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5:2 Exercise & Fitness: Advice and information for those following 5:2 / IF (Intermittent Fasting)

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Why Exercise ?

Maintaining a normal bodyweight and taking regular exercise are 2 major areas of life which we can address to improve our health.

Fasted training, i.e. training on FDs, seems to increase the benefits of both training and IF, but it is advisable to first become used to fasting

Exercise alone does not produce significant weight loss for most people. However it can improve body shape and can help overcome weight plateaux.

Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diesease, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, dementia, depression.

- Try to train regularly, building up to 3-6 days per week.
- Develop a training routine you enjoy and want to continue long term.
- Regular exercisers gain the greatest benefits over their lifetime and they can minimise biological aging, i.e. "Bend the Aging Curve" BendAge

If you are very obese or have health issues, check with your GP that you are able to start exercising and also if there are types of exercise you should avoid.

Fat and Metabolism

Body fat is highly active tissue which secretes hormones (e.g. leptin, adiponectin) and microphages (which cause inflammation) directly into the bloodstream. These substances can significantly affect metabolism & weight and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers.
E.g ref and ref

Visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous - a study found that liposuction removing up to 20lb of the latter did not improve health indicators. Visceral fat needs to be reduced by exercise and a calorie deficit, preferably both together.


"What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger"
Hormesis Mattson and Hormesis can be applied to exercise, analagous to how 5:2 /IF uses it for nutrition.
Alternating between “extremes” of feast and fast (like 5:2) or intense training and rest, makes the body more resilient.

The intermittent stress of lifting an extreme weight or performing at high speed for a short period pushes the body to overcompensate and prepare for an even greater future challenge HormesisTrain and AntiFragile
The following recovery period avoids damage from over-stressing.

INEFFICIENT: Low-Medium Intensity Steady state Cardio

Steady state cardio is not necessary and should only be a small part of your weekly cardio, unless it is all you can manage to do.

Only high intensity exercise recruits the fast-twitch muscle fibers that have the most glycogen (stored glucose). Steady State Cardio does not empty the glucose stores in those particular muscles. Hence, the circulating glucose has nowhere to be stored — except as bodyfat.

Moreover, the muscle cells will lose their sensitivity to insulin and become inflamed by the high levels of insulin, which the body has produced to deal with the high levels of circulating glucose. The body mortars this inflammation with LDL cholesterol.

Hence, those exercising only at low-medium intensity are at greater risk of cardiovascular problems than high intensity exercisers SteadyState (pp. 31-34).
Obviously, non-exercisers have the highest risk of all.


HIIT cardio and resistance training / weight lifting are recommended to boost the effect of 5:2/IF, to increase weight loss, reduce body fat, retain muscle and maintain TDEE / BMR.

Anyone who is not specialising in a sport at a high level should aim to do a variety of training: HIIT cardio, resistance and flexibility.

HOW to Exercise

The cardio machines and the girlie pink dumbbells that gyms push are inadequate to significantly improve fitness or burn fat.
However, 10 mins walk on a treadmill or outside is beneficial after training, especially after heavy lifting.
Scientists have proved that cardio and resistance training can be done in the same session, without detriment to either, e.g. TrainBoth

Whether you join a gym or train at home or in the park:
- Train as intensively as your time, health and fitness level allow.
- Do not remain in your comfort zone, or you will not improve.
- You are supposed to drip sweat and pant heavily !
However, a brisk 30 mins daily walk plus 5 mins hoop is better than nothing and if done regularly will bring some health benefits.


- Stretching for 5 mins before and after each training session is recommended
- Yoga and Pilates classes can be added if additional flexibility training is desired. Some such classes also provide additional strength / toning.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT is an exercise strategy which alternates brief intervals of high intensity exercise with less-intense recovery periods. Time intervals may be equal or different and their length and the number of sets depends on fitness level.

Start with one session per week and build up to a maximum of 3 (no more).

