With the popularity of the 5:2 Diet in the mainstream media, Intermittent fasting is all the rage!
But what exactly is it and is it good for you. In this article I aim to review it and give you my thoughts on my own personal experience with it.
Fasting has been part of all of the major religions in the World today and as a practice probably pre dates all of those religions by quite a long way.
Early humans probably had periods where they went without food. Tesco and refrigerators weren’t around back then! So our DNA is probably hard wired to adapt to periods of not eating.
The practice today stems from a detoxification benefit whereby the digestive system is given a break from the constant processing of food. It also takes quite a load off of the liver.
It is generally accepted that intermittent fasting can be split into 2 different types: whole day fasting and time restricted feeding. Whole day fasting really involves what it says on the tin – you go the whole day without eating any food. Alternate day fasting just means you do this one day and then eat normally the next. You keep alternating between thse two for as long as you require. The 5:2 Diet is a variation of this and is a gentler way to do intermittent fasting. This rationale involves fasting for two days a week (usually not consecutive days) and eating normally for the other 5 days – hence the title 5:2.
Time adjusted feeding doesn’t necessarily mean you eat less calories per day it just reduces the eating window. For example, people may fast for 16 hours each day and then eat all their calories in the remaining 8 hours. Both types of intermittent fasting have shown health benefits which certainly include weight loss.
There are studies that suggest that calorie restriction leads to an organism living longer (although the studies aren’t based on humans) so in theory fasting can help you live longer, although no one knows conclusively how or why? There are also studies that show fasting can help reduce the risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease. I think a lot more research needs to be done before we can say with 100% accuracy that intermittent fasting will in fact do any of these things and certainly for every person who embarks upon it.
I have been doing the 5:2 protocol for the last few weeks. While I am not really trying to lose weight I am more interested in the health benefits such as lowering blood sugar levels and ultimately living longer, I can say that going two days on fewer calories is very doable. I tend to skip breakfast on my fast days and have a soup or bone broth for lunch. Throughout the day I have lots of water and herbal tea and then I eat a small evening meal, giving me around 600 calories for the day. I try to do this on a Wednesday and a Sunday as this works best with my current schedule.
My stomach rumbles for much of the afternoon, but as long as I’m busy or distracted the day goes quite fast. I haven’t tried exercising in a fasted state but I know people who have and they say you quickly become adjusted. I feel that 5:2 is certainly a protocol I can stick to in the long run and I may adjust it to 6:1 as my schedule dictates. I would suggest you give it a go, particularly if you want to lose weight, but also if you want to improve your health as studies suggest it will.