Intermittent Fasting for Health Professionals

Intermittent Fasting for Health Professionals

This blog post is a bit more `sciencey’ than our usual blogging style as it’s written with Nutritional Therapist’s and other Health Professionals’ in mind. Here we look at why Intermittent Fasting works, the various regime definitions and how best to support your clients on their fasting journey. A fully referenced version can be requested via the `contact us’ page.

Why Intermittent Fasting works

When food is available, the human body has evolved to burn glucose for fuel and to grow.  When it is scarce, it has evolved to use stored fat for fuel and to repair.  Increasingly, modern life is associated with a disproportionate time spent in growth mode due to high eating frequencies, high calorie intake, sedentary lifestyles, chronic stress and longer life spans.  This dysregulation is associated with increased incidences of obesity, metabolic disease and diminishing health spans.

Intermittent fasting helps redress this balance.  The benefits most associated with intermittent fasting are weight loss, metabolic flexibility and as a strategy to age well.  It can also be a useful client protocol for other states such as those associated with brain or gut health and auto immune conditions.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

The term intermittent fasting is an umbrella term covering a range of regimes that oscillate between periods of eating and not eating, without malnutrition.  In general, these fasts are classified as either periodic fasts or time restricted eating.

Periodic fasts cover regimes where no calories or a restricted calorie allowance are consumed for a period of time and includes water fasts, alternate day fasts and fasts that include some calories such as the popular 5:2 regime and the alternate day modified fast.

The benefits of this group of fasts are mediated by switching primarily to fatty acids and ketones for fuel and inactivating nutrient sensing pathway mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) to stimulate cellular repair, autophagy and pro-ageing epigenetic factors.  Fat and fatty acids support these transitions while glucose and amino acids inhibit them.

Therefore, for plans with a calorie allowance, it is increasingly being recognised that macronutrient composition plays a role in achieving the calorie restriction benefits.  For clients focused primarily on weight loss, consider lower carb options for those meals and for clients focused on the cellular repair benefits, exclude the amino acids methionine and cysteine as these are particularly potent activators of the associated pathways.  For all periodic fasting plans with a calorie allowance, recommend calories are consumed in one sitting, except for a small amount of fat if needed for compliance.

Time restricted eating regimes are plans where all food is consumed within a set time frame each day, typically less than 12 hours.  A popular version is 16:8 where all food is consumed within 8 hours.  Benefits are mediated by the same pathways as periodic fasts and additionally by syncing the individual’s circadian rhythm with their daily cycle of feeding and fasting.  A dysregulation of this cycle is associated with excess calorie intake and accelerated ageing.  Regular periods of this type of intermittent fast regulate these transitions and rhythms.  It is important to note that any calories consumed during the fasting window start the biological clock.  If those calories are from fat, the benefits associated with periodic fasts continue.

The right regime depends on individual client goals and lifestyle fit.  Whatever the format, compliance can be difficult, especially over the long term.

Client considerations

Some clients will find adhering to an Intermittent Fasting harder than others. For example, clients with a degree of insulin resistance may require more support to adhere to their fasting plan.  Insulin resistance delays the onset of the metabolic switch over to fatty acids causing a metabolic imbalance.  Glucose and glycogen stores run low while insulin levels are relatively high so fatty acids cannot be accessed.  This results in symptoms typically of hunger, moodiness and tiredness and reports of lapsing can be common during this time.

A recent study demonstrated that beliefs may also play a role in adherence to an intermittent fasting plan.  Lapsed intermittent fasters were more likely to believe that a healthy meal plan included three meals a day and regular snacks.  Whereas current intermittent fasters were comparatively unconcerned about skipping meals and were less likely to believe that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

Before a client starts an intermittent fasting programme for those with insulin resistance, consider reducing daily eating frequency to 3 meals only within a 12-hour period for several weeks.  For those with beliefs that intermittent fasting protocols are unhealthy, consider providing research and support to negate long held assumptions. 

Intermittent fasting is a mild stressor.  Assess a client’s overall stress tolerance and load to ensure that they do not become chronically stressed as this will negate the favourable hormetic response from fasting.  In addition to lifestyle and nutritional stressors, it is important to understand that if the client is undertaking any additional intermittent challenges (such as high intensity exercise, saunas or cold showers etc.), as these are also mild stressors and have an additive effect.  An intermittent fasting regime that is too advanced can also be a stressor.  As the client becomes more proficient at fasting, adding other intermittent challenges and more advanced fasting protocols can be useful progressions.

Prepare clients with relevant tactics for use during their intermittent fast:

-          Educate on how to differentiate between typical symptoms (hunger that passes, mild tiredness, moodiness, mild headaches) and those that indicate fasting is too stressful and the fast should be broken (significant day time tiredness, dizziness, feeling overwhelmed).

