You can improve your focus and mental clarity with one simple, very effective lifestyle implementation: intermittent fasting. You’re probably thinking, does this guy ever eat?! The answer is an absolute yes, but I just delay that most days and it has improved my life tremendously. You, too, could benefit from giving this simple lifestyle method a try if you suffer from trouble focusing, especially early in the morning and afternoon.
Let’s flashback four years ago to when I thought that throwing back a protein shake instantaneously upon awakening was a great idea. I would follow that with some type of oatmeal and eggs because I was trying to put on muscle mass. Upon my arrival to work at 10 AM, I was already hungry again to the point of having my stomach growling. There was no way I was focusing until I satiated that feeling, so I had a yogurt to fill up on more protein. My hunger quickly returned several hours later much sooner than mid-way through my shift, so…you guessed it! I went and ate the large lunch I packed for myself. Again, this was all part of the mass gaining protocol, so I thought nothing of it. Finally, I’d be able to focus and get some work done without thinking about food…or not.
Queue the mid-afternoon crash. I wasn’t being productive. I still couldn’t focus. All I was doing was trying not to fall asleep. Plus, I had a huge craving for something sweet. I needed it to get my energy back up and finish out the day.
Hopefully, you can relate to some or all of this. You eat first thing in the morning and end up hungry, with brain fog, or both. You either give in or fight it off depending on if you are trying to lose weight or put on weight. You battle this all day and end up resorting to either caffeine, sugar, or a combination of the two. Some may be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) if it’s severe enough (definitely some gut issues going on with ADD, but that is a whole other topic for another time).
I had heard about the benefits of fasting from a friend previously but thought he was completely crazy. I never gave it a second thought until one day when I Googled “why am I always hungry in the morning?” I needed to fix it because my hunger was seriously affecting my focus and productivity. Ironically, I was introduced to a blog that scientifically broke down all of the benefits and myths of intermittent fasting. I decided it was worth a shot, and I have never looked back. It was by far the best decision I made for my situation and health.
Disclaimer: While intermittent fasting has many proven benefits, it’s still controversial. A potential danger regards medications, especially for diabetes, where doses often need to be adapted. Discuss any changes in medication and relevant lifestyle changes with your doctor. Full Disclaimer People who should NOT fast include those who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people under the age of 18.
The truth is, I could write about the benefits of fasting all of the time because it has so many health benefits. The benefits you get from fasting will almost certainly be more effective than any medication you take because it is a natural thing our bodies were designed to do in order to survive and thrive.
Here is a quick recap on some of the other health benefits noted in my favorite resource for fasting  – The Diet Doctor: Benefits of Fasting
- weight and body fat loss (maintains muscle mass in the process)
- lower blood insulin and sugar levels
- improved insulin sensitivity
- reversal of type 2 diabetes due to the above
- increased growth hormone – easier to put on muscle
- possible prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease
- cellular cleansing (autophagy)
Why isn’t it widely used to treat those conditions you may be wondering. Who can make a profit off prescribing fasting? Certainly no food or pharmaceutical company…You, however, can definitely profit in health benefits. The Diet Doctor is a great resource to learn how if you have chronic health conditions.
Let’s get back to the topic at hand and one of my favorite benefits of intermittent fasting: improved mental clarity and focus. Let’s look at how fasting affects our brain.
- Fasting decreases your feeling of hunger and increases your mental clarity
First and foremost mental sharpness increases during fasting because our bodies are not working on digesting food, which requires energy and increased blood flow to our digestive tract. Just think of that food coma you go into after Thanksgiving. Are you sharp as a tack or dull as a rock? It’s a basic survival mechanism because we had to be hyper-attentive and energetic to find food in times of scarcity. We wouldn’t be here if our ancestors were too tired to go out and find food. One study found no negative effects on cognitive function, activity, and sleep after 2 days of calorie deprivation. They couldn’t prove it was better because they were only looking to prove that calorie deprivation wasn’t worse than the alternative. This is something drug companies do quite often to get their drugs on the market, by the way.
2. Fasting boosts levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Fasting also boosts levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is essentially growth hormone for the brain. It helps improve brain connectivity and new neuron growth from stem cells. Needless to say, these are two things that can improve your cognitive ability and focus.
On the other hand, we have amphetamines which are widely used (overprescribed in my opinion) to treat attention-deficit disorders (ADD). These drugs certainly will suppress your appetite through their increase in neurotransmitters, just like fasting. However, they can actually have the opposite effect on BDNF, lowering levels of this important protein over time.
3. Ketones are the best fuel for your brain
Another way in which fasting enhances our focus and mental clarity is through the influence on which energy source our brain uses for fuel. Fasting will help our brains utilize ketones for fuel over glucose. Ketones provide more energy and at a faster rate which makes them a much more efficient source of energy for our brain. Not to mention, you won’t experience any drastic fluctuations in your blood sugar which our brains perceive as hunger and causes brain fog.
By now, you may be thinking all of this sounds great and want to give this fasting thing a try, but what is the best way to go about it?
Thomas DeLauer is one of my favorite go-to resources for intermittent fasting tips is. He breaks down the science behind fasting and a ketogenic diet. He has videos that discuss the 5 most common mistakes people make when fasting and his most recent 10 commandments of fasting.
His tenth commandment of fasting is “ignore the haters.” Do it for you and only you. I personally have been mocked because of my intermittent fasting lifestyle, but I know how much it has transformed my life. It could very well change yours as well, but you won’t know unless you give it a shot.
Strive to thrive,
P.S. Intermittent fasting is not right for everyone, but there is a way of eating and lifestyle that will support the best version of you. The Strive to Thrive 6-Month Program helps you discover
Leave a comment with your thoughts!
Other thoughts I wanted to mention
I personally know people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, so brain health is of the utmost importance to me. If fasting can even possibly reduce my risk of this, I know I am all in. Read Max Lugavere’s book Genius Foods and listen to his podcast for other brain health tips.
I know a couple of people who thought I was crazy until they gave it a try. Heck, I was one of those people. Just read this emergency medicine doctor’s story. I think this lifestyle is perfect for people who are in a fast-paced environment and don’t have time to let hunger get in the way of their focus.
As you know, I have mentioned the benefits of fasting before while documenting my “crazy” three-day fast (Read that post here).
I’d also like to point out I am not the only pharmacist who loves intermittent fasting as a mental performance and longevity tool. The Renegade Pharmacist wrote a great article about intermittent fasting here that is worth checking out.