HIIT is very time-efficient, producing the greatest fitness benefit in the least time (the advantage of hormesis). However, beginners should build up gradually, starting say with just 1 or 2 intervals.

Scientists have proved that HIIT burns more fat than steady state lower intensity exercise and speeds up the metabolism, which helps burn more calories for up to 48 hrs.

HIIT increases both aerobic and anaerobic endurance

HIIT can be applied to cardio: e.g. cycling, running, skipping, jumping, mountain climbs
or to bodyweight exercises, e.g. squatting, situps, burpees, pressups

Most gyms offer classes, e.g.
*spinning, circuit training, CrossFit, Tabata, Fartlek*(Fartlek = HIIT with irregular intervals)
which each use a form of interval training.
These classes require less planning and are often more enjoyable (music, socialising, equipment) than training on your own.

A typical HIIT session could consist of:
- 4 mins warmup
- 8 sets of intervals
- 4 mins cooldown
and last 12-60 mins in total.

Recovery time is usually half the high intensity time.
Examples of typical interval sets are:
- 20 seconds high intensity + 10 secs recovery OR
- 40 sec high + 20 sec low OR
- 60 sec high + 30 sec low

Detailed HIIT example plans: (scroll down to Workouts section and ignore whether entitled "cutting" or "bulking") BodyBuild


This helps retain muscle mass during weight loss and hence to maintain TDEE.

It is easier in a gym, especially re equipment. You can lift in the weights area on your own OR in a pump class.
Whether @ gym or home, before you start lifting, have a few lessons with a trainer to learn the correct form and avoid injury.

It is best not to train the same muscle groups 2 days in succession, so have rest days, or cardio, or train different muscle groups on different days.
Try to build up to weight training for 30-60 mins twice per week.

The "Heavy" lifting described here should not exceed bodyweight unless you are really fit and expert.
Women who have given birth and / or are aged 40+ have a higher risk of pelvic floor / prolapse injuries when lifting heavy than young non-mums.

Main Lifting / Resistance Exercises

Reps = the number of repetitions in a set of a particular lifting exercise
Sets are normally separated by brief rests
E.g. you might do 3 sets each of 12 reps all of the same exercise.

If you have access to dumbbells / barbells, then for maximum effect, work the large muscle groups. Alternatively, use bodyweight.
bent-over rows (press button "female")
Behind neckPress (press button "female")
dead lift
The abs and smaller muscle groups will automatically be trained by these exercises, but you can add optionally 20 mins weekly abs exercises:

Basic Abs
- Situps: build up to 3 sets of 20 reps. Try to put your arms in front of you, instead of behind your head
- Angled situps: with one ankle resting on the opposite knee. 2 sets of 15 each side
- Plank: 3 sets, each 45 secs
- Leg extensions: legs bent 90 degrees, so your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Stretch each leg in turn, parallel to the floor. 3 sets of 10.

Lifting To increase Strength Rather than Muscle Mass
Lift as heavy as you can, low reps, with 1 minute rest between sets
e.g. 5 sets x 5 reps each, i.e. totalling 25 lifts.

Lifting To Build More Muscle
With a lower weight, do 3 sets x 8-20 reps, i.e. totalling 24-60 lifts.

Additionally, or if you don't have heavy barbells, use your bodyweight.
Example to build up to:
- 3 sets of 30 press ups, proper ones, see detail below +.
- 40 deep squats, with thighs parallel to floor, i.e. ATG (Arse to Grass) see ++.
- 3 set of 8 reps inverted pullup /row Inverted OR assisted chin-ups on a gym machine OR full chin-ups if you can manage them (Amazon have pullup bars which fit over doors from about £15)

+Press ups
- It is best to keep attempting one proper pressup rather than doing several dozen girlie ones with your knees on the floor.
- Once you can do one pressup, you will soon be able to build up to 5, then 10 etc.
- Tip: keep the abs rigid, so strong abs are as important as strong shoulders & arms.