-          Advise on useful strategies for those days where they are struggling.  For example, sodium may be useful for some clients who have a history of electrolyte imbalance, black coffee and green tea can help with hunger pangs, MCT or coconut oil can support those struggling with hunger on periodic fasting regimes, apple cider vinegar can support insulin sensitivity and calorie restriction mimetic compounds can support the main fasting pathways overall.

-          Calorie restriction mimetic compounds?  These are components of some foods, often as polyphenols.  The most commonly known include resveratrol, curcumin and quercetin.  Current research indicates that this group of compounds mediate metabolic flexibility and support the transition of mTOR into repair mode where autophagy and longevity genes are activated.  A synergistic blend of these compounds is useful as specific modes of actions and target sites vary. Here at Nutritionist’s Blend we use calorie restriction mimetics in our FASTING+ fasting sticks.

Ensure clients understand how to eat during their eating window:

-          As intermittent fasters tend to have less eating opportunities, nutrient density is a useful area of focus.  For those primarily focused on weight loss, lower carb or keto protocols may be appropriate.  In addition, a calorie deficit may or may not be required depending on the selected programme.

Due to genetic and environmental variation, an individual’s response to fasting can vary both in general and on a daily basis.  Intermittent fasting success is a constant balance between progress and ensuring it is a regular and repeatable practice for clients.  If done correctly, compliance and progress can be long-term supporting a more optimal balance of cellular growth mode and cellular repair mode.  This could help normalise weight, support more consistent energy levels and support healthier ageing.  Regular client check-ins and programme reviews are therefore recommended, particularly during the first few months.

We hope your clients achieve their fasting goals

Nutritionist’s Blend team x

Does it really matter when I eat?

Does it really matter when I eat?

In short, yes.  This is because our eating behaviour influences our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body clock. It works on a 24 hour cycle and affects our sleep/wake cycle, metabolism, when we get hungry and many other body systems. If this is out of sync, we tend to eat more and weigh more.

We can influence this cycle with exposure to light and darkness and by adjusting when we eat. By eating, sleeping and living in line with this natural 24 hour cycle we are able to rebalance various hormones and digest and use our food more effectively.

For example, we know that eating carbohydrates an hour within waking isn’t great. This is because cortisol (one of the stress hormones) is highest around 8am and this makes your body less sensitive to insulin making us less able to process food shortly after waking. For similar reasons, also aim to finish your last meal least 3 hours before bedtime.

In simple terms we should be eating when it’s light outside and not eating when it’s dark. This is harder than it sounds due to artificial light and an almost constant access to food making it easier than ever to ignore this day/night cycle. It is common to eat and snack our way through most of our waking hours, often starting before dawn and/or finishing after dusk. This reality is turning many of us into `sugar burners’.

Predominantly burning sugar for energy in its various forms matters because we have evolved to grow (build new cells, create more cells) when we burn sugar and repair (fix cells, remove old parts of cells) when we burn fat. Too much time burning sugar and being in grow mode is associated with weight gain, low energy levels and many age related diseases. Eating too much, too often, of the wrong things (excessive carbs or protein) results in higher levels of insulin being present in the body. With higher insulin levels, our bodies cannot tap into our fat stores for energy or move into repair mode.

Intermittent Fasting plans where all meals are eaten within a set amount of hours each day, can help redress this balance by mimicking how we ate before artificial light and food became easily accessible. This form of Intermittent Fasting is called Time Restricted Eating.

A simple way of doing this is to set an eating window from when you will eat your first bite of food to when you will finish your last each day, such as 8am to 8pm. A daily fast of anything over 12 hours is associated with a better balance and the good news, you will be sleeping for about 8 of those.

For those of you interested in weight or fat loss, working up to an eating window of 8 hours or less is associated with the best weight loss results such as 8am to 4pm. You can choose the 8 hours that works for you but try and close it by finishing your last meal at least 3 hours before bed.

Within your eating window, gaps in eating are also important. Ideally you are looking to leave 5 hours or more between meals. So for those on an 8 hour plan, you are working towards 2 larger meals per day only.

If daytime eating doesn’t fit your lifestyle for whatever reason, having a later eating window can still help. For example in one study late night eaters who skipped breakfast and fasted until lunch time managed to offset the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity normally associated with late night eating. In other studies, having a fasting window longer than your eating window (more than 12 hours) and aiming to eat the majority of your calories earlier in your eating window helped offset the late night eating/ obesity link normally associated with late night eating.

The main mistakes to watch out for

Forgetting that even the little things start the clock and open the eating window.

Milk in tea, green juices, small snacks, any calories in fact ALL start the clock.

If your main focus is on fat burning and repair, then a small amount healthy fat is ok as although it starts your clock, you are still burning fat and in cellular repair mode. Many people find this useful if they are struggling because having a small amount of fat, such as coconut oil or FASTING+, they feel less hungry and can still get the fat burning and repair benefits as their body adjusts. It’s also a great transition tactic for those trying to shorten their fasting window or trying to take their plan up a notch.

