The Basics for Newbies – Your Questions Answered!

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The Basics for Newbies – Your Questions Answered!

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  • HI artEURO, well done on your weight loss!!! I did 2 weeks of 5:2, lost 3 lbs then went away for wknd and gained 6lbs!!!! So, clearly not doing so well. Any advice would be most appreciated regarding how you keep your mind focused on the fast and how many days you fast for et.c.


    Hi katser. Wrote a really long reply to you but it seems to have disappeared! I’ll check and see if it comes up in 5 mins and if not I’ll write again x

    Hi katser. I think I’ve lost half a stone if I go by my good weigh in days. So I’d like to lose a further stone. I’ve been on the calculator on here and I should be having around 1700 calories on my non fast days. I’m going to start that tomorrow (I’m on a fast day today) then hopefully I’ll see quicker weight loss. On a positive friends and family have noticed my weight loss. Clothing fits much better and I definitely feel slimmer. It’s just those bloody scales! will keep you posted

    Hi Katser,
    Well, I’ve always had problems with my weight ever since I was a lad, and have ALWAYS been above my BMI index. But since being retired it’s really got out of hand! Although I’m pretty active, I had lost in fact 33 kg back in 2009, having gone out cycling every day summer & winter doing between 50 &100 per day! But nowerdays, I don’t really want to do that just to keep my weight in check!
    In fact I’d done the Camino de Santiago walking the 800 km in 33 days & had’nt lost a gram!
    I do have a home spinning bike which I use now doing the 5:2 exercise for 20 mins every other day!
    This is really for me THE only way forwards, which works! So I’m really motivated to go on with it. I can keep this up – no probs! Good luck with yours!

    Hi lollie:

    If you read number 1, you know that your weight can vary. In fact, you can see a 2 or more pound swing, up or down, on a daily basis sometimes. It is water weight and food in transit. It often goes up when you eat a lot of carbs, and comes down when you don’t.

    If you have read number 2, you know that weight loss is not consistent.

    Continue to do your diet days correctly, and if you keep your calorie intake at or below your TDEE on non diet days you should lose weight over time. The amount and speed at which you lose will depend on your TDEE (number 4).

    Good Luck!

    Thank you. After using the calculator on your page I now know I’ve been over eating on my non fast days. Not all the time as I’m general I pick healthy options and love white meat vegetables etc….However I know I haven’t stuck to 1700 as the calculator has now told me. I’ll be sticking to 5:2 as I really enjoy it but I shall watch my calories on my non fast days too. Thanks x

    Hi again lollie:

    You are welcome.

    Your comments are very perceptive and important. There is a belief that if a person ‘eats healthy’ they are also eating ‘low cal’. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, of course, what ‘eating healthy’ is depends on the person. What is healthy for one person is poison for another. That is one reason 5:2 is so flexible. Everybody can eat what they feel is a healthy diet while following 5:2 and be successful in losing weight.

    Maybe a silly q, but TDEE = ?

    Total daily energy expenditure. It’s the number of calories you burn per day naturally, just doing nothing. On this site, they say to underestimate how active you are to get a number. There is a diet tracker on this website that gives you an approximate number. Top right corner on my screen 🙂

    Ok scratch that. Actually if you go to the search bar and type in tdee, the calculator should show up and that will give you your number.

    The TDEE & BMR Calculator is on the “How” tab at the top of every page on this site. It tells you everything you need to know about calculating your TDEE and why it’s important.

    Tip – If you are fairly close to your ideal/goal weight anyway (within a couple of stone), an easy trick for getting your weight loss moving is to use the TDEE calculator properly in ever other category but put your target weight in as if it’s your ‘actual’ weight. The resulting BMR-TDEE range should be your ‘rough’ range for calorie intake on non-fastdays (don’t go crazy calorie counting every morsel but just make sure you have more than the BMR and less than the TDEE). This will give you a massive calorie reduction on your REAL ‘actual’ TDEE AND it has the advantage of getting you accustomed to what sort of calorie range you should be having once you reach maintenance.

