Intermittent fasting (IF) is the latest diet trend being followed by millions of people around the world. Fitness enthusiasts, people trying to lose weight, and those with prediabetes are fond of IF. In my opinion, the craze for this diet may be due to its non-conventional nature.
Instead of asking you what you should eat, this way of eating guides you to focus on when you should eat your food. 5:2 diet is a type of IF that involves eating normally for five days a week without thinking about calories and consuming no more than 500 to 600 calories on the remaining two days. This is a more lifestyle-oriented pattern of IF that is less restrictive and easier to follow. There has been considerable research demonstrating the potential benefits of the 5:2 diet when it comes to weight loss and optimum metabolic health.
In spite of this, not everyone can follow this diet, and those who adopt this way of eating must understand that nutritious, whole-food eating is essential, even if intermittent fasting doesn’t ask for it.
Weight loss, metabolic syndromes and 5:2 diet
A scientific 5:2 IF is effective in ensuring sustainable weight loss. In a 2021 randomised control trial conducted in London, 18 per cent of participants lost weight on the 5:2 diet, compared with 15 per cent in a conventional weight control regimen. In addition, when asked to rate each of the interventions, participants in the 5:2 diet group were more likely to recommend the intervention to others or be willing to continue the diet.
The 5:2 diet is as effective as conventional calorie restriction that is defined by consuming 20 per cent fewer calories than you burn every day, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The 5:2 diet could offer women greater flexibility and choice when it comes to weight loss or managing gestational diabetes, as recently reported by researchers at the University of South Australia.
The University of Illinois at Chicago study found that dieters who followed the 4:3 protocol (similar to 5:2 diet) lost an average of 5 kg without losing muscle mass, compared to a control group who didn’t diet. In addition, they reduced their triglyceride level by 20 per cent, their leptin level by 40 per cent, and their CRP level, a key inflammation indicator.
What to eat on a 5:2 diet?
On days when you consume 500 to 600 calories, you should plan your diet accordingly. Make sure you choose low-calorie foods that are filling. Among the best choices are cauliflower rice, plain yogurt or curd, green leafy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, legumes, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy-based protein like paneer, soy-based protein like tofu. Low starchy veggies like cucumber, mushrooms, bottle gourd, pumpkin, and green beans are great staples during the fast days. Include healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and fatty fish in your diet for steady energy flow. You can incorporate a variety of foods at once without putting much effort into cooking with soups and salads. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar, and sugary drinks, which will spike your blood sugar levels and leave you hungry very quickly. Being hungry could affect your mood.
You can eat when you like. Some people prefer eating several smaller meals throughout the day, while others prefer to eat one large meal.
What to drink on a 5:2 diet?
You are not required to follow any specific guidelines for drinking during the five days. You should, however, be mindful of drinking non-sugary fluids on fasting days. To not exceed 500 calories, drink plain water, cucumber or fruit-infused water, coconut water, black coffee or green tea.
Fitting this eating pattern into your lifestyle increases the likelihood of you sticking with it.
Sample meal plans for Indians on 5:2 protocol fasting days
You can break your 500 calories into three meals throughout the day.
Breakfast: 25 g Greek yogurt topped with 4 almonds. Calories: 68.
Lunch: Broccoli-carrot or lauki-tomato soup with 0.5 teaspoon of butter. Calories: 122
Dinner: Chicken (100 g) and rice (30 g cooked) makes this lemon and chicken stir fry rice that is super filling. Vegetarians and vegans can add beans, tofu or paneer. Calories: 310
Total = 500 calories
Breakfast: One boiled egg, one banana, one cup green tea. Calories – 178
Lunch: 1 bowl cauliflower rice (100 g) with 150 g fish or paneer curry. Calories – 210
Dinner: Vegetable soup with 1 teaspoon ghee/butter. Calories – 110
Total = 498 calories
It’s important to eat protein, fiber, and healthy fats throughout your fasting days to ensure optimum nutrition.
In a nutshell – If done correctly, the 5:2 eating pattern is convenient, flexible, and brings multiple health benefits. There are drawbacks to the diet, too, such as — you may eat more than 500 calories if you do not calculate properly, you may feel hungry if you consume too few calories or refined carb-based foods during the fasting days.
It’s important to consult a nutrition professional to plan your meal. Although timing is the key component to determine success in this diet, what you eat is important, too. Remember, you can never outrun bad nutrition.