Dr Aidin Rawshani

Intermittent fasting with the 5:2 diet


The 5:2 intermittent fasting (IF) diet, or just the 5:2 diet, has become one of the more popular diets in recent years, the diet was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.

Studies have shown that the diet helps with weight loss and can also increase the sensitivity to insulin in the body (ie reduces insulin resistance), this is of particular interest to the majority of all individuals with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

One reason for the popularity of the diet is that it allows certain flexibility, comparison to other low-calorie diets.

5:2 The diet means that the person applies a variant of intermittent fasting (periodic fasting), the idea of the diet is that short periods of fasting should stimulate the body to recover and repair damage results from high intake of carbohydrates or calories, even if you are fasting during periods of the 5:2 diet so the body does not enter a starvation mode to save energy.

Although the biological mechanisms behind the theory have not yet been proven, clinical studies have shown promising results for the 5:2 diet, however, the diet has only been studied for comparatively short periods, usually, the studies are less than a year.

The 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 diet is based on a simple idea. For five days a week, stick to the recommended daily calorie intake for people with a normal body weight, that is:

  • 2,500 kcal per day for men
  • 2,000 kcal per day for women

The other 2 days of the week you should not eat more than 25% of the recommended calorie intake, that is:

  • 600 kcal per day for men
  • 500 kcal per day for women

You choose when you want to fast as long as you do not choose to 2 consecutive fasting days.

Advantages of the 5:2 diet

There are few studies that have examined just the 5:2 diet, however, there are plenty of studies that investigated the effect of intermittent fasting in general, these studies show impressive health benefits

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced fat mass
  • Reduced levels of blood lipids (triglycerides and LDL cholesterol)
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased sensitivity to insulin (i.e. reduced insulin resistance)
  • Decreased levels of CRP (an important marker of inflammation)
  • Decreased levels of leptin (a hormone that regulates satiety)

Clinical studies have shown that the benefits of intermittent fasting are largely similar to those of low-calorie diets. Research has shown that periods of fasting can contribute to longer life expectancy and reduce the risks of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

An important advantage is that intermittent fasting seems to be easier to follow than continuous calorie restriction, at least for some people. In addition, numerous studies have shown that different types of intermittent fasting can significantly reduce insulin levels. As long as you have good blood glucose levels, low insulin levels are beneficial.

What evidence is there for the benefits of the 5:2 diet?

A study published in 2010 looked at 107 women, aged 30 to 45 years, with BMI values between 24 and 40 years. Participants were randomized to two different diets, either continuous energy restriction or intermittent energy restriction. Continuous energy restriction meant a reduced calorie intake of 1500 kcal for the whole week, while intermittent energy limitation means the 5:2 diet.

The researchers observed that both study participants lost the same amount in body weight, in addition, blood pressure and blood fats (triglycerides and LDL cholesterol) were increased.

Another study showed that the 5:2 diet caused a weight loss similar to normal calorie restriction. In this study, the 5:2 diet was also very effective at reducing insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity.

A diet called the 4:3 diet can also contribute to reduced insulin resistance, asthma problems, seasonal allergies, cardiac arrhythmias, climacteric hot flashes and several other improvements. The 4:3 diet means you fasting every other day, just like the 5:2 diet so there must not be two subsequent days. with solid ones.

Is the 5:2 diet safe for individuals with diabetes?

Since there are few long-term studies investigating the effect and side effects of the 5:2 diet, we can only start from short-term studies that have shown a positive effect on blood sugar, body weight and several other factors.

As with most other diets, you should always consult your family doctor or diabetic team before making any significant changes to your diet as they may affect blood sugar levels or affect your medication.

