It's the diet that claims to let you have your cake – and eat it. And intermittent fasting isn't as scary as it sounds.
Nicknamed the 5:2 diet, the regime follows a relatively straightforward process allowing you to eat as you normally would five days a week, whilst fasting on the other two.
Similar to the alternate-day diet and the 80:20 diets favoured by A-listers such as supermodel Miranda Kerr, the 5:2 plan promises to be the easiest fasting regime to adapt into your regular lifestyle.
Essentially, on two (non-consecutive) days, you are recommended to consume just 500 calories (600 for men). While it's important to not overeat on the other days when regular eating resumes, you are given free reign on your choice of foods – even those considered to be high-fat.
The diet first went mainstream via a BBC Horizon documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer, where health journalist Dr Michael Mosley took the 5:2 diet to the challenge.
The most obvious downside is that, when fasting, calorie restriction means barely reaching a few handfuls of fruit and vegetables alongside a couple of eggs and ham to see you through the day. But Dr Mosley recently explained that "after a settling-in period, it has become quite easy" to adjust the diet to your regular lifestyle.
Six weeks after starting the 5:2 diet a full medical exam showed "impressive" results. The doctor lost nearly a stone and reduced his body fat by 25 per cent in addition to improving his blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Thinking of trying out the 5:2 diet? Here is a full list of the regime's benefits:
1. Burn fat – There is evidence that intermittent fasting promotes more fat than muscle loss, making it a highly effective weight-loss diet.
2. Boost your mood – Research suggests that fasting may help improve mood states in adults. People who have participated in an intermittent fasting eating plan have found they sleep better, have higher energy and concentration and, as a result, a greater sense of overall wellbeing.
3. Prolong health – Aside from the physical benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, 5:2 potentially brings greater benefits for your health. Studies have shown that limiting calorie intake may help protect against a number of chronic lifestyle conditions, so adopting a 5:2 lifestyle may help guard against poor health.
4. Slow the ageing process – We all naturally produce a growth hormone called IGF-1 and while it’s great at keeping the body on the go, in later life it can also speed up the ageing process and the onset of age-related diseases. When we fast, IGF-1 production is inhibited, and our bodies go into ‘repair’ mode, giving cells time to rebuild themselves more effectively.