Turning the eating window into one extended eating occasion.

Gaps between meals matter with a 5 hour gap between meals ideal. For those likely to struggle with this, rather than diving straight it to your new Intermittent Fasting regime, try getting used to 3 meals per day and no snacks before you start. As motivation, studies show that more than 3 meals per day is associated with a higher BMI (body mass index). Replacing any snacks with FASTING+ for a few weeks is a great approach as it won’t spike insulin and will help you break that snacking habit.

Eating even more calories than normal and expecting to lose weight.

This might be possible if you have just one meal a day, maybe.  In a recent mouse study, mice that ate once a day stayed lean however much they ate if they were limited to one meal during a 24 hour period but we will have to wait to see if this translates to us humans.

Useful tips

-          During fasting window you can still have green tea and black coffee. Upgrade to the best you can afford and savour it.

-          If you are struggling with the gaps between meals or trying to shorten your eating window, try FASTING+ by Nutritionist’s Blend. This 100% natural blend of healthy fats and specific polyphenols works with how the body naturally fasts to help sort any niggling signs of hunger, grumpiness or tiredness you may be experiencing during those transitions.

Useful caveats

As with all fasting regimes, Time Restricted Eating plans are not right for everyone as some people shouldn’t be having long gaps between meals.

-          Children, pregnant people, those who have or had an eating disorder such as anorexia/bulimia, those recovering from adrenal fatigue or Type 1 diabetics should not attempt these regimes

-          For those with Type 2 Diabetes, thyroid conditions, nursing mothers or those with other underlying medical conditions please seek medical advice first before attempting these regimes as medication may need adjusting, extra guidance may be required on which version is most appropriate for you and you may feel the adjustment to any plan more acutely than others so you may need extra support. Seeking advice from a Nutritional Therapist or other health professional could be of benefit especially if you fit in the latter two catagories.

-          If you are over 70 years old and new to fasting, the science has not yet proven if Intermittent Fasting is good for you. Instead aim to eat 3 meals within 12 hours and ensure you are getting a good amount of high quality protein.

For those of you that decide to try Time Restricted Eating, good luck and take one day at a time.

Happy Fasting x

Why aren't I losing weight when I fast?

Why aren't I losing weight when I fast?

Some of you may be fasting but not losing weight.

This could be simply because you are focused on improving body composition (fat to muscle ratio) rather than losing weight as such. In which case, high five! Keep up the good work.

Or you may be trying to lose weight but are finding the scales aren’t moving.

It’s this latter scenario we’ll be looking at here.

If you have been trying Intermittent Fasting for several weeks or more and nothing seems to be happening, a few things could be going on:

1. You are already chronically stressed and/or have adrenal fatigue

2. You are doing a programme that is too easy for you

3. You are doing a programme that is too hard for you

4. You don’t have weight to lose

5. You are growing!

Let’s get number 5 out of the way first. If you are a child or pregnant, chances are you shouldn’t be fasting. If you are one of the few who have been advised by your medical or health practitioner that fasting is right for you at this time, keep in mind any weight loss may be offset by growing up or growing a baby so weight maintenance may be a more appropriate goal. Fasting for most children or during most pregnancies is not recommended. Instead it’s more likely that focusing on three nutrient dense meals a day, ideally within a 12hour window, would be a better approach.

Next up number’s 1 (chronic stress/adrenal fatigue) and 3 (programme’s too hard). Remember that fasting and intermittent fasting are mild stressors. Other mild stressors include exercise, the polyphenols in FASTING+, exposure to heat (sauna’s) and cold (cold showers). A key reason why these things work is that they provide a challenge or a mild stress to the body, which the body then adapts to. If you are already chronically stressed for any reason, including by having a fasting regime that’s too hard for you, adding more stress on top could be making things worse rather than better with regards to weight loss and overall health.

Stress can come from many sources (emotional, physical, lack of sleep, bad diet etc.) and although stress can be good (eustress), too much can, of course, be bad. If this seems to be your situation, work on reducing stress and building the body back up with lots of nutrient dense foods for now instead. You can always come back to fasting later on.

Instead, for you consider some of these classic techniques to minimise the impact of stress in your life and achieve balance once more:

- Reduce it- by reviewing the sources of stress and removing, reframing and taking back control where possible. If you are simply doing a fasting regime that’s too hard for you right now, try a shorter fast to help your body adjust and work up from there.

- Manage it- by doing something that works for you such as yoga, spending time with friends or something else that makes you happy

- Restore balance– by doing restorative activities such as sleep, Epson salt baths, meditation, deep breathing exercises. And by taking a long hard look at your diet. Standard recommendations for supporting stress include eating a diet based on wholefoods (good quality protein, a rainbow of veg ideally including mushrooms, some domestic fruit such as berries and apples, wholegrains etc.) and reducing stimulants (caffeine, sugar, alcohol etc.)

