The 5:2 intermittent fasting plan involves eating how you normally would on five days of the week and eating only 500 to 600 calories on the other two days. For one to two nonconsecutive days per week, you consume just water plus 500 calories (if you’re a woman) or 600 calories (if you’re a man), either in one meal or spread out over the day; your calorie intake should be a quarter of your daily needs.
The other five or six days a week, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want (you don’t have to even think about restricting calories). You can choose whichever two days of the week you prefer, as long as you have at least one non-fasting day in between them.
For some people, this plan may be easier to follow than, say, the alternate day intermittent fast. Only having to restrict food intake one or two days a week and then not having to worry about what to eat the other five to six days is appealing to many people.
British broadcaster Michael Mosley popularized the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan. He purportedly came up with the plan because he had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and wanted to reverse it without medication. In 2012, Mosley filmed the wildly popular BBC documentary Michael Mosley Presents Horizon: Eat, Fast, and Live Longer. He later published The Fast Diet in 2013.
The science of the 5:2 intermittent fasting planThe 5:2 intermittent fasting plan also has a large amount of scientific backing, and it’s one of my favorites. Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Mark Mattson, PhD, has studied intermittent fasting and its underlying mechanisms for 25 years. He has published several controlled human studies that investigate the impacts of various intermittent fasting interventions, most often the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan.
His research demonstrated the following:
- One hundred overweight women showed that those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet lost the same amount of weight as women who restricted calories, but they did better on measures of insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat than those in the calorie-reduction group.
- Two hundred twenty healthy, non-obese adults who practiced 5:2 intermittent fasting for two years showed signs of improved memory in a battery of cognitive tests. These results suggest that intermittent fasting may offer interventions that can stave off neurodegeneration and dementia.
According to the Johns Hopkins University website, which summarizes an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, here are what doctors believe 5:2 intermittent fasting can improve:
- Cardiovascular health: Studies support numerous heart health benefits of intermittent fasting including reduced blood pressure and resting heart rate as well as other heart-related measurements.
- Brain performance: Studies support improved cognitive ability with intermittent fasting. Studies discovered that intermittent fasting boosts verbal memory in adult humans.
- Athletic performance and body composition: One study shows significant fat loss while maintaining muscle mass in athletic men.
- Blood sugar level: Numerous studies have shown significant weight loss with intermittent fasting and normalization of blood glucose.
- Wound healing: Studies show intermittent fasting reduces tissue damage in surgery and improves surgical outcomes.
Exercising during your 5:2 intermittent fastExercise is a perfect addition to any intermittent fast, including the 5:2 intermittent fast. Doing your cardio during the fasted state is highly beneficial because you get an additive effect of increased insulin sensitivity and fat loss — a golden combination.
Make sure to get consent from your personal physician before you engage in an exercise program, especially exercise combined with intermittent fasting.
Visualizing a 5:2 intermittent fast — a sample 1-week calendarThe 5:2 approach to intermittent fasting is quite simple. If you’re a woman, consume a maximum of 500 calories on your fasting days, 600 calories if you’re a man. The figure shows an example calendar you can follow with the 5:2 intermittent fast.
The popular 5:2 intermittent fast may just be the right choice for you. Remember to eat healthfully during your eating days and stick to the calorie level that fits your gender on your fasting days. Also, give the plan time to work, and rest assured, you’ll soon begin to watch the magic happen.