Part of the reason why I love geeking out on health/fitness is that it’s an area of knowledge that I feel is constantly in flux– some might find that frustrating. I find it exciting. I love learning new things and having my mental paradigms be challenged and even, in some cases, shifted.
For example, I used to think living in calorie-restriction while also doing cardio was good for me. I also thought vegetarianism was healthy (I did it moreso for animal welfare but I also thought eating meat wasn’t good for you). How wrong I was/how much I’ve learned since then!
So when a new diet fad comes around, I want to learn about it to see if it can apply to me.
To clarify, I am not interested in fads for fads’ sake. In fact, I don’t even like the term “diet” as it connotes something temporary. Eating in a cyclical ketogenic way is a lifestyle strategy that I have adopted since it has proven to work for my body. What works for me may not work for you– hence the “my personal opinion” part of the title for this post.
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in! One of my friends recently asked me about the 5:2 diet or the 5:2 fast diet.
The idea I guess is that you plug your height/weight into a BMI (body mass index) calculator which then tells you the max amount of calories you can take in per day for your 5 eating days in the week given your activity level (your TDEE or total daily energy expenditure). Then, on your 2 “fasting” days (which aren’t really fasting since you’re still technically eating something but whatevs) you eat under 500-600 calories. They recommend high protein + fiber for your 5 eating days.
Pros of the 5:2 Diet: Great introduction to fasting for those who have never done it before. Even though I don’t think it’s really fasting, as 500-600 calories worth of food is still eating technically, I do agree with the general tenet that we as humans don’t need to eat 3 meals a day with (OMG?!) snacking in between. That is too much.
Cons of the 5:2 Diet: It is only concerned with calories. For example, vegetable oil is terrible for you but it technically can have just as many calories as say an avocado– so one will give you cellulite while the other will give you nutrition. A calorie from one food source does not have the same effect as a calorie from another food source. Also, just protein and fiber for your eating days? What about fat? Certain fats are good for you and it satiates your hunger far better.
Their formula for calculating TDEE/BMI is flawed because it is weight- and height-based. Anyone who lifts/has muscle will be an exception, as muscle weighs more than fat. This is why I never count calories (I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m satiated) or weigh myself. I go by my decline in dress size (size 12 to 2 in one year!) and DXA scan results which all confirm I’ve been converting fat to muscle.
This could be good if you want to look average/okay but if you want to look cut, this won’t be enough. To get that cut look, you need to fast longer and/or more regularly (in addition to working out, obviously). I practice intermittent fasts every day (start eating at 2pm and stop eating at 8pm) and enjoy week-long fasts when I can schedule it in. I’m also going to be experimenting with 3-day water-only fasts each quarter and see how that goes.
OK, now let’s tackle the Whole30 Diet.
The idea behind this one is similar to Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Paleo and Bulletproof— you’re eliminating foods that are inflammatory and eating plenty of “whole” foods (fish/meat/veg/good fats) while generally avoiding carbs. Calorie counting and how much you weigh is not a concern. It’s “30” because you just do it for a month and see how you feel– with the idea being that having done it, you will know what kinds of foods are nourishing for your body.
Pros of the Whole30: Um, almost everything! I’m a fan because this diet understands that not every calorie is created equal and that it’s all about nourishment vs. energy expenditure. It’s not that different from the cyclical ketogenic lifestyle that I practice. In fact, its tenets are not really all that new at all– which could be perceived as a con– but I am sticking it in the “pro” category, as I don’t care about marketing/branding– if the message that you’re delivering is helping others, then more power to you!
Cons of the Whole30: This is more on the technical side, but I don’t agree with the following rules of their diet:
Why is “Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial” a rule but yet “Fruit juice as a sweetener?” What?! How exactly is stevia not okay but apple juice permitted when juice has plenty of fructose in it which will be rapidly absorbed and stored as body fat? At least they recommend small amounts for the fruit juice. 2 “servings” (however much that is) of fruit are allowed for this diet.
“Do not eat grains.” I agree with this generally but I think gluten-free grains are okay sparingly (as in, 1/7 of your meals a week– except for pesticide-filled/GMO corn– though, I will have non-GMO popcorn since it has more fiber than carb but that is as far as I go with corn– corn flour isn’t a slow carb).
Look, I have figured out what works for me– but my goal is to be super cut/lean (because if I can, why not?) so the two diets above aren’t really going to get me there by themselves. But my goal may be different from yours– so just play around/do some biohacking and see what works for you!