Until you have recovered from chronic stress/adrenal fatigue, fasting and intermittent fasting is not recommended for you. Instead focus on three nutritious meals a day ideally within a 12hour window which may help your work through any insulin resistance you may be experiencing.

If you have recently recovered from stress, the other angle to consider is electrolytes as you may be more sensitive to an imbalance and this may making Intermittent Fasting harder for you. One of the hormones that can get imbalanced during stress is aldosterone. Aldosterone plays a role in salt/water balance and when it is imbalanced you can lose too much salt which can lead to lethargy, muscle cramps, sugar cravings, headaches, dizziness (as blood pressure lowers) and water retention (as the body clings to the salt it has left). When you fast, you also lose water and salt by these two mechanisms:

- As you use up your glycogen stores for energy, water is released into the body and excreted. This happens because each glycogen molecule is stored with water molecules and when these are metabolised, the water is released. Salt follows water which lowers your sodium levels.

- Your insulin levels go down – Insulin has a role in sodium reabsorption (helps the body hold on to salt). As insulin levels decline so does it’s influence on the kidneys to retain sodium. More sodium is excreted with more water.

So, if you have chronic stress in your recent history, be more aware of whether you need to add an extra tea spoon or so of salt to your fasting days and ensure you are drinking enough fluid. Pink Himalayan salt is ideal but a good quality sea salt is great too. For everyone else, sodium is still important for you on fasting days so consider adding some in, especially if you are getting any of the symptoms listed above, live in a hot climate or are exercising to the point of sweating. Sorting out your electrolyte balance will make sticking with your fasting regime easier and any weight loss goals more achievable. Salt is the key one for fasting days (assuming you aren’t doing an extended fast such as one for 5 days or more…)

On none fasting days or within your eating window, eating a nutrient dense diet will ensure you get some sodium plus the other electrolytes. Dark green leafy veg, nut and seeds and seasoning your food properly are particularly good additions.

If you are not sure where you sit on this electrolyte continuum, check your urine. You are ideally looking for a straw colour or slightly darker on fasting days. If it’s completely clear, you may have drunk to much liquid and/or need more electrolytes. If it’s on the darker side you may need more fluid.

Alternatively, you may not be losing weight because you are following a programme that’s too easy. If you are doing Time Restricted Eating and your eating window is 12 hours, this programme, although useful in many ways, is not associated with weight loss. Try and get your eating window down to 8 hours instead.

Also consider if you are cheating. I speak to many people who say they do the 16:8 plan but when asked when they start and stop eating, it becomes apparent that they aren’t really achieving it. If you are closer to the 12hour mark on a regular basis, you are unlikely to be losing weight.

If you are doing the 5:2 diet and progress isn’t happening, consider your routine on your fasting days and none fasting days. On your fasting days you are better off eating all of your calories in one meal (FASTING+ calories are exempt from this) rather than sprinkled through out the day. In addition, if most of your calories are carbohydrates you may consider adjusting the ratio to be higher in fat and lower in carbs.

Then review your none fasting days. Are you dramatically over compensating by eating or drinking far too much or too many refined carbohydrates on those none fasting days? After all, the festive season is in full swing! If this is you, consider ways you can make meals more satiating to reduce the likelihood of this happening moving forward. A simple trick is to add more high-quality fats to meals such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados etc. And keep an eye on alcohol intake especially the carb laden choices such as beer.

Finally, number 4. Maybe you are looking to the scales but you don’t have weight to lose. Maybe you’ve already achieved an ideal weight for you. Alternatively, you may be underweight or have very low fat levels. Either way maybe losing more weight isn’t a helpful goal for your right now. Instead, focus on getting the other benefits from Intermittent Fasting (better energy, triggering repair mechanisms) and achieve this by making sure you are eating enough good quality calories in your eating window or none fasting days. Electrolyte imbalance may be affecting you more than most (see the section above on aldosterone). Also consider whether taking a break from fasting may be useful.

Good luck with your journey to profound health, whichever path you take.


Coconut oil is "pure poison"

Coconut oil is "pure poison"

Arsenic, cyanide, mercury. Sure. Coconut oil? Hmmm.

In response to a Harvard Professor’s comments about coconut oil being “one of the worst things you can eat”, coconut oil is being touted as the latest nutritional villain. This opinion centred on the fact that it is a saturated fat (which it is) and that it raises LDL cholesterol which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (which is only part of the picture).

First up, coconut oil is not just any old saturated fat but a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT). MCT’s are different to other types saturated fats which are classified as long chain fatty acids (LCT’s). Simply put MCT’s have chains of fatty acids of between 8 and 12 where as LCT’s have chains of between 14-18. These chain lengths effect how fats are digested and used by the body. MCT’s are absorbed intact from small intestine, metabolised in the liver and either used directly for energy or heat in the form of fatty acids or converted into ketones rather than readily being laid down as fat. LCT’s are absorbed though the large intestine and either stored as fat or sent to the liver for processing via the heart.