- Are the best exercise for the large muscle group in bum and thighs.
- Basic principle: It is like having a pee on a public loo - get your bum down low and pointing to the rear, but not actually touching the seat.
-Lean back on your heels, so that weight is on them, not on your toes.
-For bodyweight squats, bring your arms forward
-Keep your back straight, but angled slightly forward, not vertical.
- Go down as far as you can without knee pain.

CAUTION With Leangains-Type Protocols

5:2 is an easier WOL than other forms of IF, with most days being NFDs during which the body can recuperate.

Some women have had injuries or health problems with very tough LeanGains-type protocols, which combine ADF or daily 16:8 with fasted lifting of multiples of body weight.

Some women have achieved excellent results on LeanGains-type; others had problems after a few months, or even from the start. Particularly at risk are women with very low (11-18%) body fat, possibly already with irregular menstruation, or with EDs.

Post-menopausal women seem to do well, as do men, presumably due to differences in hormones, body fat %, metabolism.

RECOMMENDATION: Don't lift more than your bodyweight and mostly lift well below it.

Running versus Walking

Walking is beneficial psychologically, is easy on the knee joints and has some physical benefits.

However, at speeds of 5mph or faster, running will burn more calories per mile than walking Ref . Typical values:

- For running (5 mph and higher): Total calories burned per mile = .75 x body weight (in pounds); net calories (see ++) burned per mile = .63 x weight.
- For walking (3 to 4 mph): Total calories burned per mile = .53 x body weight; net calories burned per mile = .30 x weight.

++ Note: net calories = total calories - cals the body would have burned at rest (calculated from BMR)


We start losing bone density from about age 35. Women can lose a great deal before, during and after menopause.

Other risk factors: Smoking, heavy drinking, inactive lifestyle, very slim build, family history of osteoporosis, longterm steroid use.

To retain bone strength and avoid a painfully disabled old age, start now:
Ideally weight bearing exercises that load the bone along its length

Impact exercise E.g. walking, running, jumping, skipping rope, step class, hitting a heavy punch bag.

Lifting: squats, press-ups, bench press, overhead press etc.

Squats are much better than lunges: The weight in a squat is transmitted down along the spine, through the hip, and down along the bones of the leg, whereas in a lunge, it is transmitted across the shinbone and puts pressure on the knee joint.

Cycling normally does NOT increase bone density as it does not really load bones along their length. A study found that cyclists who did no other exercise had low bone density because of the combo of this with their training Osteo


Useful exercise descriptions and videos: Kettle
Recommended for beginners (and shown in the link):
. Two-handed swing
. Sumo Deadlift
. Turkish Getup
. Swing
. Clean and Jerk
. Press

How to Choose a Gym (if you want to)

- gym offpeak can be as cheap as £30 p.m. as you don't need expensive pools, sauna, juice bars, massage etc.
- within journey time 20 mins
- plenty of classes at times to suit you
- creche if needed
- don't bother with expense of a personal trainer.

Start with these classes if available:
- weekly spin, because you can set your own resistance and speed 45-60 mins
- any additional interval training class, see earlier for list.
- weekly pump 60 mins
- weekly abs class 15-30 mins


Estimate your fitness age: FitAge
Estimate Vo2Max iTunes App: Vo2APP
Body Fat Calculator:BF
Healthy Body Fat Percentages at Different Ages:
TDEE with detailed activity times: TDEE

More links:
52FastDietForum-Fasting & Exercise 52exercise
GettingStronger.Org-Hormesis Hormesis
GettingStronger.Org-Fitness Fitness
LeanGains Protocols : Leangains
MarksDailyApple-Home Workouts Without Equipment WorkAtHome

ELR Tue 31-Dec-13 06:43:29

Marking place! Thanks

ELR Tue 31-Dec-13 06:44:03

Woo hoo first here, let's hope I can be this keen to actually exercise!!

EarSlaps Tue 31-Dec-13 07:20:05

Hello, thanks for the new thread BigChoc. flowers

I'm sure most people on here will have been on the main thread and/or the inspiration thread but I'll do a quick introduction anyway.

