Intermittent Fasting; The 5:2 Diet

5:2 Diet – Will It Work For You?

Many of us want to know how to lose weight and keep it off. There are many diet plans to choose from, including the 5:2 diet. Often referred to as the Michael Mosely diet, the 5:2 diet plan is all about intermittent fasting for weight loss. The reason it’s known as the 5:2 diet is that on five days of the week you eat as you normally would, while on the other two days calories are significantly restricted.

But what is fasting all about and can it help you successfully lose weight? The 5:2 diet was developed in 2012 by Michael Mosely, a physician, broadcaster, and author who wanted to lose weight. While the principle of fasting was not new, Mosely created his diet based around intermittent fasting, which was easier than fasting every other day.1

Achieving success with weight loss, Mosely was encouraged to share his diet plan with others.

Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to how to do the 5:2 diet.

What Is the 5:2 Diet Plan

When on the 5:2 diet on two of the days of the week, calorie and food consumption is limited to 25% of your calorie requirements. On the remaining five days of the week you eat as you normally would. One of the reasons that many people choose the 5:2 diet is for its simplicity – there are only two days on which calories need to be counted. This means that you’re only dieting for those two days, making this one of the least restrictive diets.

Another advantage of the 5:2 is that it doesn’t matter what days you choose to fast; the choice is yours. Some people opt to fast on back to back days while others split the days up through the week.

Why Fasting Is Good

Whether you’re just starting out on your weight loss journey or are trying to lose those last ten pounds, fasting may help you lose weight safely and efficiently. Our bodies have two main sources of fuel – fat and sugar. When you’re in the fasting mode and consuming fewer calories, the body starts to use sugar for fuel. Once sugar has been used up, the body begins to burn off fat stores to use as energy.2

It’s this process that is going to help you lose weight. Studies done on intermittent fasting show that fasting on alternate days can produce results of 3 to 8% weight loss over a period of 3 to 24 weeks.3

How Long Can You Do Intermittent Fasting

When fasting on alternate days, even when doing back to back fasting, your fast shouldn’t be longer than 48 hours. This is because after 48 hours there is the risk of complications, including dizziness, hunger, and interference with the absorption of any medications being taken for pre-existing health conditions.

What To Eat While Intermittent Fasting

When on the 5:2 diet you’ll never fast completely without eating anything at all. On fasting days, you’ll eat about a quarter of what your body needs. You can break this up into three small meals per day, with an average 500 calorie count for women and 600 calories for men.

What Can You Eat When Fasting?

When on the 5:2 diet plan you can eat whatever you like so long as you’re not going over your calorie limit for the day. However, to keep your body healthy and feeling full, it’s recommended that you choose foods that are high in nutrition. You’ll also be able to eat larger amounts of low-calorie foods which can keep you feeling full for longer.

Good food options to achieve the best intermittent fasting benefits include:

  • Fish, chicken, and lean meats – bake or broil instead of frying
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Eggs and tofu
  • Ample amounts of vegetables, such as leafy greens, carrots, and zucchini
  • Fruit, such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries

Foods to avoid include:

  • Refined carbs, such as pasta, bread, and white rice
  • Unhealthy fats, including butter and margarine
  • Cheese
  • Processed foods

What To Drink During Intermittent Fasting

You’ll need to stay well hydrated when on any diet plan, including the 5:2 diet. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you need a break from water, you can drink coffee or tea without sugar.

Sample Fasting Schedule

There is no right or wrong way to eat on the days that you’re fasting. Some people find they need to eat first thing in the morning to get them started. Others prefer to wait as long as they can before eating their first meal of the day.

Here are a few sample eating schedules that may work for you:

  • Skipping breakfast and eating an early lunch and dinner.
  • Eating three small meals throughout the day.
  • Eating breakfast, skipping lunch, and eating an early dinner.

