Keeping your weight under control and improving your fitness has many health benefits including keeping your joints healthy. Dr Michael Moseley, a British doctor, has presented two fascinating and inspiring documentaries and books entitled “The Fast Diet”, also known as the 5:2 diet, and “Fast Exercise” exploring the myths and scientific research around dieting and exercise for health and longevity. This accessible and well researched information challenges many of our long held beliefs and shows us how achieving better health and fitness can be achieved more easily and with much less time, removing many of the obstacles many people experience in committing to a programme.
Links to Dr Mosley’s videos are at the bottom of this article and the key points about the Fast Diet and Fast exercise are summarised below.
The Fast Diet
Or the 5:2 diet, involves choosing any 2 days per week to restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 calories or 2000-2400 kilojoules while eating normally on the other 5 days. This pattern is known as intermittent fasting and avoids the deprivation mentality that causes most diets to fail and allows you to eat the foods you enjoy the rest of the time. This is not a fad diet and is supported by a wealth of compelling research evidence. Being simple and flexible to implement the 5:2 diet can become a manageable long term strategy to maintain your health. This process of limited calorie intake has a number of important positive metabolic effects such as:
- increased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (important for avoiding type 2 diabetes and keeping our weight under control)
- increased production of the mood enhancing brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF)
- Reduced levels of IGF-1 (Insulin growth factor is linked to accelerated aging and cancer)
- No loss of muscle tissue as occurs in prolonged fasting
- Reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced chronic inflammation
- Targets visceral fat which sits around your organs and is linked with disease
- Reduced weight by about 4.5 kg over a 10-12 week period
The 5:2 diet not only helps you achieve the weight loss you may desire but also has a positive impact on your health by reducing your risk of our biggest killers diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Once you have achieved your ideal weight you can drop to having one fast day per week to continue receiving the health benefits and avoid fading away.
My biggest challenge in implementing this programme was finding an easy way to monitor and record my daily kilojoule intake. This was solved by downloading the free App MyFitnesPal which helps you record what you eat, records the kilojoules and even allows you to scan in product bar codes for packaged foods. You can even sync it with many devices which monitor your activity levels such as the FitBit.
Also known as interval training, refers to short bursts (30 seconds - 1 minute) of high intensity exercise (HIT) interspersed with easy activity for 1 minute. Research has demonstrated that this type of exercise is more effective in improving fitness and losing weight than longer periods of low intensity exercise such as jogging. Who would have thought that 3 minutes of exercise per day could be worth more than an hour jogging, and you don’t even have to break a sweat? The main benefits of this HIT over longer periods of moderate exercise are that HIT will:
- get you fitter faster
- improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance
- improve muscle tone
- reduce appetite to achieve weight loss
- require a minimal time commitment
- targets visceral fat
Let’s face it, finding time to get to the gym to do an hour’s exercise is one of the common impediments to achieving fitness, and it all gets harder in winter. HIT is fast and convenient and you don’t need to go to the gym! You could jog on the spot or climb the stairs or do step ups. To achieve a HIT workout you need to get your heart rate up to 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate for both sexes is calculated by 205.8-(0.685 x age). Your maximum heart rate whilst doing HIT is usually achieved within the second burst of HIT. As with any new physical activity you should make a gradual increase in intensity to avoid injury. If you have an injury and are not sure what activity is safe for you, consult your physiotherapist.
Increasing your incidental activity during the day by taking the stairs, getting off the bus a few stops earlier and standing at your computer also contributes significantly to improving your overall health.
You can see that the health benefits achieved with Fast Exercise are similar to those achieved with the Fast Diet. Research has shown that the combination of Fast Diet and Fast Exercise achieves a better result that either programme on its own. Exercising whilst fasting, and has additional benefits over exercising after eating and has no adverse effects.
So what are you waiting for? This is actually easy and flexible enough to fit into your lifestyle.