I spent most of my adult life bouncing around between 10st and 11st, I've been a member of a gym a few times and varied between doing lots of exercise and non at all. Mostly my exercise has been strength focused (body pump classes, weights machines and a few free weights) or interval cardio rather than steady state cardio- that's just too boring! I've also done a bit of running, nothing more than about 6km. After children I struggled to exercise as no time to go to the gym, and no chance to get out for a run until it was too cold and dark for me to want to!

Between my children I was 11st, then after ds2 I stuck at 11st4, which put me just into 'overweight' BMI. So I cut out fizzy drinks and cut back on chocolate and lost over half a stone in a couple of months, getting down to 10st8. We then went on an all inc holiday, and I came back 10st12 blush. I started 5:2 the next day!

After a month on 5:2 I was in the low 10s, and feeling pretty chuffed, and I started doing the Shred 3-4 times a week. I plateaued at 10st for about a month, then dropped gradually to below my new target! I'm now around 9st3, and my aim is to stay below 9st4 for life! My BMI is now about 21, and I'm very pleased with that. I'm a size 8-10, after spending most of my adult life as a 12-14.

I've now completed all of Shred, as well as Six Week Six Pack (also by Jillian Michaels). I'm a bit of a Jillian fan- I now have 7 of her DVDs and I've started on Ripped in 30.

I've also downloaded the Seven Minute Workout on my iPhone so I have something a bit different- it's a combination of HIIT cardio and body weight strength exercises and you do 2-3 circuits. All you need is a little bit of floor space, a wall and a chair, so it's great when you're away from home. Plus I've downloaded a yoga app but not really used it much- I think I'm too restless for yoga but I do want to improve my flexibility.

My next step is to get some adjustable dumbbells so I can do some heavier weights to try and build up strength. I'm also working on increasing how many push-ups I can do- I am to get to 30 but it's slow going!

BetsyBell Tue 31-Dec-13 08:20:01

Amazing collection of info bigchoc thank you. Very motivational grin

BsshBossh Tue 31-Dec-13 08:33:58

Oh my goodness BigChoc what an amazing OP! thanks to you.

MelanieCheeks Tue 31-Dec-13 08:39:50

Great summary of info!

Eatriskier Tue 31-Dec-13 09:19:52

Wow bigchoc
A whole world of information there

BiscuitsAreMyDownfall Tue 31-Dec-13 09:31:04

Marking place will read properly later when I have more time. Thanks BigChoc

TheLeastAccomplishedBennetGirl Tue 31-Dec-13 10:16:56

Brilliant thread BigChoc

Thank you

Lazysuzanne Tue 31-Dec-13 11:50:41

Great links thanks !
I'm especially keen on bending the aging curve grin

Lazysuzanne Tue 31-Dec-13 11:53:30

(but the book is really expensive on amazon sad )

Yes, "Bending the Aging Curve" is over £30. fshock
I'm waiting to see if they do a cheaper Kindle version.
If not ...... I've thousands of books, so I'll pretend I'm buying 5 at once.

Lazysuzanne Tue 31-Dec-13 12:43:09

Hmm, I'd not absolutely rule out spending that much on a book but usually only if I can read the kindle sample first!

Might see if I can find it cheaper somewhere on the net wink

BsshBossh Tue 31-Dec-13 14:19:28

Backing up BigChoc's warning about heavy lifting for over 40 women: I progressed too quickly with my heavy lifting routine and injured my pelvic floor blush sad. I haven't been able to do lower body work in over a month as a result. Please everyone take it easy and work on correct form.

TalkinPeace Tue 31-Dec-13 15:58:05

Fab startup to a thread Bigchoc thankyou.

As you know, my exercise regime does not overlap at all with yours!
I find high intensity stuff - like the fast pedal bits in an RPM class - deeply unpleasant.
I have nadgered knee joints so cannot run or jump without pain.

So what do I do?