    Hi shandance and welcome:

    Please read #4 and you will understand TDEE.

    Good Luck!

    So, I’m today on my 4th fast day in two weeks. So far so good with the fast days, but what should I do on the non-fast days? I fast on Mondays and Thursdays, so on Tuesdays and Fridays should I be eating to my TDEE calorie level and on Wed/Sat/Sun just eat whatever I want? Or should I be eating to my TDEE calorie level on all non-fast days? Help! Thanks.

    Do whatever is going to work for you longterm esgebe, you CAN overeat on a couple of non-fastdays if you want and stick to, at or under, your TDEE on the others but if you do that just don’t expect to lose weight as quickly as you would if you stuck to your TDEE or less on every non-fastday. Or indeed lose weight at all if you’re really overdoing it on those couple of days.

    TracyJ, thanks for that. So for best results stick to TDEE on non-fast days. I’ve got it now. It really is about a different approach to eating and food! I’ve used My Fitness Pal in the past as a good way to keep a check on daily calorie intake….time to do that again me thinks!

    Yep. You don’t have to be draconian about it and count every calorie contained in every morsel to the nth degree. I’ve never used any kind of tracker myself. You just need to be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth on non-fastdays and have a decent idea of the calorie level of each meal or snack. Add up the numbers (rounding up to err on the side of caution) as you go and make sure you don’t exceed your TDEE. It gets to be second nature after a while.

    Sound advise Tracey J. 2 weeks and 4 fast complete, sensible approach and steady as she goes! Lots too lose, so it will take a while….but then it took a while to put it all on in the first instance. Patience.


    I often see dieters that state that exercise increases their metabolism. While exercise does increase TDEE, it seems many have read, been told or just believe that their resting metabolic rate increases with the more exercise they do.

    Reasons given for this rise in RMR (BMR on this site) include building muscle mass – they believe muscles use more energy than non muscles – or just the fact that exercise must speed everything up.

    However, if you think about it, BMR is measured when the body is at complete rest – the only things moving are the heart and lungs. So even if muscles ‘burn more calories’ when they are moving, they are burning none when they are immobile.

    The research is clear: “Thus, the results of this study strongly suggest that RMR is independent of both a person’s current aerobic level and training status.”

    As suggested in 5, above, you should exercise for better health. But exercising will not improve your weight loss very much, or your BMR at all.

    Good Luck!


    I have done my 2 fast days which I do Monday Tuesday. Im going to do tomorrow too. I feel perfectly healthy and I’m 10 weeks in. Would you say this is ok??

    Hi Lollie:

    Assuming you eat around 500 calories on your diet days, and you have had no problems with any of your diet days so far, I see no problem with going for three. But three in a row would probably be enough for a newbie, and if you don’t make it through the day, don’t worry about it!

    Good Luck!

    Thanks simcoeluv. I appreciate your feedback x

    Bit of an awkward question here….like most people I’m fasting two days a week, no problem, actually quite enjoy it! However the day after my fast days things seem to move quite quickly, and well, sorry to be blunt, I have a good clear out! So, if I’ve got this right, in fast days your body uses up some of your fat reserves, hence the weight loss, but how does the body process that? Is my reaction the next day a result of my body ‘processing’ differently? Or…I have had another thought. Fast days are largely carb free…typically no bread, cereals etc, so could my reaction be and intolerance to wheat or gluton or something else that comes back into my diet after fast days? Anyone any ideas?

    Hi esgebe:

    I’ve heard gluten blamed for many things (almost all wrongly, I might add), but not this.

    Your body needs water to help move undigested/unused material through your system. On your diet days, you ingest a lot less material, but drink the same or more amount of water.

    More water in system, less material = faster movement.

    Basically, you can’t drastically change your input without also changing your output!

    Thanks for that simcoeluv. I guess, yes, that makes sense. Might try a wheat free day after a fast day and see if that has any impact – positive or negative! Thanks again.


    One common side effect of fasting is insomnia. It does not affect everyone, but certainly quite a few.

