The 5:2 Diet - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

My phone rings and it’s the CEO of MonsterSupplements it’s always a welcome site - we talk car racing and then get on to business. Today ‘’business’’ is the 5:2 diet, a much talked about nutrition protocol which has been getting a lot of media coverage in papers, on TV and the internet. When you consider both myself and Mark (CEO) come from ‘’bodybuilding’’orientated backgrounds you might imagine we would struggle to see beyond any diet plan which doesn’t recommend eating every 2 hours with mammoth quantities of protein. However we are open minded and when we spoke about the 5:2 diet it wasn’t all bad, in fact there were some complements shared for the theory behind it (in parts).

With that said we decided I would put together some thoughts down for you to read and then make up your own mind.

Context is always crucial when you discuss or debate anything, I find myself always reminding myself and others of that these days. Without context what do we have? So here is some . . . context that is – we are viewing the 5:2 diet as a potential option as a lifestyle choice today to improve health and aid weight loss. Anyone who follows my personal work will know I am not a fan of any fasting protocol where muscle building is concerned, however today that isn’t really the point.

In short, the 5:2 diet stipulates you eat ‘’normal’’ for 5 days and consume approximately 500 calories for 2 consecutive days of the week.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly on the famed 5:2 diet – from my perspective of course.

The Good

The fasting part of the 5:2 diet is an interesting idea – from a health perspective I do think there are some potential benefits. For as long as I have followed the ‘’2-3 hour’’ rule (which I do religiously partly due to an ever growing desire for food!!) I have often pondered on the idea that it might not be ‘’great’’ for gut health. I reason that perhaps you are making your GI tract work harder therefore potentially wearing it out quicker. It’s an idea, nothing more – I have never had any issues, I know of none through others but I would put it into perspective like this. A higher mileage car MIGHT have more mechanical issues than a lower mileage car, then again it might not. However, to come back to the 5:2 diet I think there is at least some plausible evidence to suggest fasting sometimes is ‘’good’’ for your digestive system. Whether or not doing it twice a week is good is another matter.

In relation to weight loss the very fact somebody goes from 7 days to 5 days on a ‘’full’’ tank pretty much explains why people experience weight loss, at least in the short term.

Some also compare the idea that thousands of years ago the ‘’hunter and gatherer’’ way of life meant they would go days with no food and that we work well like this partly due to evolution from our ancestors. Are we designed to run more like this?

The Bad

From my perspective as a coach I have to be honest – there are a few areas I dislike about the 5:2 diet even as a ‘’healthy’’ lifestyle choice and for weight loss. We don’t know enough about the long term hormonal impact of fasting in my opinion – whilst it is perfectly logical that insulin sensitivity might improve as a result of fasting (depending on the person!!) what about leptin and grehlin? In the wrong hands I feel this diet could drive somebody to binge easily on their ‘’5 normal days’’ – especially if their leptin and grehlin levels are all over the shop (the ‘’hunger’’ hormones).

From a logical point of view I personally sometimes question the ideology of basing our diet on our ancestors from thousands of years ago – our life expectancy has almost tripled since then. Is this a logical view point to base dietary methods on? I’m not dismissing it; I am just not sure. . .

The Ugly

The bit which glared at me right in the face the second I saw this 5:2 diet pop up on my social media was this -  ‘’5 normal days.’’ In the right hands this is no issue at all, however in the wrong hands (and unfortunately that will be the majority) it could be a recipe for disaster. Five days’ worth of eating as you please, compensating for those ‘’2 days of pain’’ you are anticipating followed by next to no food for two days – this is the bit which really concerns me.

Most people’s normal is SO far away from right.

To bring this to a conclusion I can’t say I will ever promote this way of eating; however I can appreciate and respect what it is trying to say and who it is trying to appeal to – everyday people who just need a little guidance. My beliefs are that the ‘’fasting’’ bit does have some merit in this context (maybe) but the structure of the plan is a little vague and as such I feel will simply drive most followers to compensate with bad eating habits. It’s just my take. .  .

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