Ask Emma

In ‘Ask Emma’ our Dietitian Emma Little answers your questions on matters of diet and food. Send your questions to 'Ask Emma'.
Read more about Emma here.

‘Emma, everyone is talking about intermittent dieting, how and why does it work?’

By cutting calories for 2 days a week, the cells of the body are able to “rest”, and focus on removing their own waste products. This prevents waste build up within cells, maintaining good cellular function, preventing oxidative damage and inflammation (and disease), as well as ageing. You end up functioning better on a cellular level.

In addition, intermittent dieting helps prevent certain cellular genes being activated, those that are responsible for cellular damage: cellular damage causes disease, so there is an element of disease prevention as well.

An important point about intermittent dieting - evidence shows it is easier to stick to an intermittent diet than a conventional diet, which obviously adds to its effectiveness on a practical level. 

Intermittent energy restriction (IER) diets are known as fasting diets, such as the 2-Day Diet, or the 5:2 diet. This 2-day diet concept is a new, simple, research-based approach to effective and maintained weight loss. You diet for just 2 (ideally consecutive) days a week (a 600-1000Kcal restriction daily) and eat normally for the other 5 days (following a calculated meal plan under the guidance of a dietitian).

During the 2 restricted days we encourage foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, vegetables, dairy products  and limited fruit, (NO carbohydrates).

These foods are satisfying and reduce the feelings of hunger. The body is provided with the minimum 50g of carbohydrates a day through fruit, vegetables and dairy products. 

During the 5 unrestricted days, the diet is more varied and includes carbohydrates. The diet itself is balanced if implemented correctly. 

The evidence suggests that an IER diet yields better results for fat weight loss, muscle retention, maintaining the metabolic rate, reduction in triglycerides and cholesterol, better insulin response and thus blood sugar control when compared to a conventional 7-day dietary pattern of calorie restriction. 

All of this can be summed up: dieters who followed the 2-day diet found that they lost proportionally more fat (80%) than 7-day dieters (70%) and about one and a half times as quickly as the conventional dieters. They also found it easier to follow the diet. 

As with any weight loss regime, exercise is encouraged on a regular basis – the "calories in, calories out" principle works in conjunction with a healthy dietary approach!

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