    In shorthand, one reason is because fasting increases norepinephrine levels in the body and one side effect of heightened norepinephrine levels is insomnia. The hormone also increases alertness (‘my mind just wouldn’t stop working’), speeds up the heart rate, pumps glucose into the bloodstream and is the basis of the ‘fight or flight’ response.

    Looking back, this makes sense. If in the olden days a person was unsuccessful in their hunt for food and was hungry, it would make sense for the body to become more alert, get more energy and be better able to find and catch something to eat.

    There are various ways to try to mitigate the effects of the hormone that work better or worse for different individuals. The one that seems to work most often is to eat one meal in the evening of your diet day that is high in fat and protein. This seems to provide enough food so that the body does not release a lot of the hormone into the blood stream. Also, some find a snack of some kind before bedtime helps. You have to experiment to see what works for you.

    Good Luck!

    Hello all of you newbies and welcome:

    My observation is there are a couple of things most people starting a weight loss diet do not appreciate, and unless they gain an appreciation of these things, they will be unsuccessful.

    First, it will take quite a bit of time to lose the weight you want to lose. If you don’t appreciate this you will quit before you reach your goal and ‘fail’. While initial weight loss on any diet can be dramatic, over time it is hard to lose much more than one to one and a half pounds a week. That means to lose 50 pounds, you can count on dieting for about a year. If you are not prepared for this, you may be doomed from the start.

    Second, the number of calories necessary to maintain your ideal weight is very small compared to what you have been eating. To see what I mean, figure out the TDEE for your ideal weight (see the TDEE link number 4). That will be the average number of calories that you must stay at to not regain any weight you have lost. Forever. That is why it is common to hear you must change the way you eat. If you don’t, you may lose some weight, but you will gain it right back and more.

    These are sad truths that, if not understood, will cause you to fail in your weight loss efforts.

    Good Luck!

    I’m new to the 5:2 diet, in fact this is my first day, so pardon me if these questions have been asked and answered before. I work 12 hr shifts (days and nights) and was wondering if this diet works ok with that?? And when do the 24 hrs start – is 12 midnight to 12 midnight ok? Thanks

    Hi charliem and welcome:

    A day goes from midnight to midnight. That means you generally won’t eat more than 500 cal. over a 32 to 36 hour period, depending on when your last meal is eaten before going to bed – go to bed, get up, eat 500 or fewer calories during your waking hours, go to bed, get up and eat ‘normally’ – ie. to your TDEE or less (see FAQ, above).

    This diet works with any pattern, but you do have to adjust for your shift times. If you go to the top right of this page there is a ‘search’ box. Type in ‘shift work’ and you will get over 200 responses. Hopefully one of them will help you work out a pattern that works for you.

    Good Luck!

    I wouldn’t recommend the diet coke. The chemical sweeteners in it have a detrimental effect on your organs and the body assumes your about to eat something sweet so floods your body with insulin.

    Sugar is not a natural product it is processed. It might originate from beet or cane but the processing it goes through takes away it’s nutrients.

    For my fizzy kick and to fill me up I drink soda water. It’s about 40p a litre in the supermarket, fills you up and has no calories.

    Hi Bonnie:

    Recent research indicates that artificial sweeteners do not impact the body like carbs (sugars) do:

    Could you please give citations of clinical studies supporting your stated facts?


    Hi everyone. I’m new to this and hope you don’t mind me butting in, there’s so much information here it’s fantastic. I am hoping to shift some weight and increase my energy levels through this diet. I was wondering if there would be anything wrong in initially working a 4:3 pattern. I was thinking of fasting Mon, Wed, Fri. Thanks.

    Hi hettybee and welcome:

    There would be nothing wrong with it, but I don’t recommend it.

    I don’t recommend it because this way of eating is not something most people have experience with and it affects people differently. Until you get used to it it can be difficult and it takes most people at least one or two months to get comfortable with the eating style.

    I recommend starting with 5:2 and doing non consecutive diet days. After you have completed eight to 16 successful diet days (4 to 8 weeks worth), you can then reevaluate and decide if you want to do something different.