The grade of coconut oil matters too. Virgin coconut oil is extracted differently from refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh, mature kernels of the coconuts without chemical refining to help keep the nutritional value and various biologically active substances intact including a high polyphenol content. Refined coconut oil is taken from copra (the dried kernel of the coconut) by a process of refining, bleaching, and deodorizing, which results in higher levels of free fatty acids and negatively affects the nutritional properties of the product.

The link between saturated fat, cholesterol and cardio vascular disease was a key highlight in the coverage vilifying coconut oil. Coconut oil does increase total cholesterol (LDL `the bad’ + HDL `the good’) and the impact varies by person. Even so, high LDL (`bad’ cholesterol) is not necessarily associated with cardio vascular disease. In fact, for virgin coconut oil, several reviews indicate likely cardio protective properties rather than it being a source of cardio vascular issues. This is thought to be partly due to its high polyphenol content which offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects.

Virgin coconut oil trials have also elicited positive effects on body composition, in particular waist circumference. Other studies indicate a possible role for virgin coconut oil in lowering blood pressure and blood vessel function improvements and improving insulin sensitivity. All of which positively correlate with cardiovascular health.

The Harvard Professor is correct on one point and that is that more research is needed. As with many research areas in nutrition there is still much more to learn. For example, the optimal mix of fats for the human diet is still under debate. In the meantime, what we can all agree on is that keeping trans fats (transformed fats) such as those found in highly processed foods, or hydrogenated fats, such as margarine, to a minimum is key.

Eat up everyone, in moderation of course 😉 x

Fasting and energy

Fasting and energy

You are in a meeting. You feel lethargic. There is a plate of biscuits on the table. You eat one. Hey presto you feel energised… for a bit at least.

We all know food is our fuel. So how come so many people report having heaps of energy and that they can concentrate better on fasting days? One word. Fat. When are bodies are healthy and working properly we simply move from burning sugar for fuel to fat. Nature designed us to use our fat stores to deliver sustained energy for all those times sugar wasn’t available. Put simply, sugar sources are for immediate, short term use and fat is there to keep us energised and alive during longer periods of time without food.

When we fast, we use up our stores of sugar based energy first. First up is the sugar from the last meal you ate in the form of glucose. To do this the pancreas releases insulin to move the glucose from your last meal from out of the blood and into the cells. The cells use this for energy to perform a vast array of functions. Any glucose not immediately needed is laid down as fat. As the glucose from the blood decreases, the pancreas releases another hormone called glucagon. This releases stored sugars from the liver and the muscles as additional sources of sugar-based energy.

After 16-18 hours of fasting, these stores are depleted and crucially insulin levels decrease. Without insulin present, the body can use energy from other sources such as fat and protein. Our muscles use fatty acids from fat metabolism as energy. Our brain and central nervous system use ketone bodies from fat and protein metabolism. Our bodies are programmed to prioritise using fat as the main alternative fuel instead of muscle as a survival mechanism.

This ability switch between the various forms of energy is called metabolic flexibility. Having metabolic flexibility is highly desirable if you want consistent energy levels all day every day and to maintain a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, due to the food and lifestyle choices many of us make, as we become adults we become less metabolically flexible as we get used to running primarily on glucose. Consequently, we find it harder to switch from fuel type to another. If you have ever hit the wall doing endurance sport, you will know how much this can hurt. Outside of endurance sport, oftentimes people just feel tired once the glucose stores run down if they are less efficient at switching to another fuel type and reach for a sugary fix to make them feel temporarily better.

This continued reliance on glucose can result in insulin resistance. This means the insulin signals to the cell to take in glucose are being somewhat ignored. To counteract this, the body produces more insulin to try and get the cells to take in the glucose. Over time this strategy back fires resulting in the cells ignoring insulin due to this bombardment. Now the cells can’t get all the energy they need and they stop performing properly. As a consequence, you feel tired and hungry. Left unchecked this could eventually lead to pre-diabetes or even Type 2 diabetes. You may be wondering why the body doesn’t just use fat or protein instead? It can’t because insulin signals are still present. While insulin is still in the blood these other fuel sources cannot be accessed by the body.

By fasting you give the body a well-deserved break from insulin. This gives the cells a chance to become more sensitive to insulin signals once again so insulin can do its job at normal levels. Just as nature intended. Cells become more sensitive to insulin signals and insulin can do it's job – move glucose out of the blood and into the cells – more efficiently and at lower levels. Overtime, this break should ensure any insulin resistance present is reduced and your metabolic flexibility is improved.  Your cells become more efficient at getting the energy they need from glucose, fat or protein giving you more consistent energy levels.

