Answer: I get this question a lot. It’s typical of the 5:2 Diet, detox diets and many other weight loss programs.
There are 3 things you need to consider before going on any program that involves fasting:
1. Is it safe?
2. Is it doable?
3. Is it sustainable?
Each fasting diet is different; the 5:2 diet wants you to fast for 2 days of the week and eat ‘normally’ the other 5. Other programs require you to fast from 14-16 hours of the day and feed during the remaining hours. Detox diets can expect you to fast for 10 days or even longer.
I’ve done a lot of research on fasting and it seems to have many benefits associated with it if done right. Benefits include weight reduction, improved blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and even a longer lifespan to name a few.
I will categorically state than any diet that requires you to fast for days on end such as the lemon detox diet is NOT safe. It’s so low in calories for prolonged periods of time that it will lead to loss of precious muscle tissue with a resultant reduction in your metabolic rate and the hoarding of fat stores as your body enters starvation mode. When you return to your previous eating pattern, you will regain the weight and more, because you now need even fewer calories than before just to maintain your weight.
And the only way to fix this is to lift weights and build your muscle tissue back up. Just stay away from any diet that requires prolonged fasting!
Now, in my opinion anyway, to do the 5:2 or any other intermittent fasting right, it’s not about going crazy and eating anything and everything on your feeding days/times.
I mean think about it, you’ve just denied your body precious vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for however long, so why would you go and want to stuff yourself full of processed carbs and energy dense nutrient devoid crap on your feeding days/times?
To my mind, to do it right means that during your feeding phase, you should eat highly nutritious clean food like quality meats, fats and lots of vegetables till you’re satisfied not full.
And if you can do this, then perhaps you are onto something.
Which leads me into the next two criteria when considering fasting.
How hard is it to do? How much will you struggle to stick to the program?
For me, I just couldn’t do it. With my 12 hour days and working 7 days a week it would simply not be possible for me to operate as a trainer of the highest caliber and run a business on my fasting days. And then go home to cook for my family and watch them eat while I sip on chamomile tea. It just won’t happen even if you tempt me with a longer life span.
Furthermore, remembering how I was back in my bodybuilding days, I can tell you honestly that I wouldn’t be a very nice person to be around on my fasting days and I think I’d rather keep my family and Dynamic members liking me.
Whether it’s doable for you and whether it’s fair to your family…well, that’s something you have to think long and hard about.
Could you do this as a way of life? Any successful weight loss program means that you can keep your results for good because a safe and effective weight loss program is in fact a permanent lifestyle change – a healthier way to live your life. Again whether fasting is sustainable as a way of life is something that only you can determine.
And if you have tried fasting and have come to the conclusion that it’s not a long term solution for you, then you need to find a better solution to permanent weight loss and improved health.
I need to bring up something else
So many of us – working in the fitness industry, I see this all the time – have this ‘reward/punishment’ mentality to food.
I know this scenario will rear it’s ugly head in a fasting diet such as the 5:2 Diet:
You’re about to go into your fast so you ‘stock up’ feeding like crazy in preparation for 2 days of fasting. While fasting you are hungry, weak and miserable both in yourself and to be around. But you’ve been so very ‘good’ (we see ourselves as being good when we are displaying ‘will power’ and going hungry)…so you deserve a reward! Therefore as your fast draws closer to ending, you start to fantasize about all the naughty food you are going to eat. And then when the fast is over you go nuts eating processed and energy dense, nutrient devoid food.
And you can’t help it. When I was bodybuilding and shredding pre-comp, I was plagued by a 24/7 desire to eat McDonald’s and pancakes. I didn’t crave zucchini and broccoli then, my body just wanted calories because it thought it was starving and in fact it was.
To me, this type of good vs bad behaviour, reward/punishment or whatever, is not a healthy way to view food and can potentially set you up for difficulties further down the track.
Me, I just wish everybody would view food as fuel rather than comfort or solace or reward. I would rather just eat good quality clean food at regular intervals, not be uncomfortable or hungry and just get on with enjoying life. How good – how liberating – would that be, hey?