The 5:2 Diet won’t turn you into one of those people. You know, the ones who have to ask the waiter if there are any low-carb options on the menu—or if they know how many Weight Watchers points a dish has.
Here’s the 5:2 diet in a nutshell. You can eat anything you want on the plan… for five days a week. The catch? The other two days are fast days.
The intermittent fasting diet is blowing up online after a new study found that people on the diet had a lowered risk of heart disease (and a faster metabolism!) than people who counted calories.
So how does the 5:2 Diet work exactly? It’s pretty simple: Two days a week, you eat about 25 percent of what you’d typically have. The other five days of the week, you do your normal thing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you end up consuming fewer calories so you also end up losing weight.
Keep in mind: Even on those “fast days,” you’re not eating nothing.
Women are supposed to have about 500 calories a day, while men have about 600. Technically, you can eat whatever you want to get those calories—but the 5:2 Diet Book recommends loading up on plenty of vegetables, as well as small portions of lean meat, fish, or eggs. And soups! Low-cal soups (which tend to be filling) are clutch.
Is it Safe?
The 5:2 Diet is safe for otherwise healthy people to try, says Katherine Brooking, of AppforHealth.com. But it’s definitely not considered safe for children (since they need fuel for their growing bodies) or pregnant women, who also need the calories, Brooking says.
And while it’s okay to put your fast days back-to-back, you shouldn’t do anymore than two days in a row. (Worth noting: Most people find it easier to spread their fast days out throughout the week — but you can do them whenever works for you.)
Will The 5:2 Diet Really Help You Lose Weight?
Probably — there’s a good amount of research to back it up.
For example, one study published in the journal Cell Research found that intermittent fasting may help you lose weight, speed up your metabolism, and burn fat more efficiently (although, caveat: the research was done on mice). Another recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that the men who followed an intermittent fasting eating plan like the 5:2 Diet lost more weight and fat than those who didn’t.
“There’s no magic here,” Brooking says. “If you can stick to this plan and eat fewer calories over time, you will lose weight.”
Most people should lose some weight in one to three weeks on the 5:2 Diet.
Whether it’s a good long-term weight-loss plan is ultimately a question of your personality. Some people find fasting a couple of days a week to be totally sustainable, Brooking says. But others aren’t okay with eating just 500 calories a day for two days out of the week — or they may overcompensate on “normal” days by eating more than usual.
“It really depends on the person,” Brooking says.
The 5:2 Diet is best for people who already have healthy eating habits, Brooking says, noting that if you have a history of bingeing or restricting your food intake, you should take a hard pass on this one. And again, if you’re pregnant or a child, you should skip it.
Ditto if you suffer from migraines (skipping meals could trigger headaches) or if you tend to regularly go hard at the gym, since you might not get in enough calories to power your workouts, Brooking says.
Does The 5:2 Diet Come With Any Other Health Benefits?
In addition to the decreased risk of heart disease mentioned earlier, one animal study published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience found that intermittent fasting protected mice against developing Alzheimer’s disease by restoring an important part of the blood-brain barrier. And, of course, if you’re overweight or obese, losing weight could certainly lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The bottom line: The 5:2 Diet could be good to try if you have weight to lose. But even if it sounds awesome, it’s still a good idea to check in with your doctor to make sure there are no potential issues with your trying it.
This article was originally published on Women's Health.