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Diet Buster: 5:2

Is it really as simple as "feast and starve"?

The 5:2 diet saw a huge surge in popularity after it was featured on a BBC documentary in August 2012 - but since then myths and misrepresentations have pervaded the eating plan. We take a look and burst some of the myths to bring you a comprehensive, unbiased run-down of this famous diet.

What can you and can't you do?

Essentially, the 5:2 plan consists of five days of normal healthy eating a week, with two "fast days". These fast days aren't full fasts, though; during these days you can still consume up to 500 calories in whichever form you wish (600 calories for me). The rest of the week, just eat the recommended daily allowance of calories, which is 2000 for women and 2500 for men. However, it is stressed that you should always drink extra water on fast days to make up for the amount you lose through not eating, and the rest of the week followers of the diet should make sure they eat enough to fulfil their daily limit.

How does it work?

The diet effectively cuts 3000-4000 calories per week from your diet, which does have a significant effect on weight loss. Intermittent fasting exist in a number of diets and lifestyles, the most commonly cited being that of Muslims during Ramadan, which requires followers to refrain from eating during the daytime. There is limited evidence that fasting also decreases risk of certain conditions, including type 2 diabetes and breast cancer.

Who does it suit?

Calorie-counting isn't for everybody, and it's suggested that those with histories of eating disorders or poor eating habits avoid this particular diet. It's noted for being well-suited to foodies, as no particular food group is banned - and even on "fast days", a 6oz steak and salad clock in at under 300 calories, ensuring anybody can still enjoy a delicious meal.

Is it worth it?

It's up to the individual to decide on this one, as there are few determined health risks but also very few studies on the long-term effects of intermittent fasting. What little research has been carried out shows that it is effective for weight loss, and anecdotally many have said they find it a helpful way to readjust their attitudes towards food and hunger. However it's important to recognise that low-calorie days can cause irritability, headaches (from dehydration) and energy levels. If you do take it on, be sure to research it thoroughly, and follow an evidence-based plan by a dietician such as the 2-Day Diet.

Rating: 7/10

This is a simple way to cut calories, but must be entered into with knowledge and caution. We recommend discussing the plan with your GP first to ensure it's appropriate for your body and lifestyle.

Sources

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/01January/Pages/Does-the-5-2-intermittent-fasting-diet-work.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/06June/Pages/5-2-diet-style-fast-immune-booster-study-finds.aspx

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-52-diet

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