The 5/2 Protein Diet

by Chris Shugart

How to Cure Stabilized Fat Storage

Still lugging around an extra 15 pounds or so of fat? Here's a simple, not-too-painful way to get rid of it.

Some people have been fighting the same 15 pounds of extra body fat for years. They are no longer gaining weight, and they're certainly not obese. But they are stabilized – stuck in a state of being a little too chubby.

Sometimes they're hauling around 18 or 20 pounds of extra fat, sometimes only 10 or 12. They fluctuate, as humans do, but it's always about 15 pounds of fat they really wish they could drop, most of it around the waist.

What causes this? How do you lose it and keep it off for good?

Why Are You Stabilized?

You already know the generic answer: In the past, you consumed calories you didn't need and/or couldn't spend, so that extra "energy" was stored as body fat. These days, you maintain a balance of eating and moving that stabilizes that amount of stored fat. You don't gain more, but you don't lose it either.

You already know the generic solution, too: eat a little less or move a little more, maybe a combo of both. Remove 300-500 calories per day or find a way to physically spend them.

There are hundreds of strategies for that, but this one doesn't require any macro counting or food logging. In fact, you can keep doing what you're currently doing for most of the week.

The 5/2 Protein Diet: De-Stabilize and Get Lean

This is a variation of 5/2 dieting. In a nutshell, these plans involve eating normally for five days of the week (maintenance calories) and then dieting hard for only two days per week.

What is "dieting hard?" In studies, participants consumed only 800 calories on the two dieting days of the week. The result? Fat loss, as expected, but with a bonus effect of improved insulin sensitivity, which, among other things, helps a person keep the excess weight off.

This version of the 5/2 strategy is made for lifters: people who don't want to lose muscle along with the fat.

Here's What To Do

  1. Eat normally for five days a week.
  2. On the other two days, consume 880 calories by drinking only four specialized protein shakes each day. Example:
  • 6 AM: Shake One
  • 11 AM: Shake Two
  • 4 PM: Shake Three
  • 9 PM or before bed: Shake Four

Roughly, you want about 5 hours between protein shakes. These days should be non-consecutive, like Sunday and Wednesday. They should also be non-lifting days, though other physical activity is fine.

The Right Protein Shake

Do not attempt with a whey-only or vegan protein powder. You'll feel starved and could lose muscle. Only use a protein powder containing micellar casein, which is filling, has thermogenic effects, and is the only protein shown to be anti-catabolic (Boire, 1997). Metabolic Drive Protein (Buy at Amazon) fits the bill. With MD Protein, you'll use two scoops per shake (44 grams of protein).

What to Expect

Expect about one pound of fat loss per week and no loss of lean muscle tissue. If you dislike that tricky bathroom scale, use waist measurements and expect a weekly decrease. Weigh or measure the morning after your second diet day of the week.

Why It Works

1. The Math

Let's say that a moderately active man's maintenance intake is roughly 2900 calories a day, but he's maintaining a level of body fat he's not happy with. He's eating 20,300 calories per week and not gaining or losing body fat.

With the 5/2 Protein Diet, he'll spend two days each week consuming 880 calories. On each of those days, he'll be in a whopping 2020 calorie deficit. At the end of the week, eating how he always does on the other five days, he'll have dropped 4040 calories. All factors being equal, he can expect to start losing one pound per week safely and healthily.

2. The "Easy-ish" Diet Days

Consuming only 880 calories in a day isn't exactly easy, but this strategy is pretty painless. You're "eating" four times a day in nicely spaced intervals. The micellar casein in Metabolic Drive Protein (Buy at Amazon) keeps you satiated longer than other proteins. You eat when you wake up, twice during the day, and at night: no fasting or long hours without nutrition.

3. The Protein Leverage Effect

This goes along with number two. We now know that if you don't give your body adequate protein, various bodily mechanisms drive you to keep eating. Your body has a protein threshold you need to meet. If you don't meet it, you stay hungry and have cravings.

Studies show this threshold is between 85 and 138 grams per day. The 5/2 Protein Diet provides you with 176 grams on the two diet days, more than enough to keep your body satisfied and reduce or prevent cravings.