An added bonus is the effect moving into fat burning mode has on mitochondria (think of them as your bodies batteries or the place where energy production occurs). These delicate structures don't like being in a sugar burning environment as they get damaged by a side product of this process - oxidative stress. Being in fat burning mode is a much cleaner environment for them and it gives their structures a chance to recover so they can work properly once again.

FASTING+ helps with this transition in several ways. You get fat by consuming the product. The blend also triggers enzymes that release fat from fat cells - in particular visceral fat cells - so your body has an internal source of easy available fat to use for energy. Plus it works to move your metabolism over to fat burning mode in several ways to make this transition to fat burning as easy as possible. By ensuring fat is available to burn from energy you are also giving your body more reasons to leave muscle stores alone and giving your mitochondria a chance to recover. In addition the blend has polyphenols that trigger a process where the body produces more mitochondria, improving energy levels further.

So if you find you have lower levels of energy on fasting days, you may just be working through some insulin resistance. Be assured that once you do, you will feel great (and that FASTING+ could help with this transition). If you already have heaps of energy on fasting days congratulations. Keep up the good work and you will continue to be rewarded with consistent energy levels.

On a serious note, if you experience significant daytime tiredness during a fast, stop fasting. This is not normal and could indicate a hormonal imbalance that is not being helped by fasting. Break the fast by eating something. Eat well, get some sleep and try again another day. If it persists see your doctor or another health professional such as a Nutritional Therapist.

Intermittent Fasting for life... rather than the beach

Intermittent Fasting for life... rather than the beach

Like most people, you probably got into Intermittent Fasting to lose a couple of pounds. And assuming you managed to stick with your plan for more than a few weeks, that’s exactly what happened.

If you paid close attention you probably noticed other positive side effects too. More energy, better appetite control or maybe deeper sleep or an improved ability to focus at work. And science is showing that the benefits go deeper still. In fact fasting has been shown to improve our healthy life span. So how on earth does it do all that?

Let's start with weight loss. Excess weight and excess calorie consumption are linked to a shorter lifespan. Intermittent fasting and other types of fasting help improve both issues by giving your body a break from the almost constant eating typical in the UK. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack is a regime familiar to a lot of us. Fasting can help you lose excess weight and put you back in touch with what feeling hungry actually feels like so you can start to eat more mindfully.

Another key factor is Intermittent Fasting’s ability to improve insulin sensitivity. Many of us have a degree of insulin resistance due to our almost constant eating and/or constant stress from our busy lifestyles and/or getting older. All factors that can play havoc with our weight. Periods of fasting helps to redress this imbalance by giving the body a bit of a break from this constant barrage of insulin. This allows the cells to become more sensitive to insulin so insulin can perform its job properly at normal levels once again.

Increasing your sensitivity to insulin and practicing fasting can also help improve your metabolic flexibility. Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to switch from one energy source to another seamlessly as needs dictate. This switching proficiency helps you maintain energy levels, reduce cravings and tap into your fat stores for fuel.

So how does it improve your healthy life span? We know being overweight and having insulin resistance shortens life span but there is more to it than that. When you fast, you are also giving your body a chance to repair itself at a cellular level.

We know that modern living – eating too much, too much stress, living longer – is resulting in higher incidences of lifestyle related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer to name but a few. Science is revealing that one part of the picture could be that we spend too much time in growth mode. A tendency towards growth mode rather than repair mode used to give us an evolutionary advantage that suited a hunter gather life but this is not the case with a modern lifestyle. Once we are fully grown adults, being in almost constant growth mode is associated with accelerated ageing. A key pathway rather snappily called mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR for short) is the master regulator for cell growth and proliferation. It is switched on by continual or over eating, insulin and environmental cues such as stress. Fasting is one way to switch off this growth pathway.

By switching mTOR off the body responds by allocating resources for maintenance and repair instead of growth. This triggers lots of processes that give the body a spring clean of sorts. The current buzzword in fasting news is autophagy (pronounced ort-off-a-gee) which is one such process whereby the body recycles unnecessary or damaged cells or bits of cells. This process goes hand-in-hand with apoptosis which kills off old or damaged cells. Together and with other complementary processes, this helps readdress the balance of growth and repair which in turn helps us age better.  

So if you want to live better for longer, stick with your chosen fasting regime. We know it’s not the easiest practice in the world (which is why we created Fasting+) but the benefits speak for themselves. A long life should be a healthy life and fasting is just a bit of insurance to give us a better chance of achieving that. 

Easier Fasting

Easier Fasting

For Periodic Fasters'. Such as those of you following 5:2, 4:3, Alternate Day Modified Faster's or similar.

Some days fasting days can suck. And it can be hard unravelling what made that day so much harder than usual. Could be hormones, a hangover, too many or not enough carbs the day before or you might just be tired, really busy or really bored.

