Intermittent fasting is a super effective way to lose weight, boost energy levels, and supercharge mental focus.
Stay with me now, and don’t be scared off by the word “fasting.” I was VERY skeptical it could work for me at first. I thought to myself:
“I definitely can’t go that long without food, especially in the morning.”
“My body needs something the second it wakes up to get me going.”
“Isn’t skipping breakfast bad and going to shut down my metabolism?”
“I can’t go to the gym in the morning if I don’t eat.“
These among other excuses kept me from giving it a try for many years after first hearing about it.
At the time, I honestly wasn’t seeing the results in the gym I had hoped, my focus at work was terrible throughout the day, and I never had a consistent level of energy without boosting myself with sugar or caffeine in the afternoon. (It took me a while to realize just how much this was wrecking my sleep at the time and making the whole cycle worse.)
Then, one simple Google search changed my life.
Why am I always hungry throughout the morning?
was the burning question I had to find the answer for.
It led me to some very detailed science on the benefits of intermittent fasting. The guy who wrote it actually made some very valid points, so I decided to give it a shot for two weeks. What did I have to lose (other than a little weight), anyway?
It didn’t take long for me to notice the weight loss benefit, which I had expected. What took me by surprise, however, was the mental focus and consistent energy levels I was getting throughout the day.
It’s been 5+ years and I haven’t looked back (or eaten many stereotypical breakfasts).
Let’s focus (pun intended) on the five ways in which intermittent fasting increases your mental focus and helps you have more consistent energy to conquer your day.
1. Fasting actually DECREASES your hunger
Yes, you read that correctly. Let me say it again.
Not eating in the morning will actually help you gain CONTROL of your “hanger.” We all know that person who is not very delightful to be around if they are “hangry.” I was that person. At work. At home. Out for the night. I instantly became agitated or unable to focus if I became hungry.
I couldn’t believe this when I first started noticing it after a week or so into it, but I actually became LESS hungry throughout the morning than when I had been eating.
Mind blown. [insert emoji with exploding dynamite for a brain]
The reasons behind this boil down to what I have discussed here with regards to the morning blood sugar rollercoaster ride we take ourselves on.
Simply put, stabilize your blood sugar in the morning, cut down on the waves of hunger, and boost your level of focus.
Yes, you will have to learn how to enjoy black (or Bulletproof) coffee and the refreshing pleasure of a big glass of ice cold water. Trust me, the payoff is worth it.
2. Growth hormone…FOR YOUR BRAIN!
I know. Crazy, right? I always thought that once we lost brain cells we could not get them back. As it turns out, intermittent fasting has been shown to boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which results in neurogenesis. Essentially, it results in growth and development of more brain and nerve cells.
More connections in your brain equates to better focus, mood, memory and overall brain performance.
You can’t say the same about your bowl of oatmeal with banana and a yogurt.
Side note because I am a pharmacist, and I know you are thinking “Yeah, but there are drugs that can help me focus.” Amphetamines which are WIDELY prescribed for trouble focusing, especially at work, have the opposite effect on BDNF, lowering levels of this important protein over time.
3. Fat for FUEL
Your brain has a crush on glucose, but it LOVES fat.
Fasting helps your brain use ketones (the energy source derived from fat) for fuel over glucose.
Ketones provide more energy and are used at a faster rate which makes them a much more efficient source of energy for our brain.
They are also a cleaner source over glucose, which produces more free radicals that can cause inflammation.
I think it goes without saying, but I will anyway.
Inflammation is bad, especially in your brain. It will cause you to LOSE the focus and mental clarity you want–also known as brain fog.
4. Boost energy with more batteries in your brain and body
“But I need food to boost my energy!”
This is true in a sense. However, you also need periods without food (AKA fasting) to boost the number of mitochondria in your cells. These are basically your cell’s batteries.
The more mitochondria in your cells, the better your body gets at using that food for energy.
Once your body is more efficient at turning your food into energy, the more overall brain power and physical energy you will have.
5. More growth hormone without the injection!
Your first thought was probably about body building when I mentioned human growth hormone, but I am not talking about the same kind that body builders inject.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to boost our natural growth hormone levels.
This makes it easier to put on muscle, and it just so happens that it is great for our brain health. It helps boost cognition, protect brain cells, and make more of them. All of which equals better focus and mood. See a recurring theme yet?
We live in a very demanding world, where our attention always seem to be needed which is a problem in and of itself (we all need more downtime). Yet, your ability to focus throughout the day may not quite be where you would like it. You may want better focus at work, at the gym, out with family and friends, or all of these.
Either way, think of fasting as a tool that can help you get that without having to go to your doctor or pharmacy every month for a refill.
Strive to thrive,
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