Type 2 diabetes

Studies show that intermittent fasting leads to improved insulin sensitivity and improves several factors such as blood sugar and body weight in type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Some people prefer single days with severely limited calorie intake just like the 5:2 diet, compared to modest caloric restrictions every day. When fasting, the body is forced to use saved energy in the body, suggested fat or stored sugar (glycogen), this helps with weight loss and can improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Typ 1 diabetes

Intermittent fasting or 5:2 diet is not always suitable for individuals with type 1 diabetes, that fasting may adversely affect your diabetes disease and significantly increase the risk of sudden blood sugar fall (hypoglycemia).

However, this does not mean that these diets are excluded for people with type 1 diabetes if you decide to try intermittent fasting or the 5:2 diet you should discuss with your diabetes nurse or doctor. Your diabetic team will probably want to monitor you more closely at the beginning to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia and evaluate how your body reacts. People with type 1 diabetes who are fasting may develop an acute increase in ketone levels in the body (ketoacidosis), a dangerous condition that makes the blood acidic (pH decreases).

How to follow the 5:2 diet

Five days a week you eat as usual and do not have to think about limiting calories. In the other two days, reduce your calorie intake to a quarter of your daily needs. This is about 500 calories per day for women and 600 for men.

You can choose which two days a week you prefer to fasting, as long as there is at least one non-fasting day between them. A common way to plan the week is to fasten on Mondays and Thursdays, with two or three small meals, then eat normally the rest of the week.

It is important to emphasize that eating “normally” does not mean that you can eat just anything. If you “binge eat” junk food, you probably won’t lose weight, and you can even gain weight. You should eat the same food as if you had not fasted at all.

For best results, it is recommended to adhere to basic rules of healthy eating, such as having a good intake of vegetables, fruits and limiting the intake of processed foods.

When fasting, you need to rely on meals with very low-calorie content. Try to focus on nutritious, high-fiber, protein-rich foods that make you feel full without consuming too many calories.

A suggestion of meals when fasting (5:2 diet)

  • Eggs (65 kcal per medium egg)
  • Grilled chicken breast without skin (190 kcal per 100 g)
  • Shrimps (105 kcal per 100 g)
  • White fish (135 kcal per 100 g)

Vegetables tend to have low-calorie content, alternative vegetables that contain very little calories are as follows:

  • Cucumber (15 kcal per 100 g)
  • Celery (20 kcal per 100 g)
  • Sweet pepper (26 kcal per 100 g)

Examples of foods that may be suitable when fasting

  • Vegetables
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Shrimps
  • White fish
  • Natural yogurt with berry
  • Boiled egg
  • Grilled fish or lean meat
  • Cauliflower rice soups (e.g. miso, tomato, cauliflower or vegetables)
  • Low-calorie cup soups
  • Black coffee
  • Water

There is no specific, correct way of eating on fasting days. You need to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

What to do if you feel bad or too hungry?

In the first fasting days, you can expect to have episodes of overwhelming hunger. It is also normal to feel a little weaker or slower than usual.

But you will be surprised at how quickly hunger fades, especially if you try to keep yourself busy with work or other errands. In addition, most people think that fasting days become easier over time.

If you are not used to fasting, it’s a good idea to bring a light snack during your first fasting today, in case you feel weak or bad. If you repeatedly feel unwell or faint during fasting days, talk to your doctor about whether to continue or not. Intermittent fasting or 5:2 diet is not for everyone, some people do not tolerate the diet well.

Who should avoid the 5:2 diet or intermittent fasting?

Although intermittent fasting is very safe for healthy, well-fed people, it does not suit everyone. Some people should avoid dietary restrictions and fasting completely. These include:

  • People with a history of eating disorders
  • People who often experience acute blood sugar fall
  • Pregnant women, nursing mothers, teenagers, children and individuals with type 1 diabetes
  • People who are malnourished, underweight or have known nutritional deficiencies
  • Women who are trying to become pregnant or have fertility problems

In addition, intermittent fasting in some cases may be less beneficial for women than men. Some women have reported that their menstruation stopped when they started 5:2 diet or intermittent fasting, these side effects go back when you return to a normal diet.

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