Managing Hunger Pangs

Even fasting for two days and restricting calories can be difficult when it comes to dealing with hunger pangs. When you’re feeling hungry and find it hard to focus on anything else, try one of the following:

  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Talk a walk around the block
  • Have a cup of tea or a sugar-free beverage
  • Journal
  • Take a bath

When To Work Out During Intermittent Fasting

When it comes to intermittent fasting for weight loss, adding a workout to your diet and weight loss plan may help you lose fat quicker. But is it safe to work out on an empty stomach when you’re eating reduced calories? Follow these guidelines for exercising when fasting:

  1. Engage in high intensity workouts after eating a small meal on fasting days.
  2. When working out on an empty stomach, keep cardio and strength training to a low-intensity level.
  3. Choose high-protein meals three to four hours before working out on fasting days.
  4. Eat a high-protein snack two hours before working out.
  5. Eat frequent snacks three to four hours before a workout, limiting yourself to low-calorie options on fasting days, such as bananas.
  6. Drink water and stay hydrated.

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

As well as weight loss, there are some additional benefits from intermittent fasting, such as these 5:2 diet health benefits: 4

  • Reduce insulin sensitivity.
  • Improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Boost brain function.
  • Improve and lower cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce the risk of breast cancer.5
  • Alleviate symptoms associated with allergies, asthma, and menopausal hot flashes.

The Pros and Cons

As with any diet plan there are pros and cons to consider:


  • A flexible eating plan that lets you choose what days to fast.
  • No restrictions on what foods to eat.
  • Easy to stick to when you know it’s only two days of dieting.
  • No cost involved.


  • It’s easy to feel deprived and compensate on non-fasting days by over-eating.
  • Normal eating on non-fasting days may not be healthy enough to promote weight loss even when fasting for two days.
  • Not suitable if you’re pregnant, are taking insulin to control diabetes, or have an eating disorder.
  • The 5:2 diet doesn’t promote a full fast.

Tips on Intermittent Fasting For Beginners

Want to achieve more weight loss success using the 5:2 diet? Use these tips to keep you on track:

  • Work towards a long fasting window between meals on fasting days.
  • Eat mostly plants and healthy, lean protein.
  • Plan and prep your food for the week, including both fasting and non-fasting days.
  • Treat yourself once a week on a non-fasting day to your favorite meal or dessert.
  • Work through the hunger pangs by staying busy.
  • Never eat when you’re bored or feeling emotional.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of intermittent fasting are two-fold – you can lose weight and improve your health at the same time. Intermittent fasting results for women and men will vary for each person depending on body metabolism and how much weight they have to lose. Average weight loss is 2 pounds per week.

The program is a good way to reduce weight without losing too quickly. With many other weight loss programs, fast weight loss often results in weight gain once people return to a regular diet and food plan.

Rating For the 5:2 Diet Plan

The 5:2 diet is a good option for anyone who wants to lose weight without being on a restrictive diet. The flexibility of the 5:2 makes it easy for people to fit into their lifestyle, being able to choose which days of the week are best for fasting.

Another advantage of the 5:2 that makes it so appealing is the cost: there are no extra or hidden costs when on the 5:2 diet other than buying healthy foods.

Based on this review, the 5:2 diet earns 4 stars out of 5.



  1. Lambert, V. (May 19, 2014). Can Dr Michael Mosley and the Fast Beach 5:2 diet get me fit for summer? Telegraph. Retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
  2. Patterson, RE. & Laughlin, GA. (2015). INTERMITTENT FASTING AND HUMAN METABOLIC HEALTH. J Acad Nutr Diet. 115(8): 1203-1212. Retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
  3. Barnosky, AR. & Hoddy, KK. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Science Direct – Translational Research. Volume 164, Issue 4: pp 302-311. Retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
  4. Ganesan, K. & Habboush, Y. (2018). Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle. Cureus. 10(7): e2947. Retrieved on July 23, 2019 from
  5. Harvie, M. & Howell, A. (May 19, 2012). Energy restriction and the prevention of breast cancer. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Volume 71, Issue 2: pp 263-275. Retrieved on July 23, 2019 from