Sunday, June 18, 2017 by Tim Wesley
While eating the right kinds of food can boost your productivity, it’s also possible to unleash your true potential by not eating. Yes, fasting can have positive mental benefits. In fact, several studies have shown that depriving yourself for a certain period of time can have physical and psychological benefits. It can, among other things, improve heart health, help you lose weight, lower the risk of diabetes, and reverse cell aging.
Psychologically, intermittent fasting can help you develop discipline and improve your cognitive functions. It may sound counter-intuitive but fasting may actually be the answer to your productivity problems. If you want to go ‘beast mode’ this could be something you need to look at.
What happens to the brain (and body) when you abstain from all kinds of food or drink over a specific period of time is quite interesting. You’d think that being hungry would make you grumpy, weak, and unable to even lift a finger. It’s possible especially if you’ve conditioned your mind to feel that way in the absence of food but what really happens is that your body will go on survival mode.
Your brain switches to hunting mode which activates certain functions in the body. Your mental abilities become sharper, hormone level rise, and you’ll become stronger. Your mind will become clear as your body switches to dig deep and reach into internal resources (burn stored fats for energy).
Your brain will begin to tap into a source of energy: ketones. This happens when the body burns fat to convert to energy. Once your body uses ketones, you’ll now have the energy needed to accomplish whatever tasks need to be done. Increased levels of ketones have been found to protect the brain against neurodegenerative disorders.
It might sound unbelievable at first but if you look closer, it makes sense. In the T.V. Show Survivor, castaways go hungry for weeks but are subjected to exhausting physical challenges. What’s even harder is the mental aspect where they need to outwit each other. Despite the hunger and physical exhaustion, these people still manage to keep their wits about them and make strategic decisions. Even with very little food and sleep, players are still able to participate in mental challenges that involve complicated puzzles. This could be very well the result of the body going on hunting mode and utilizing the available resources it has left.
Foregoing food intake does have mental benefits and these are backed by data. It can improve memory, cognition, and learning. A protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is produced during fasting. Increased BDNF levels inhibit memory loss and prevent neuronal death. It may also help prevent age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Furthermore, it has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms for 80 percent of patients with chronic pain. It also triggers autophagy, a process where waste materials are broken down while dysfunctional structures are repaired. Similarly, experiments on mice showed that lower incidences of autophagy resulted in lower neural development and spikes in body fat.
Fasting can improve focus and mental clarity; two very important things you can use to achieve success. Abstaining from food for a specific period should give you the energy and flexibility to get things done.