Staff don’t eat for 36 hours every week to supercharge their brains

by L&D12 Jul 2016
The Silicon Valley start-up Nootrobox has come up with a peculiar and controversial method which they say improves job performance.

It involves their employees avoiding food for 36 hours from Monday night to Wednesday morning each week. During the fasting, employees can drink water, coffee or tea.

The idea of the fasting is to achieve ketosis, where the body runs out of carbohydrates to burn and begins burning fat.
Despite the research to the contrary, there are others who believe that fasting keeps their brains on alert, which they say helps them to maintain focus and brainstorm better ideas.

The CEO of Nootrobox, Geoffrey Woo, argues that fasting has already improved company results.

“We're actually super productive on Tuesdays,” Woo was quoted as saying by the Mercury News in San Francisco.
“It's hard at first, but we literally adopted it as part of the company culture.”
Nootrobox is a company that sells nootropics (smart drugs) which generally claim to improve cognitive function, particularly memory, creativity and ideas.

On their website Nootrobox claim that “the human drive to self-improve is timeless, but modern technologies now allow us to enhance in precise and measurable ways like never before”.

“Nootrobox researches, develops, and manufactures nootropics with state of the art manufacturing techniques and 100% FDA generally regarded as safe (GRAS) components.

“We’re driving some of latest research with top academic collaborators in the world to better and understand human cognition and biohacking.”

Woo also predicted that in a few years, intermittent fasting at work is going to be as common as company-sponsored gyms.
While all staff are encouraged to fast, it is not compulsory at Nootrobox. Each week, after it's finished on the Wednesday morning the staff indulge in a huge breakfast.

However, there's also research that suggests skipping meals is harmful for brain function and that eating the right foods regularly is the way to go. Some studies suggest that foods which are good for productivity and cognitive function include fish, nuts, blueberries and whole grains.
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  • by Danny 12/07/2016 4:42:02 PM

    I had to comment on this article to clarify some of the information. I don’t think the CEO of this company understands nutrition. Rather than fasting it would be better to eat a high carbohydrate, plant based & whole food diet to improve cognitive function, particularly memory, creativity and ideas.

    The body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates and the brain only uses glucose (from carbohydrates) as fuel. Glucose is a type of sugar which the brain depends on for fuel. Studies show that dips in glucose availability can have a negative impact on attention, memory and learning, and that administering glucose can enhance these aspects of cognitive function. The brain also uses up more glucose during challenging mental tasks. Therefore, it may be especially important to keep blood glucose levels at an optimum level for good cognitive function. Consuming regular meals may help to achieve this….not fasting.

    The idea of ketosis is very dangerous. Here is some info from John McDougall, MD:

    With insufficient intake of the body’s primary fuel, carbohydrate, the body turns to fats from foods and from body fat for fuel. Byproducts of this metabolism are acidic substances called ketones (acetacetic acid, B-hydroxybuteric acid, and acetone). The metabolic condition is known as ketosis. Ketosis is associated with loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and hypotension (lower blood pressure). The result is a decrease in food (calorie) intake. Ketosis is the key to the diet’s success, by allowing the body to starve while reducing the suffering of severe hunger pangs. This same condition, ketosis, occurs naturally when people are literally starving to death or seriously ill. During starvation this metabolic state is a kindness of nature allowing the victim to suffer much reduced pains of hunger while dying. During illness the suppression of the appetite frees the person to rest and recuperate, rather then be forced by hunger to gather and prepare food. Because ketogenic diets simulate this metabolic state seen with serious illness, I refer to them as “the make yourself sick diets.”

  • by Hunger4Truth 12/07/2016 6:00:05 PM

    Danny might benefit from reading some of the latest research published by acknowledged experts demonstrating the benefits of intermittent fasting for short periods. According to Dr Valter D. Lungo (and others) a neurotransmitter known as BNF is stimulated by fasting. It acts on the brain a bit like serotonin, raising alertness, energy levels and lifting mood. My personal experience of fasting for 24 hours twice per week supports this research so I'd challenge the claims that optimum performance depends on regular meals. With respect to a high carbohydrate diet most people would be familiar with a 'sugar rush' and the subsequent crash that occurs after, so I suspect that any 'studies' are not considering the whole story.

    The human body is very sophisticated and adapts to dietary changes. I doubt that nature ever intended for us to eat the typical high calorie diets that contribute to the obesity epidemic and the chronic diseases it causes. Far from "making yourself sick" a sensible approach to short term fasting is much more likely to lead to a long and healthy life than reaching for another donut. Anyone interested this topic should take a look at the excellent BBC Horizon documentary produced by Dr Michael Mosley. He does a great job of explaining the research in simple terms.

  • by Andy 13/07/2016 6:22:12 AM

    'Woo' pretty much sums this up!