In this post, I will share why the 5:2 intermittent fasting method and why it works great for women. As you may know, I have been experimenting with the fasting mimicking diet for weight loss and healing. The fasting mimicking diet is a 5-day fast that allows you to eat 40% of your regular caloric intake and still reap the benefits of prolonged fasting. Prolonged fasting is the best way to help your body heal and regenerate itself. If you would like to learn more about that read The Fasting Mimicking Diet: Benefit From Fasting Without Giving Up Food. Adding the 5:2 intermittent fasting approach to my monthly fasting mimicking cycles has had some benefits. Let’s talk about it.
Guidelines of the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet
So, how does the 5:2 intermittent fasting approach work? It’s simple: You eat normally 5 days a week and eat only 500 calories (around 25% your normal calorie intake) 2 days a week. And what does eating normally mean? It means not restricting your calories (use my Calorie Calculator if you need help figuring that out) and eating whole foods. If you would like more guidelines about what foods to eat, read my Paleo 101 page. It’s an excellent starting point even if you are not planning on going Paleo. Typically, people don’t fast two days in a row. What you do is you eat normally three days, fast one day, eat normally 2 days, and fast one day.
Benefits of the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet
The benefits of the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet are the same as any other type of intermittent fasting method, which are:
- Increases metabolism: We used to worry that any type of food deprivation would slow down our metabolism. Remember the advice to eat every 3 hours? It turns out that fasting can actually increase your metabolism!
- Fights aging: The effect of fasting on cell regeneration has been well studied. Fasting used on lab rats increased their lifespan.
- Reduces inflammation: Fasting has been shown to decrease inflammation markers (like the C-Reactive protein) in your bloodstream.
- Improves gut health: Fasting starves off your bad gut bacteria, which starve off more quickly than your good gut bacteria. I wrote a whole post about How Fasting Improves Your Gut Health.
- Helps with weight loss: It’s obvious that the overall reduction in calories helps you lose weight, but it’s more than that. It regulates your hunger hormones.
On top of that, there are a few added benefits that are specific to the 5:2 intermittent fasting method:
- Not having to worry about your eating window every day: I love having more freedom most of the week. When I practice intermittent fasting every day, I feel like I am always thinking about food and about when I should eat.
- It keeps your body guessing: The problem with most diets is that your body adapts and eventually you hit a weight loss plateau. This problem can be avoided by changing things up. You are fasting one day, and then you are not fasting. It follows the pattern that has been most natural to humankind throughout history.
Why the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet Works Great for Women
Intermittent Fasting for Women
I wrote a whole post about Intermittent Fasting for Women: A Definitive Guide, but the main idea is that women are more sensitive to the hunger hormone leptin because starvation has such a huge impact on their reproductive health. This means two things: fasting feels a lot more difficult for most women and it can negatively impact their hormonal health by causing stress on their adrenals and their thyroid. However, many women have had a positive experience with daily intermittent fasting. It’s up to you to experiment. If you are a woman and you want to experiment with intermittent fasting, here’s what you should consider:
- Intermittent fasting is not recommended for underweight women.
- If you have a history of fertility issues. you should stay away from fasting.
- If you are breastfeeding (I think it’s obvious to mention pregnant), don’t fast.
- Step back if you notice any negative reaction like moodiness, brain fog, hair loss, feeling cold, brittle hair and nails, low sex drive, etc. You can try again with a more gentle method or focus on a healing diet like the Paleo Diet or the Wahls Protocol for now.
- Start slow with the crescendo method. The crescendo method is fasting for 14-16 hours every second day.
How Women Can Benefit From the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet
Once you have some experience with fasting, the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet is a great way to speed up your results without causing hormonal imbalances. Here’s why:
- You can reach your weight loss goal without constantly thinking about food or counting calories: Intermittent fasting (any method) has been shown to be at least as effective as calorie restriction for weight loss. I tried counting calories for a few weeks. My weight wouldn’t budge and I felt incredibly deprived because I was always restricting myself (a deficit of just 500 calories can feel hard to sustain long term). Also, counting calories for everything you eat can feel tedious and time-consuming. Fortunately, there is another way: the 5:2 intermittent fasting simplifies calorie counting (read on for the meal ideas) and allows you to live “normally” the rest of the week.
