The 5:2 Fasting Plan is a type of very low calorie weight loss strategy typically considered to be a fad diet. That said, despite the fact that this strategy has been around for a while, the recent popularity of IF has spiked the number of people following it.  There are many people who use this technique and swear by its effectiveness.

At the same time, many dietitians caution that the majority of people who try to use diets like the 5:2 Fasting Plan will not be able to keep it up over time. Indeed, there will be some success stories.  However, most people cannot adhere to this type of diet long-term.

What is the 5:2 Fasting Plan?

It is based on an intermittent fasting (IF) strategy. The basis of the way this plan works is for a dieter to eat normally for five days out of the week. That said, the remaining two days of the week are considered to be “fasting” days, in which the caloric intake is significantly slashed. Therefore, the 5:2 ratio stands for 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of fasting.

What is Fasting?

The fasting days typically require you to eat only about a quarter of the number of calories you would usually eat in a day. For example, if your typical daily calorie intake is around 2,000, then your fasting days would require you to eat no more than 500 calories, an extremely low caloric consumption.

Does Fasting Work?

Medical studies have been increasingly supporting the use of fasting to help to achieve effective weight loss. This includes strategies similar to the 5:2 Fasting Plan. When compared to many forms of calorie controlled diets, this style can help to keep up a continual rate of weight reduction.

At the same time, those research studies have also found that people following diets involving intermittent fasting are less likely to develop certain medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes and certain forms of obesity related cancers.

Beyond weight loss, those who believe in this type of dieting also say that it helps to boost longevity, heightens brain function, provides Alzheimer’s disease protection and guards against other types of dementia. However, it should be pointed out that as much as supporters of the 5:2 Fasting Plan may believe in these benefits, there is little to no research to support those claims.

How is the 5:2 Fasting Plan Different?

To be fair to the 5:2 Fasting Plan, the research conducted on fasting have not involved this specific strategy.  Indeed, it was conducted on similar fasting efforts.  That said, they have not been this precise plan, so its unique properties could conceivably make a difference.

Among the known advantages of the 5:2 Fasting Plan is that it will indeed lead to fat loss when followed properly. It offers a certain amount of flexibility as the dieter can choose whichever two non-consecutive fasting days, they would like to observe each week.

This means that dieters can shift fasting days around certain occasions such as social engagements so that they don’t have to bow out of eating a meal when they’ve been invited to dinner just because it happened to fall on a fasting day. Moreover, because only 2 days per week are for fasting and the rest remain normal, many people find it’s easier to stick to this diet than to ones that require daily calorie control.

This is important, as most fasting plans are rigid.  This is among their top problems.  It isn’t that intermittent fasting doesn’t work if followed precisely. It is that many people misinterpret it or find that they cannot realistically fit it into their lives.  Practice is much different than the way it works on paper.  The 5:2 Fasting Plan was created to try to work around that challenge.

The Long-Term Problem

Unfortunately, the number of people who are likely to stick to this diet until they reach their goal, and then keep the weight off once it’s gone is not terribly high. It requires a great deal of self-control and self-discipline. While non-fasting days do allow for normal eating, it is still important not to overeat as this will only negate all the benefits accumulated during the days when calorie intake is severely restricted.

Many people find that as long as things are going well and they feel motivated, it’s simple to stick to the 5:2 Fasting Plan.  However, as soon as anything becomes complicated in life – stressful events, illness, travel, special occasions and others – it becomes impossible to keep up with the IF. An effective long-term diet requires you to be able to keep it up the majority of days regardless of what’s going on in your life. This is why most doctors recommend a healthy lifestyle as opposed to a strict, regimented program.

Furthermore, many people who fast suffer unpleasant side effects from their low calorie intake. This can include lightheadedness, weakness, dizziness and fainting, among others. Irritability, anxiety and poor concentration are also common side effects of this type of dieting.

This diet isn’t necessarily safe or appropriate for all dieters. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying this or any other diet that involves fasting.