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Intermittent Fasting. Should we all be doing it?

We have evolved to get lots of benefits from fasting as those who performed well in a fasted state were more likely to survive and pass on their genes. Being able to use our body fat for fuel was the key to early survival and the body put complex systems in place to help store and lock it down to give us the best chance of life. Burning fat for fuel also triggered our bodies to shift into cellular repair mode where we give our cells a spring clean of sorts.

In contrast, being in a fed state was also critically important.  When food was available we feasted, using glucose for fuel and switching to growth mode. This allowed us to build stronger muscles and larger organs giving us more chance of out-running or out-manoeuvring predators.

Consequently, our bodies have evolved to perform best using glucose as a short-term fuel following a meal and our body fat for fuel the rest of the time. This balance also supports our health overall by providing useful levels of growth and repair.

Fast forward to today and we are living in feasting mode much more than fasting mode. This is an important factor in some of the biggest health challenges we are currently facing – obesity, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and many modern ageing diseases. At its core this is happening because our lifestyles have changed dramatically but our genes have not.

Today food is constantly available and three meals a day plus snacks is considered pretty normal. Stress, once a short-term response to a threat, is now a constant unresolved state for many of us.

Constant feasting and chronic stress push us to use glucose as our main source of fuel rather than fat. Over the years this can manifest as metabolic dysfunction which we may recognise as weight gain (especially around the tummy), insulin resistance and a feeling of less energy.

Given that we are living longer too, we are in growth mode far more than nature intended. This is associated with chronic inflammation and many of the ageing disease states we see people regularly dying from today, diseases that simply weren’t common a few hundred years ago.

The good news is that there is a lot we can do to give ourselves the best chance of living and ageing well. Science is now showing us that intermittent fasting and other forms of fasting can be part of the solution due to their ability to switch us from burning glucose for fuel to fat burning mode.

Fasting is defined as periods of not eating without nutritional deficiencies. For most people, fasting is very hard to stick with. Intermittent fasting regimes were developed to achieve the same kind of results as fasting but are widely regarded as more achievable than longer fasts. Popular regimes you may have heard of are 5:2 and 16:8.

5:2 is a form of ‘periodic fasting’ where you have a period of eating normally (5 days per week) and a period of fasting with or without a small calorie allowance (500-800kcal 2 days per week in this case). 16:8 is a form of ‘time restricted eating’ where you eat your daily food within a set time frame (8 hours in this case).

Although almost everyone can benefit from having some shorter periods where they don’t eat, intermittent fasting regimes are not for everyone. They are not suitable for children, during pregnancy, for those who have/had an eating disorder such as anorexia/bulimia, have or are recovering from adrenal fatigue or for type 1 diabetics.

For those with type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions and nursing mothers or other underlying medical conditions please seek medical advice first before attempting to fast. If it is a useful protocol for you, consider seeking advice from a nutritional therapist or other health professional as careful monitoring will be key.

If intermittent fasting is right for you, the best plan is one you can stick with over the long term so consider which plan fits best with your life style and goals.

Read more about the Lifebox crew use intermittent fasting here.

Even with the introduction of intermittent fasting regimes, fasting fans report that plans can be difficult to stick with, especially when life gets in the way. Scientific studies are backing this up too acknowledging that adherence can be tough and that it can take a month for the body and brain to adapt.

Until now, staying on track with your intermittent fasting plan has come down to black coffee and willpower and for the well informed few, a bullet proof coffee or the odd tablespoon of coconut oil.

Now you have an extra tool to use to help you meet your fasting goals, FASTING+ by Nutritionist’s Blend. These fasting sticks are a tangy blend of healthy fats and foods rich in specific polyphenols, which work with how your body naturally fasts to support your own efforts, in a convenient sachet format.

By supporting the common side effects of fasting such as hunger, moodiness and a grey pallor while protecting muscle mass, you should find it easier to achieve your fasting goals. Being able to stick with your fasting plan of choice over the long term you will be helping your body get back in balance by promoting metabolic flexibility and supporting the body’s natural repair system, just as nature intended.

For most plans simply add up to 4 sticks per fasting day, based on individual need, in addition to any other allowances. Start with 1-2 sticks initially.

For ‘time restricted eaters’, such as those following 12:12, 16:8 or 20:4, where some of the benefits are derived from syncing eating patterns with your circadian clock, use FASTING+ to transition to a shorter eating window or to improve your eating habits within it.

“FASTING+ was developed to make Intermittent Fasting achievable for more people. By supporting the symptoms of fasting we believe you will have a better chance of being able to stick with your plan of choice, even on the most hectic of days.”  Amanda Swaine, Founder and Nutritionist.

It is important to keep in mind that lots of factors, including for example your sleep, stress levels and diet may affect how you feel during your fasting period so be kind to yourself.  If you experience any of these more serious symptoms such as day-time tiredness, dizziness or you just don’t feel right, listen to your body and eat something to break your fast. You can always try again another day.

Happy fasting x