nonfasting days. Eat sensibly, and don't try to make up for the calories you didn't eat by piling on second — or third — helpings, treating yourself to extra dessert, or by grazing constantly throughout the day. If you try to make up for those calories in the other five days, you won't be getting the benefits of the 5:2 Diet. Let fasting work its magic!

  • You experience a reduction in body fat. Because your weekly calorie consumption will be lower, you can expect an overall reduction in your body fat levels in a safe and reasonable manner.

  • It's uncomplicated with no tricky rules to follow. You simply eat as you normally would five days out of the week. The other two days, you stick to either 500 calories (for women) or 600 calories (for men).

As with all fasting methods, expect opposition. If it's one of your biweekly fasts, expect doughnuts to show up at the office or your friend to invite you out to an impromptu happy hour. Life happens, but remember, whatever you're craving or confronted with on a fast day will be there tomorrow. Delayed gratification is enhanced gratification.

The cons of the 5:2 Diet

On the 5:2 Diet you don't abstain from food entirely; you simply restrict how many calories you eat some of the time. You still get to eat breakfast and dinner on your fasting days, although the meals are quite small. Here are a couple disadvantages of the 5:2 Diet:

  • You don't achieve a full fast. On the 5:2 Diet you don't completely abstain from food on your fasting days, which means that you still experience a rise in blood sugar during your fast. A rise in blood sugar can stall fat loss. It can also make you uncomfortably hungry in the middle of your fast as your body comes down from the rise in blood sugar it experienced after having a small meal.

  • You may experience an arousal in hunger. Some people have reported that eating 500 or 600 calories on a fast day makes them hungrier. Over time, as you dedicate yourself to full fasting, rather than a restricted fasting program such as the 5:2 Diet, you may find that you adjust to fasting and that your feelings of hunger subside. However, the 5:2 Diet may prolong that adjustment period.

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