Swimming : 1 mile (1600 metres) four or five times a week trying to complete it in under 40 minutes non stop.
Sometimes I do batches of 20 lengths, sprinting the last two until I am gasping (the HIIT part of it)

Yoga / BodyBalance / Centergy : up to 5 hours a week - great for upper body strength and flexibility.
Look for a class where you cannot quite keep up with the strongest people in the room as then you have a target.
My target is an uber fit 67 year old who is unbelievably strong and flexible and has children and grandchildren ....

BodyPump : twice a week. I keep my weights pretty light because I naturally bulk up, and leg stuff my knees compain, but lifting weights works for women.

When I was 45 I had a full body bone density scan done and despite the history of osteoporosis in the family, my bones were those of a 40 year old.

EarSlaps Tue 31-Dec-13 17:01:00

I like HIIT and strength as you get more of a workout and more calorie burn in less time. With a 4yo, a 19mo and a husband who works long hours I can't really get to a gym or spend ages working out. Jillian DVDs at home are brilliant for me. I also use my weighted hula hoop sometimes.

I did some running over Christmas and I was amazed how good I was despite being out of practice- I think the HIIT has improved my running fitness better than regular runs did iyswim. Plus I guess there's less of me to move around.

I love that I'm getting so much stronger now.

MrsFlorrick Tue 31-Dec-13 17:46:49

Thanks Bigchoc. Place marking. Love your body fat calculator. It has me at 25.1%!

MrsFlorrick Tue 31-Dec-13 19:02:14

Back again grin

I'm with Earslaps! 4yo, 2yo and a DH who works loooong hours and away a lot. Gym time limited.

But into Jillian Michaels big time. Granted its not anywhere near a Bigchoc HIIT workout but its something I can manage 5 times a week.

I've been doing JM since April this year (break during July and Part of August). It's made such an amazing difference. Not just to the way I look (my body looks) but how much stronger I am.

If you're a beginner and a bit of a wuss like me, I can't recommend JM workouts enough. Honestly. Or if you're time poor with very small DC.

I've tried weighted hoola hooping. I ended up with such bad bruising it took a month to go. So I put the hoop down for now.

I do want to swim a couple of times a week. Not so much for cardio but endurance. I like to dive and snorkel when on holiday (somewhere warm/tropical preferably!) and that involves serious endurance as swimming against currents are often involved.
The swimming enables me to keep up with the more difficult dives/ off shore snorkelling.

I need to work on my abs. They are in very poor shape after two 10lbs babies.

I'm interested in lifting too. Bigchoc you've opened my eyes to something new there. As I am in the over 40 have had babies category, I would be interested in some light lifting.

I do have a gym membership. I use it to take the DC swimming and for my swimming but they have all the necessary facilities and probably do lifting classes. They certainly do HIIT classes, 6 different kinds of yoga and Pilates etc etc.

So there are no excuses for me at all!! grin

2013 was the year I got rid of all of the baby weight.
2014 will be the year I get super fit!grin

BiscuitsAreMyDownfall Tue 31-Dec-13 19:31:33

So judging by the OP I need to rethink my exercising plans for 2014. I was going to run 3 times a week and a short daily workout. I downloaded an app that gives different programs depending on which area you want to exercise. You can do the workouts for either 5, 8 or 10 mins each. I was looking to do the arms and abs plans.

I can't afford a gym or have time to go so need ideas at home. I do have the shred DVD, but the dog doesn't leave me alone when I try to exercise at home. The obvious answer is to do HIIT while running, but I like to run further so my question is can I do it with running and still run 5 or more miles during the same run? I do need to increase my distance as I'm doing a half marathon in May.

Biscuits If you've entered for a half-marathon, you obviously need longer runs to train for this. I would do the HIIT separately, once per week, say as sprint intervals, or skipping.

BiscuitsAreMyDownfall Tue 31-Dec-13 21:35:28

Thanks BigChoc I will look to do that then.

I have always enjoyed exercise and my sedentary job makes it essential if I want to keep healthy. I've also been motivated to build up muscles, bones and general health by seeing how my late mum suffered osteoporosis and limited mobility from age 60. Both sides of my family usually survive into their 90s, but with poor quality of life.