- It is a “safe” way to practice intermittent fasting because it doesn’t require a daily fast: We talked about the risks associated with intermittent fasting. Any method that doesn’t require you to fast daily helps ensure that you are not putting to much stress on your thyroid and your adrenals.
If you are a woman over 40 (even if you are not 40 yet), you will enjoy my post Fasting for Women over 40. I give you some helpful advice to make sure you make the most of your fast as a woman.
5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan
I have a few 5:2 intermittent fasting diet plans to recommend:
- One meal using my fasting mimicking diet recipes (will come to around 500 calories).
- You could eat two avocados. It’s a simple and convenient way to make sure you are getting around 500 calories with whole foods.
- Using My Fitness Pal to calculate your calories with a simple meal like sauteed broccoli in coconut oil.
- Using a greens superfood shake and a meal replacement shake. That’s what I do. You know how much I love my green superfoods! I wrote a whole post about it called Top 11 Benefits of Green Superfood Powders. I love how it allows me to consume 6 organic superfood salad for a fraction of the price of one organic salad! Plus it has only 150 calories, which allows me to have cream and honey in my coffee and a superfood meal replacement shake. My meal replacement shake is also rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains enough fiber to make me feel full and satisfied. My fasting days don’t feel difficult. If you are curious about meal replacement shakes, check out my Top 5 Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss post.
- Drink one of my anti-inflammatory smoothies. They are satisfying and count for around 500 calories. Check out my 5-Day Smoothie Detox Diet Plan for five recipes with a video.
5:2 Diet Recipes
I mentioned already that you could use some of my fasting mimicking recipes. Let me share my favorite recipes here. They are so easy and delicious!
Apple Almond Salad
- 2 cups chopped apples
- 3 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 cup diced cucumber
- 1 tablespoon flax oil
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Nutritional Information: 512 calories (47% fat, 21% carbs, 16% protein)
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 cup peeled and chopped butternut squash
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 cups chopped broccoli
- 1/4 cup tempeh
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- curry powder, and salt to taste
Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, add the bell pepper, onion and butternut squash. Cook until the butternut squash is soft. Add the coconut milk, the seasonings, and the broccoli. Cook further until the broccoli is bright green.
Nutritional Information: 514 calories (46% fat, 18% carbs, 42% protein)
Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower
- 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 cups chopped cauliflower
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- 1 tsp chopped raw cashews
- ginger, curry powder, garlic and salt to taste
Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, add the potatoes and cook until soft. You may need to add some water so that the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of your saucepan. Add the seasoning and the cauliflower and cook until the cauliflower has reached the desired softness.
Nutritional Information: 506 calories (40% fat, 44% carbs, 35% protein)
Does the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet Work for Everyone?
The short answer is nothing works for everyone! As I mentioned above, it is not a good option for women who are underweight, have fertility issues or are breastfeeding. If you struggle with low blood sugar, feel dizzy or fatigued, you might want to consider another option as well. However, for most people, the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet is an excellent approach to not only lose weight but regenerate your body and heal without having to follow a restrictive plan every single day. It gives you more leeway and allows you to enjoy eating again without always worrying about counting calories.
5:2 Intermittent Fasting Video
The 5:2 intermittent fasting method can be effective on its own or used in combination with other fasting methods like the fasting mimicking diet. Like with any other health practice, some will benefit by reaching their weight and health goals, but not others. It’s important to experiment and see what works for you. Personally, I find daily intermittent fasting too restrictive (for more than 12 hours). I enjoy the freedom to snack in the evening sometimes and I enjoy breakfast. That is why the 5:2 method is the perfect alternative. I feel it also helps prime me for the monthly fasting mimicking diet that I do. It helps me remember that the feeling of hunger goes away, it won’t cause death and it is not as uncomfortable as it seems at first. Try it, and let me know what you think!