If there was ever a diet we expected to be nothing more than a passing fad, it was this one. But the 5:2 diet continues to prove popular with women and men around the world and we’re hearing of more and more people jumping on the intermittent fasting bandwagon.
As intermittent fasting seems to be gaining speed rather than dying down, it’s got us wondering – can it really help you lose weight- and keep it off?
We asked Billie David, Naturopath at Alkaline Spa & Clinic, to help us get to the bottom of this divisive dieting plan;
RESCU:Can you tell us a little about what exactly the 5:2 diet is and what intermittent fasting is?
Billie David: The 5:2 diet is a eating plan which involves severe calorie restrictions for 2 days of the week and normal eating for the remaining 5 days. The diet, which originated in the UK, and since has spread through the USA and now Australia is a form of intermittent fasting.
The 5:2 diet specializes is low calorie consumption for 2 days, which doesn’t need to be consecutive days. Men eat as little as 600 calories and women 500 calories on the 2 days of low calorie eating.
A typical fasting day may include a breakfast of 300 kcal, such as two scrambled eggs with ham, water, green tea, or black coffee, and a lunch or dinner of grilled fish or meat with vegetables, amounting to 300 kcal. The daily 500 or 600 kcal limit requires small portions.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating which alternates between periods of fasting, usually meaning periods of consuming only water or low calorie drinks and non-fasting, eating normally.
RESCU: In your opinion, what has made these diets so popular?
Billie David: The simplistic nature of the diet and its results have been linked to the weight loss success of celebrities, and therefore portrays and glamorizes this form of dieting for weight loss.
I believe the psychology of only having to restrict your ‘diet’ 2 days of the week and eating normally for 5 days appears more realistic and achievable than dieting 7 days a week.
There is some merit in teaching your body to eat more frequently and eating less, however it is questionable whether this is sustainable.
RESCU: Will intermittent fasting really help us lose weight quickly?
Billie David: There is no short answer for this. While intermittent fasting seems uncomplicated and is doable, there is no certainty that this type of dieting is sustainable and what will happen to the person once they go back to normal eating patterns.
There is the concern that if your calorie intake is so restricted, it could lead to overeating on the other 5 days and for the 2 days of low calorie intake, your body wont be reaching its nutritional requirements.
Generally fasting doesn’t achieve weight loss, it does give rest to our digestive system but it also sets off alarm bells to our internal metabolism. If you suddenly reduce your calorie intake significantly by 1/4th of your daily intake, your internal system and body will adjust its energy expenditure on fasting days and normal days.
There is the ability to lose weight fast with intermittent fasting but it is important to know that during a fast a person can go into starvation ketosis, which reduces appetite and the person wont be hungry. However, the risk is that as soon as you do something where you are no longer ketotic, there is a rebound affect, which can be hard to control.
When it comes to weight loss, protein is key and it needs to be included in breakfast, lunch and dinner if you are doing an intermittent diet, especially on the low calorie days.
Protein keeps us full and minimises food craving, which leads to poor choices due to needing to eat fast. Protein fuels our body’s in a balanced and even way, with no spikes in energy which occurs when eating carbohydrates. Protein is key to successful weight loss it influences our metabolic rate, favourably influencing weight loss, protein helps sustain muscle during weight loss and improves muscle fitness.
It is best to gradually reduce your calorie intake, so that everyday one eats enough without fasting.
RESCU: What are some of the risks involved with intermittent fasting?
Billie David: Intermittent fasting is still an emerging area and because of the lack of evidence to support such diets, we don’t really know what the long-term effects of fasting might be.
There are reported benefits however there may be negative effects too.
If you choose to follow an intermittent diet program, you need to be very aware of your body and how you are feeling and it is important that you don’t become addicted to the fasting days or the feeling of being hungry, something people prone to disordered eating may be susceptible to.
Exercising may also be an issue on the fasting days and so if you are someone who exercises a lot, this may not be the right plan for you. 500/600 calories is not a sufficient amount of energy to maintain a high intensity gym session or long distance run, so its important to be careful what exercise you chose to do.
It is imperative to have a nutritionist, naturopath, or dietician to inform you of the importance of clean and lean diet consisting of quality protein, and essential fats, vitamins and minerals. I recommend supplements such as NuZest’s Good Green Stuff to ensure you are getting your daily serve of nutrients and Clean Lean Protein, made from 100% vegetable protein isolate.
RESCU: Are there any healthy lessons or messages that we can take from this type of dieting?
Billie David: The lesson you can take is to keep a food diary, which can help to ensure the right number of calories in your daily intake and is a good habit to get into for every day eating to ensure you keep a check on your calorie intake.
It is however important to note that one should educate themselves on what foods to eat on all days of the week and a major concern for people using this diet is that it doesn’t not teach you how to eat well. If you make bad dietary choices throughout the 5 days, thinking that it is ok to eat high fat and processed foods because you are only eating 500/600 calories.
This concept of dieting by way of intermittent fasting does however show us that we can control what we put in our mouths, that we don’t have to eat for the sake of eating, learning that we can eat to live, not live to eat!
RESCU: We’ve recently witnessed The Biggest Loser contestants lose huge amounts of weight in record time – is this realistic for those of us heading to work every day?
Billie David: It is achievable to lose large amounts of unwanted weight, however it takes commitment and a dedicated nutrition and exercise plan. For every day people wanting to lose weight, it is important to consult a health care practitioner to decipher the best method for you, as it is predominantly 80% food and 20% exercise, one size does not always fit all.
For those at home, attending work daily and still wanting to maintain their lifestyles, to achieve weight loss, adopt a tailored work out and nutrition plan with a qualified fitness trainer and nutritionist. To monitor your results, pair your workouts and nutrition with testing tools such as the VLA Bio-impedance analysis which will be able to give you accurate personal information about your muscle to fat ratio, hydration levels, quality of lean muscle mass, cellular age and risk of metabolic disease, all important factors to manage your weight loss effectively.
RESCU: And finally, your top three tips for weight loss the right way!
- Nourish and support your body- by drinking plenty of purified water (add fresh lemon or lime), cold pressed juices and herbal tea.
- In your diet include a variety of fresh seasonal whole foods, such as fruits, vegetable, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean meat.
- Exercise – mix it up with high intensity and cardio sessions for effective weight loss the right way
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