The 5:2 Diet: everything you need to know to get started

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5:2 fast beach diet
We've all heard the stories. The 5:2 diet has taken the UK and the rest of the world by storm for one simple reason: it works! 

It's everywhere, and with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez and our dear Phillip Schofield as avid fans, we can see why! The weight-loss plan that lets you eat normally for 5 days out of 7 became the number one diet craze of 2013, promising its followers that they can eat normally for most of the time, and it's still proving just as popular in 2016...

Whether you've already tried the diet and need some inspiration to keep
going, or you're thinking of trying it for the first time, we've
explained the 5:2 diet below, including what you can and can't eat on your
fast days
, and we've even put together some 5:2 meal plans that will
make your fasting days a piece of cake. You'll be summer-ready in no time!

So if you're determined to lose weight this year, read on...

How the 5:2 Diet works

In short, the 5:2 Diet is a part-time diet. It means that you can eat normally for 5 days of the week, and fast for just 2. As you can imagine, this has huge appeal for many people who don't like the idea of being on a diet full time and not being able to enjoy a good feed from time to time.

On your 2 fasting days, you can only eat 500 calories per day of your recommended 2000. Because of the very low intake of calories on these 2 days, it's recommended that you spread them out, rather than do them consecutively.

The diet works by limiting your calorie intake to just 25% of your usual intake, but only for 2 days of the week, which still delivers results. Reader Beth Ivory told us on our Facebook page that after just two weeks on the diet, her husband had shed 6lbs. Not bad when you think that's only actually 4 days spent dieting.

What can I eat on the 5:2 Diet?

While the calorie restrictions are strict on the two days spent fasting, the diet is actually very flexible. It's up to you what you eat on your fast days, as long as it comes in at no more than 500 calories for the whole day. You will need to be committed and pretty strong willed as you're cutting your calorie intake by 3/4, but if you keep busy and plan what you're going to eat - it's definitely achievable.

You can eat whatever you like, but the below foods are some of the most sensible as they're low in calories so you can eat more throughout the day than if you eat smaller, high calorie foods:

  • Lots of vegetables
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Small portions of lean meat
  • Soups

  • When can I eat on the 5:2 Diet?

    You can split your 500 calories as you wish, into just 1 meal, 2, or 3, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner - but the healthiest way is to eat little and often throughout the day.

    While it's allowed, filling up on a croissant at breakfast will use up most of your calorie allowance and you'll be starving for the rest of the day. Experiment a little with what times work well for you on your fasting days. You might find skipping breakfast and having 2 small meals for lunch and dinner works well for you. Or having a larger, more satisfying meal in the evening and a few snacks during the day might be better - it's really down to personal preference.

    What can I drink?

    Plenty of water! You can drink as much water as you like, and you should aim to drink as much as possible during your fasting days, it'll keep you hydrated, and may help you to stave off hunger for a little longer.

    You'll need to watch out for drinks with milk in, as these will use up calories that could be otherwise put towards a meal.

    You can drink:

  • Black or herbal teas
  • Black coffee
  • Diet drinks
  • Try our hot drinks calories counter if you're not sure

  • Is the 5:2 Diet healthy?

    Fans of the 5:2 Diet say that not only will it help you to lose weight but that it can increase life-span and protect against diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer's and cancer. However, fasting can have some nasty side effects, noteably, dizziness, lack of energy, irritability, headaches and trouble sleeping, so make sure you're prepared for this!

    While it's thought that the 5:2 Diet can also help to prevent type 2 diabetes, it is not suitable for people who already have diabetes, who need to regulate their sugar levels.

    5:2 Diet plan

    Here at goodtoknow, we're always thinking of ways to help you be 'healthy not hungry', our Recipes team have put together a gallery of healthy, low-cal meals to help you plan out your 2 fasting days, with lots of tasty recipes that will keep you within your 500 calorie limit - and still make you feel like you've had a good meal.

    5:2 Diet meal plans

    Sticking to just 500 calories a day on your fasting days can be tricky to work out, so we've done the hard work for you. All these delicious meal plans come in at under 500 calories, and include breakfast under 100 cals, lunch under 200 cals, dinners under 300 cals and a snack - we are good to you aren't we?

    For more easy 5:2 Diet plans, recipes, calorie counts and tips get Woman's 5:2 Diet Complete Meal Planner app - it makes your fast days a breeze!

    Snacks under 100 calories

    Here are over 100 really tasty and satisfying snacks that won't use up more than 100 calories of your allowance on your fasting days!

    Like the sound of this diet but worried about how you're going to keep track of your calories? The goodtoknow Diet Club offers a handy online food diary service along with calorie information for thousands of foods, so you can easily track what you're eating.

    Sign up now for a 7-day free trial!

    Continued below...

    Have you tried the 5:2 diet? Tell us about your experiences below.

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    Your comments

    Callihan Hopwood

    Check WooPep diet website handbook if you want to learn about diets much much more.

    Callihan Hopwood

    Just look for WooPep diet website page. There is all you need about diet :)


    Hi, I have started this diet and found that on the two days that I fast, I lose weight, but then seem to pick up the weight over the days that I do not fast. What am I doing wrong?


    I unwittingly joined the 5/2 diet, although mine started out as a 2/5 diet with more days of normal calorie intake added in as I lost weight. I now do the 6/1 diet and revert to 4/3 or 5/2 if I've had a week of excess, birthdays, Christmas, holidays etc, depending how bad the excess was. I no longer yo yo and at 5' 5" weight 8st 5lb , size 6-8 after 6 children the results are impressive. Try it, the fast days are tough at first but you get used to it :)


    I have a Samsung galaxy note 3 & a Samsung tablet could I download the app with either of these 2 device's, please help. Many thanks


    This is not a newly invented diet. In islam, more tha 1400 years ago, prophet Mohammed peace be upon him, advised all muslims to fast on monday and thursday, because these are the days on which god views all humans' work.


    Only lost 7lbs in 4 months and I have followed it to the letter! Not great results by any means but guess its better than nothing.


    Surely fasting Isn't a good thing,why oh why do diets have to be so complicated,500 calories is so low for a days intake.surely its as. Simple. As 3 sensible meals a days and no eating between meals except fruit,all these diets are fads,until the next one comes along,ive been on many at 51.

    Lorraine T

    Started 5-2 diet in March this year.Starting weight-13st.10lb.,weight end Oct.-11st.6lb.Have not felt deprived as my Tues. and Thurs.fasts have just fitted in nicely to my lifestyle.One thing very noticeable is that it completely re-educates your eating,as my previous sweet tooth is very easily satisfied these days!!


    I don't need to do the five/two diet because I am only six years old.


    It's still a diet anybody cutting down will lose weight it's common sense.....

    Gemma Chandler

    Hi Annette, wow that's amazing well done! Sounds like the 5:2 Diet has worked wonders for you. Any suggestions for what to eat on fast days?

    Anette Nordvall

    Ohh it works alright! I'm on on week 11 and have lost 5 inches in waist line and probably 8-10 pounds. I wish I'd taken before pictures.. I feel great! Goal is another more week on 2-days fast and then during the summer one day a week. Love my Beach-13 bod... :-)

    Charlotte Gunn


    Martin A Naylor

    Great article about fasting. It just seems almost like a joke that when I read, I am followed by a giant pizza advert in the background :)

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