I train to improve my strength and fitness, while minimising risk of injury. Just as with 5:2, my priority is to develop a healthy lifestyle, rather than an extreme diet or exercise program.

My 20s and 30s were before fitness centres arrived, so I just hiked and jogged. I had powerful leg muscles and a BMI around 22. However, I had weak spindly arms, no abs and couldn't do a single pressup. I often had back and neck aches from office work.

At 41, I joined a gym, started pump and ab work, which soon stopped the back aches. I enjoy the social contact, equipment and classes at a gym and I was motivated to train much more often than I did at home. I gained muscle, but maintained BMI.
At 50, I threw out steady state cardio and the girlie weights; I started heavier lifting, also spin. I tried pressups and was astonished I could do some, then built up to sets of 30.

However, due to the menopause and abandoning a hated low carb lifestyle, my weight rose until my BMI hit 24.9 this year. This hindered my training progress.
I was motivated to do 5:2 by reading the health benefits of hormesis and realising this was also why HIIT was so effective.

I had added HIIT a couple of years ago, which massively improved my cardio fitness and also my endurance. It is very time-efficient.
I agree with tip about training with people who stretch you. All my classes contain fit, muscular young men, sometimes in the majority.
I was chuffed to win our gym situp contest, thrashing muscular hunks of all ages. I regularly beat nearly all of them in Tabata too.
The HIIT benefits seem to have been accelerated now by 5:2, which has further improved my body composition: I have more muscle and less fat.

My weight loss on 5:2 has been very slow <post-meno, groan>, but I am now about BMI 22.5, with a lot of muscle. I would like to lose another inch or so from my waist, to reach 26", but I accept this will take several months.

I belong to 2 gyms, so I can enjoy a variety of equipment and classes: HIIT spin, CrossFit, boxing, Tabata and biweekly Zumba. I do my own thing in the weights area.

Lifting Tip: Use the legpress machine, because this is much easier on the knees than heavy squats. I don't squat with more than 30kg, but I do double bodyweight legpress. Otherwise, no lifts above bodyweight.

I train 60-90 mins on 5-6 days per week. I got used to fasted training within a few days.
Tips for FDs:
- Have a double espresso or other high-caffeine drink 10 mins before training to help release fat stores for fuel.
- Take zero-cal BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) every 4 hrs during FDs and 10 mins before training. This helps maintain muscles.
- Plan calories to have a protein shake after training. Shakes make protein available more quickly to repair your muscles.

At age 57, I'm still improving fitness and strength. Currently, I'm building up these:
- max strength, with 3 sets of 3-5 reps lat pulldowns, bentover row, modified deadlift, leg press
- chinups: a few full ones, plus a few sets of machine- assisted chins and reverse pullup/row on the bar
- plyometrics: jumping on/off benches, squat jumps, plyometric pressups (weak attempts !)
- interval sprints.

Studies have shown benefits even for people in their 80s and 90s who start exercise. So, it's never too late to start - no excuses !

Lazysuzanne Tue 31-Dec-13 22:47:11

Very inspirational BigChoc grin it's great that you are still making progress with strength and fitness, and also good to know that despite being post meno your bmi is pretty much back where it was.

I've always suspected that age related declines in lean mass and cv fitness were largely avoidable with the right amount and type of exercise and I'm seeing more and more evidence to support my belief.

EarSlaps Wed 01-Jan-14 10:59:38

Measured myself and according to the body fat calculator I'm 22.5%. That fits with my theory that my scales overstate by about 10% (they're showing 25% at the moment). Considering that I was showing as 32%/35.8% body fat by that calculator/my scales back in July before I started 5:2 and exercise I'm really pleased with that.

I hope you're right about age related declines Lazy- I'm 34 now and I don't want ageing to mean that I get fatter and weaker. I'm planning to hit forty way fitter and stronger than when I was 20.

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