    Good Luck!

    Hi, thank you for all your valued information. I would like to know what your success has been on the diet please. How much weight have you lost, over what period of time?

    Hi guys. Waiting for my book to be delivered but want to get started. Is it advisable to do consecutive diet days? So 500 cals Mon and Tues and 2400 cal or below Wed-Sun?

    Hi Aries and welcome:

    I have lost 40 pounds so far doing 5:2 exclusively.

    Time for me is not relevant. I have no interest in losing weight quickly. I travel extensively (months at a time) and make no attempt to practice 5:2 when I travel. So trying to equate how fast I have lost 40 pounds with how fast you can lose 40 pounds will not be helpful to you. I heard about and started 5:2 in March, 2013. Since I began, I have never gained weight – so for a year plus I have only lost weight.

    You will see many comments on this and other sites that 5:2 is a way of eating (WOE) or way of life (WOL). These comments are accurate. If you do 5:2 long enough you will come to understand what it takes to not only lose weight, but to keep it off. But you have to understand, in addition to being a way of eating, it is a slow weight loss process. If you are not interested in losing weight slowly, and then knowing what it takes to maintain your weight loss, 5:2 is not for you.

    Good Luck!

    Thanks and congrats! I don’t mind losing weight slowly but steadily. It is much better than not losing anything or putting more weight on. It is my first fast day. I’m not good at counting calories. Only had two fruit so far. I’m scared to go over the allowed calories. I have to plan what to eat tomorrow. Hope not to be too hungry and then go overboard. I will commit to giving this diet a good try though. The forum definitely helps, but I would love to ready success stories with before and after photos. To visibly see the changes in people’s appearances is a great motivator.

    Hi Aries:

    This thread has most of the information you need to succeed. I suggest that to start, you focus on doing your two diet days each week properly – 500 calories or less. You can start worrying about your non diet days after a couple of months of successful diet days.

    Good Luck!

    Hi Aries

    Have a look at this

    And I use to keep count of calories, it is really easy to use.
    Good Luck!!

    What other nutritional info do I need to keep in mind when starting the diet. How much protein, for example, do I need to intake for a healthy diet, when on fast days. Thanks

    Hi Becca and welcome:

    5:2 is calorie based, not type of food based.

    Most people start by eating just like they always do, only less on their two diet days. It seems everyone has their own opinion of what a healthy diet is, and 5:2 does not require adoption of any one of those opinions.

    Good Luck!

    Thanks for the response. I only ask as I remember reading an interview with Michael Mosley and someone commenting saying that the body still needs around 50g of proteina day regardless of calorie intake so I was just checking if there was any advice or other information in needed before I began with my fast days

    Hi Becca:

    Don’t know where that came from. Many of us do not eat anything on our diet days, so we obviously don’t ingest any protein on those days.

    Many that do eat on their diet days find one meal in the evening high in fat and protein works best, but that is because they find they are less hungry eating that way, and sometimes sleep better.

    Good Luck!

    Thanks for the advice, just needed a couple of points clarifying before I made a proper start. Look forward to getting more involved with the 5:2


    This is the time of year when many begin diets with high hopes of getting lighter and healthier – quickly. Experience has shown that most will abandon their efforts within the first couple of months.

    One of the many reasons they stop is that they quickly lose quite a bit of weight at the start of their diet and get very happy (there are many such posts being made daily on this site now). However, in awhile they stop losing weight at the initial rate of loss and get very unhappy – and quit. Most of the rapid, substantial weight loss they experience at the beginning is water weight loss which cannot be sustained over time.

    The term water weight is not well understood. There is nothing wrong with losing water weight, but it becomes important if people think that quick water weight loss amounts at the start of the diet should continue and then quit their diets when it does not.

    The body needs fat and protein to survive, but not carbs. However, carbs provide ‘quick’ energy and the body stores a small amount for immediate energy needs. In addition to standard blood sugar, the body stores carbs in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is stored in muscles and in the liver. Bodies may contain two or three pounds of glycogen. However, to store glycogen, the body needs water – up to 4 pounds of water for each pound of stored glycogen.