Having a strategy can really help you avoid those horrid days. Here we take a look at things you can do to help you out on the day itself and things you can do in the lead up to a fasting day to make sure you stay on track.

The fasting day itself

1-      Stay busy. But not too busy. Being busy gives you a distraction from thinking about food all day. But being stressed can make all those good intentions fly out of the window. Aim for some kind of balance if at all possible.

2-      Treat yourself to things that aren’t food related. For example, it’s lunchtime. You need a break. You are thinking about the food you can’t have. Have a stick of FASTING+ then it's time for a distraction. Go for a walk around the block. Grab a coffee and read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to read for ages. Plug in some guided meditation. Escape to a yoga class. Have a manicure. Phone a friend. Go to the aquarium. Whatever works for you but take a break. After all you are fasting for health not punishing yourself.

3-      Get some sleep if you can. Okay this isn’t going to be an option for everyone but if you can schedule it, sleep in a little later than usual (after all you don’t need to allow time for breakfast today) or go to bed earlier than usual. And if you really own your own diary (or live in mainland Europe) grab an afternoon nap.

4-      Actively manage hunger and cravings. Water, black coffee and FASTING+ sticks will help with hunger. If you are craving salty or sugary foods or getting a mild headache remember the body loses salt during a fast and those cravings may just be a side effect of that. Instead of reaching for a bag of salt and vinegar crisps or a chocolate biccie try one of these instead: ½ tsp sea salt with a pint of water or a few olives, a small bag of nori seaweed crisps, a cup of miso soup or bone broth. 

5-      Stay hydrated while reducing the monotony. Still water is the mainstay of fasting but it can get rather dull.  To liven it up you could add herbs (mint is a classic) or a squeeze of lemon but there are many other approaches to mix things up. Black coffee is your friend. Treat yourself to the best you can afford. Switch to decaff from 3pm or stick to decaff full stop if caffeine is an issue for you. Schedule your coffee breaks for a time when you tend to struggle or need a lift as it has the added benefit of reducing any hunger pangs you may be experiencing.

If you don’t like coffee but still need a coffee-shaped lift try matcha tea – hot or cold. But yes a matcha Latte is cheating. Matcha tea is amazing stuff. You get a lift from the caffeine but it's also rich in L-Theanine which can improve concentration levels. If you need a power hour to focus on getting a pile of work done then this is for you.

Tea is also allowed on most periodic fasting regimes. Nothing wrong with breakfast tea but experiment to keep things interesting. Green, peppermint, chamomile, rooibos are always popular but expand your repertoire. During a fast, warming teas can be comforting-  pu'er and coconut chai are worth seeking out as is anything with cinnamon, cocoa or liquorice in it. 

Use your none-fasting time to set you up for easier fasting

1.       Get some sleep – yep, that again.

2.       Ditch the alcohol… and the sweets… and the chocolate… and the white carbs… and the white pasta. I know, boring! But as boring as it sounds, reducing your refined carbohydrates outside of your fasting window will help support insulin and blood sugar regulation making the transition into a fasted state easier. You don’t have to go to extremes. Just be aware of what you are eating and try to add in some fat, fibre or protein to reduce the overall effect of any refined carbohydrates.

A few tips;

§  Focus on getting your carbs from vegetables and fruit and leave the skin on where possible for extra fibre and extra nutritious goodness

§  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on your veggies and salads

§  Add full fat yogurt to your fruit

§  Choose high cocoa chocolate and have it with some nuts or seeds

§  Ditch the top of your sandwich and pile the filling high

§  Have one glass of red wine with a meal and savour it

§  Stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into your porridge before serving

§  If you can choose between full fat or low fat, always choose full fat 

3.       Eat enough. Of the good stuff. Don’t go into diet mode on none fasting days. Eat proper meals of proper food in proper amounts. This will help you stay on track when you fast and support your metabolism. Try not to over eat though and try not to have snacks between meals. The odd treat? Why not.

4.       Do your hard, high intensity training sessions – weights, sprints, endurance work etc. on a non-fasting day… maybe. The jury is still out so feel free to try exercising on a fasting day and none fasting day and find out what works best for you. Some say HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is brilliant on fasting days as it improves the fat burning benefits of a fast. Others say fasting days should be limited to low intensity training.

If you are trying to lay down muscle, best to do that on a none fasting day. Or you could be clever about how to time the calories you do have – eat something high in carbs an hour, hour and a half before training (such as fruit) and something high in protein and carbs post training (such as meat and veggies). If you are fasting to lose fat, give fasted training a go. 

If you decide to exercise during your fast, stop immediately if you feel dizzy or your energy levels drop significantly and give yourself a break. If you can, try and work out why it was hard for you on that day - trained too hard the day before? Not enough sleep? Too much on at work? Poor diet during the lead up to the fast? Etc. so you can adjust things for next time.