Now, the calories are still low on those days, and behaviorally, you'll still need some willpower. I suggest using some positive affirmations, such as "Suck it up, Porky Pants!" Or, you know, whatever works for you.

4. No Counting

There's no need to weigh food, track macros, or count calories. The "price" you pay? Two hard diet days per week, but even those days don't require any tedious counting.

5. It's Economical

Each meal on the diet days is about three bucks, less than the average drink at Starbucks.

A Second Option: The One-Day Plan

Do only one diet day per week. Using our example above, this results in a 2020 calorie deficit for the week, assuming you eat like you always do on the other days. You could settle for a slower, but still steady rate of fat loss, or you could increase energy expenditure:

  • Go for a long daily walk.
  • Add 10 minutes of heart-pumping metcon to the end of a few workouts.
  • Add a dedicated cardio day or two per week.

"Spending" more calories works at the other end of the calorie equation: you're not eating less, just burning more.

This combo approach should still lead to a satisfying drop in body fat each week.



800 calories is what was used in the studies mentioned.

880 calories is what this plan uses, mainly to make it easy given the serving sizes of the protein powder. (And 80 calories is meaningless anyway over a day, especially with such a large caloric deficit.)

4 shakes a day comes to 176g of protein, more than enough to meet even the top-end protein threshold (138 or so) and enough to prevent muscle loss, which isn’t really a factor anyway over just 24 hours.

Hope that helps!


Hi… what do we mix the powder with? … can I use something like oat milk or should we just use water?

Water. Metabolic Drive is already full of quality protein: it doesn’t need to get mixed with something else. And it tastes delicious in just plain water.

Plus, you’ll get REAL tired waking up early to milk those oats!


whew … I can sleep in then hahaha! Thank you!

Water, as @T3hPwnisher said. Not only does MD Protein not need any type of milk for taste or texture, consider the calories. Using just a single serving of even the lowest-calorie oat milk would add 360 calories per “diet day.” (Or 480 with standard oat milk.) You’d probably still be in a deficit, but fat loss would be slower.


Fairlife whole milk with Metabolic Drive… nom

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I’m still considering nonfat milk for extra carbs (brain food!) and calcium on “diet days” :yum: :brain: :two_hearts: Worth a try at least tho’ I realize my results won’t be as quick.

Started this last week. Sitting at 37" around the belly button, so at 5’11" I have 1.5" to go. My goal is by August, when I turn 55. I don’t like counting calories and macros, seemed like too much work for my brain. This makes sense, so will give it a go. Will come back and post my success in 9 weeks.


Awesome, keep us updated!

A little update week 7. Started doing it once a week and after two weeks realized I would not make my goal at this rate, so upped it to the true 5/2.
So far I have noticed a leaning out of my face, shoulders, and calves lol. I have lost about 3 lbs (this is the consistent average). Still making gains, lost about a 1/4 inch on the waist, so not real impressive yet, but still managing to make gains in the gym.

I feel like I can see more abs, but thinking I probably had more fat to lose that I initially thought.


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I think the face/neck area is an undervalued marker of fat-loss progress.

People get used to seeing their faces in the mirror, so they don’t often note the subtle weekly changes. But when they check their fat-loss progress, they look right at the trouble spots: love handles, belly, etc.

But fat loss tends to occur from the extremities first then it “works its way” to the middle. So the trouble spots are the last to go. That’s why I’ve always recommended measuring everything: arms, neck, calves etc. as well as the waist in three places (about on inch above and below the bellybutton, and straight across it). Makes it easy to note the changes. Then you can do a total inches lost calculation, which usually more motivating than scale weight.

But, we can’t measure our faces. Usually, it’s what other people notice if they haven’t seen us in a while and we’ve dropped a few pounds.

Here are some cool examples:

Thanks, definitely noticed a little more definition in my upper abs, got to keep pushing. I believe this is the my most serious attempt at not only losing fat, but gaining muscle. I will admit, I am struggling still with protein, but we (wife and I) are figuring it out, just means I have to eat more steak. Poor me :slight_smile:


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