    So when a person goes on a diet, they reduce their caloric intake and the body starts to draw on glycogen stores to supply the energy no longer being supplied by food intake. As the glycogen is used, its weight, plus all of the water weight associated with storing it, goes away. Quickly. After glycogen stores are reduced to a level that is stabilized by the caloric intake of the new diet, the quick weight loss stops and the fat loss takes precedence. Fat loss is much slower (the old 3500 cal from the diet to lose one pound).

    The result is the initial rapid weight loss is replaced by periods of weight gain (water weight coming back) no weight loss (a plateau) or much slower weight loss. This is when many dieters quit their diets.

    So enjoy your weight loss, there is nothing bad or wrong with it! Just don’t quit 5:2 when you stop losing weight at the rapid pace you initially enjoyed!

    Simcoeluv 10/10 for your wonderful post. You get it all explained in such an understandable way. Congratulations…CG

    I have to agree with Simcoeluv about the weight loss. Having recently returned to the 5:2 I have lost 10 lb over 15 days involving 7 fast days. I absolutely know that in all of that loss probably only 2 or 3 pounds is actually the dreaded FAT. Be under no illusions, FAT loves our bodies and just like a pair of smelly old slippers it slowly becomes an insidious part of our lives.
    So to all of you posters who get downhearted at little, slow or no FAT loss from time to time remember that “THE LONGEST JOURNEY STARTS WITH THE SHORTEST STEP”. Be positive, get a positive Mantra to use when you feel low and congratulate yourselves whenever you feel down during your journey because you know you are still on it.
    Good luck to you all out there.

    Hi. I’m about 3 months in and when I’d weighed myself in December I’d lost 10/12 pounds. I’ve now ditched the scales as I get obsessed! My weight fluctuates so much naturally that weigh ins would make me feel stressed! I definitely feel and look slimmer that’s the main thing.
    I’m on a fast today but have allowed myself an extra 30/40 calories as it’s ‘that time of the month’ and I find myself feeling so hungry! I feel like I’ve let myself down. Especially after Christmas and new year too! I’ll definitely stick to 500 or below on my other fast this week. I actually feel down about it though! Also….should I have lost more weight by now? I’m a 32 year old female. I love this way of eating. I really don’t want to become disheartened. Hormones maybe?!

    Hi lollie and welcome:

    Your weight fluctuations are normal, as I mentioned in my Warnings post. Your body can go up/down two or more pounds in weight every day. The basic reasons are changes in water weight and weight in transit. Those that weigh daily often average their weekly lows to establish a trend, up or down, and those that don’t like the wild swings usually weigh themselves weekly or monthly. Those that weigh weekly still can be victim to the daily weight swings (think if they weigh on a day when they are two pounds up for the day), but it averages out over time.

    For your hunger, I suggest you review what types of foods you are eating on your diet days. Many find eating foods high in fat/protein works best, and eating carbs works less well. Think of ‘timed release’ v. ‘quick release’. Fat and protein are timed release types, digesting slowly and providing a steady stream of blood sugar for a longer period of time. Carbs (especially processed carbs) are sugars and are ‘quick release’. Your blood sugar spikes, the spike is quickly eliminated by the body, and you are left with low blood sugar and hungry. Also, many find eating only one meal in the evening works best.

    Your weight loss in right on target. Most women lose an average of a little less than a pound a week over time. So your 10/12 pound loss in 12 weeks is right on.

    Good Luck!

    Hi, this is my first day and I’ve decided to try to eat just an evening meal. I’ve found in the past that once I eat something I want to eat more so don’t think having breakfast will help. Counting calories will be a challenge, hopefully I’ll soon get used to that. Also I’m not very patient, so some of your stories are a little depressing – if I can lose the average, I’ll be able to keep at it but hope I’m not one of those who stick with it for ages and don’t lose anything. Maybe if I just concentrate on the health benefits rather than the weight loss I’ll be stronger. Wish me luck!

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