On balance woman tend to struggle with training during a fast more than men (thanks hormones) so ladies be extra aware of any changes and adapt your programme to work for you.

I hope some of these work for you. Happy fasting. x

A beginners guide to Intermittent Fasting


A beginners guide to Intermittent Fasting

Fasting and Intermittent Fasting are used as a tactics by those looking to lose weight (especially for shifting that stubborn weight around the middle), improve energy levels and to support ageing well.

The key difference between Intermittent Fasting and fasting is that Intermittent Fasting plans tend to be more achievable as you still get something to eat on a fasting day. This is key because following a regime over the short term is useful for weight loss and energy gains but it's long term adherence that supports long term wellness and longevity.

Popular Intermittent Fasting plans

All Intermittent Fasting plans follow the same core principles that there are some times that you eat and some times when you fast. The difference between the plans is the timing and length of those periods. The most popular plans are listed below:

5:2. This is a weekly plan where you eat normally for 5 days and then have 2 days where you consume 500kcal if you are female and 600kcal if you are male per day only, ideally in one sitting. Your fasting days do not have to be consecutive. So you could decide to fast on Monday and Thursday and eat your standard diet on all other days.

4:3 is the same as 5:2 except, you eat normally for 4 days and have 3 days where you consume 500-600kcal per day. 

Alternate day fasting follows the same principles as 5:2 and 4:3 but you eat normally on day 1 and consume 500-600kcal on day 2. This pattern is then repeated with one day on and one day off throughout the week.

16:8 is a daily plan where you fast for 16 hours and consume all of your food within an 8-hour window. For example you may to choose to eat only between midday and 8pm every day. There is no daily calorie limit to what you eat in your 8 hours but do aim for a healthy balanced diet wherever possible.

Water, herbal teas, tea and coffee can be consumed throughout during these formats of Intermittent Fasting.

Choosing the best plan for you

Decide if a daily or weekly approach suits your lifestyle better.

If weekly, look at 5:2, 4:3 or Alternate Day plans and decide how best to fit your plan into your life.

For example, would you prefer to be busy or quiet on fasting days? Which days have less temptation for the coming week? Fasting on a day where you have a social engagement that centres around food and drink may not be the best choice for you.

It's also important to decide roughly what time you will aim to eat your daily calorie allowance factoring in things that are import to you such as breakfast or dinner with family, partner, housemates.

Taking these factors into account will help give you the best chance of success.

Daily, look at regimes that take a 16:8 type approach

To come up with a version of the plan that works for you consider which 8 hour eating window fits best with your lifestyle. 10am-6pm? Midday-8pm? Something else?

Also have a plan on what approach to eating will work best for you during that window. Are you going to have 2 or 3 meals? 2 slightly larger ones?2 meals and a snack? Or would viewing it as skipping either breakfast or dinner make it easier? 

Fasting is not for everyone.

Please keep in mind that fasting and Intermittent Fasting is not suitable for everyone. It is 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 fasting. In addition, seeking advice from a Nutritional Therapist or other health professional could be of benefit.

Getting started

If Intermittent Fasting is right for you, give yourself the best chance of success by adjusting your diet in the days and weeks leading up to starting your Intermittent Fasting plan.

You are looking to achieve a reduction in insulin and stress hormones. This is not about calorie reduction or weight loss but instead about reducing your reliance on refined carbohydrates, reducing eating frequency and supporting overall hormone balance.

Tip 1 reduce your bodies reliance on sugar for fuel

• Reduce sugar intake (for example sweets, chocolate, cake, fizzy drinks, fruit juice etc.)

• Reduce refined carbohydrates (for example bread, pasta, cereals etc.)

• Add fat or protein to all meals (for example eggs, avocado, olive oil, butter and other full fat dairy, nuts, seeds, meat, fish)

Tip 2 reduce snacking

• Aim for 3 meals a day only

Tip 3 aim for 6-9 hours of quality sleep per night

• Consider bedtime routine

• Screen time

• Caffeine

Tip 4 look to minimise the impact of stress in your life

•Reduce it

•Manage it

Tip 5 Improve nutrient density of your diet

• Add more vegetables and some fruit to your meals (aim for all colours of the rainbow)

• Be liberal with the use of herbs, spices, sprouts and seeds

• Choose natural, unrefined foods when possible

Or if you are an all or nothing kind of person, just give your chosen plan a go and see how you get on. If feel energised and have great concentration level's then carry on! If you feel dizzy, experience day time tiredness or just feel strange stop fasting immediately and eat something.  You can always try again another day.

Remember its perfectly normal to feel hungry in waves during your fasting period but these pass within about 15 minutes. Mild hunger is not a reason to stop your fast. Instead have a glass of water, a cup of black coffee or a sachet of Fasting+ and reassess how you feel. Read the `Easier Fasting' blog for more practical tips.  

For those of you who decide to give Intermittent Fasting a go, welcome to the club and happy fasting x