How Intermittent Fasting (IF) can optimize your health to give the competitive edge you need to succeed in business and life. 

For those of you who read the title above and thought to yourself, “Finally! I’ve found the secret to health!” realize that you have been taken for a ride via clickbait. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there before. 

When it comes down to it, there are very few real “secrets to creating optimal health” outside of hard work, persistence, having a bullet-proof mindset, and continuously learning about your brain and body. Some things take a while to mature and come to fruition, because as Warren Buffett explains, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.

Does this mean you’re stuck right where you are? Or you’ve hit a brick wall? Are you broken and never getting fixed? Obviously not. It merely means we have to look into some unconventional ways to keep improving. We need to adopt standards from other fields of industry to make progress where others may have failed to look — And this is precisely where our understanding of neuroscience and nutrition meet at a crossroads with business. 

Believe it or not, our brains and bodies haven’t changed much throughout our modern human history. The neural wiring we possess today is quite similar to the brain capacity humans had when Einstein was contemplating his theory of relativity, which was still very similar to the capacity of the great minds who conceptualized building the Great Pyramids of Egypt for King Khufu. In all reality, we aren’t that much different than our first ancestors who roamed the earth thousands of years ago. While these facts can be quite frightening, especially when thinking about how history has documented some isolated atrocious acts of behavior towards other humans, the glass should remain half full. 

This same principle affords us a unique window of opportunity into understanding how to solve modern-day issues by respecting the archaic computer we all possess inside our skull. 

So, where does Intermittent Fasting (IF) come into the picture? 

First, humans have been doing it for thousands of years as hunter-gatherers roaming the land while enduring prolonged periods of famine searching for food sources. Our genetic expression and subsequent metabolic “opportunity costs” were inherently influenced by these factors, which is why fasting can have a powerful impact on changing our physiology and improving our overall health. 

Second, businesses can’t function without the people who support them. Every individual in an organization possesses a unique and highly specific brain because of the previous experiences that have shaped it. With that said, we all rely on specific principles of physiology to keep us healthy, such as eating food, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and activating our brain through physical movement and exercise. Fasting is simply another tool in the tool belt that can be used to change the way our brains and bodies function. It can help reboot the immune system and make necessary internal repairs that may not always occur when our bellies are full of food waiting to be digested. 

Third, fasting may be one of the easiest and cost-efficient activities to utilize for improving our brain and body, possessing minimal risks besides feeling hungry and making us a bit ornery at times. 

(Keep this in mind, I am merely providing medically-related information, not treatment. Please consult your primary care provider before implementing any of the suggestions I am about to make). 

So here’s a quick guide to utilizing Intermittent Fasting (IF) throughout your daily routine to optimize your health for greater success in business.  

1.) Mentally Set The Stage – What To Expect

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a term used to describe a specific dietary pattern where we cycle between eating food and subsequently fasting between meals. The most popular type of intermittent fast consists of a window of eating for 6 hours, followed by an 18-hour fast, with no intake of calories or food outside of specific liquids and teas. Most people who do this type of fast report periods of hunger and can experience subtle changes in their mood, but these symptoms are merely temporary. Most people note significant improvements in their sleep quality, energy levels, and cognitive processing, with multiple studies reporting substantial weight loss and greater physical/mental endurance. In general, it’s suggested to start your 18-hour fast the evening before with a nutritious meal around 6 or 7 PM, closing your evening off without snacks or late-night food. The fast will last until 12-1 PM the following day, when you are free to eat again while enjoying your added benefits of the fast you just endured!

2.) Set Yourself Up for Success The Night Before You Fast

A significant factor in how people feel during a fast is related to the type of food they eat before fasting. Intuitively, this makes sense. Garbage in = garbage out, but even more importantly, the trash you put into your body will affect the way you feel, think, sleep, and move. Most of all, your decision making and productivity will suffer as a consequence of your food choices, which is why “we are what we eat.” It is essential to consider which types of foods to eat before and after fasting. 

To start, one really can’t go wrong with eating foods full of high-quality fiber paired with a tailored balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates (Keep in mind, these ratios are still up to debate in many camps of nutrition/functional medicine). Painting an even clearer picture, consider following more of a Mediterranean-style diet combined with green leafy vegetables and berries, along with significant limitations in the number of fried foods, red meats, and starches (like potatoes). This type of diet, also known as the MIND Diet, has been vastly researched and linked to significant reductions in the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, which costs the United States about $226 Billion in medical costs every year. 

If you start to pay attention to the foods you put in your body when you’re young and healthy, you won’t have to worry about becoming a statistic for the medical system when you’re older and less resilient. Since business is all about making the right decisions and moving forward, nutrition and high-quality food choices must be an essential part of your business plan for success. 

3.) Drink To Eat So You Don’t Get Hangry

One of the most common misconceptions about fasting is whether or not someone can eat or drink while fasting, and intuitively, the answer is just flat out NO on eating food. Let me elaborate a bit to clear up a few things. 

The answer to this question depends on the type of fasting you want to induce, as there are different characteristics of foods and liquids that will change the benefits of fasting. For example, for those who are fasting for the benefits of strictly going into ketosis, you are allowed less than 50 mg of carbohydrates/day to stay within your ketosis window. Some studies have shown ingesting any food or liquid containing fat/protein during fasting can halt a process called “autophagy,” where the body essentially starts to replace weaker old cells with resilient new cells. This process is vital for allowing your body to “take out the trash” to replace old cells with new cells, so depending on the benefits you’re looking for, this question may be up to debate. 

Some studies also point to the positive benefits of coffee during fasting. In contrast, others state that coffee may have negative consequences on insulin sensitivity when used during a fast, so deciding whether or not to drink coffee is up to your discretion. Depending on any previous medical conditions present, it may be in your best interest to skip the coffee and drink herbal/green tea to get your caffeine kick still while staying away from the coveted morning Chava. 

It is also suggested to keep all foods out of the picture during a short-term fasting protocol. Hence, why many reach for coffee, herbal tea, and good old fashioned filtered water to calm their hunger pains and maintain a steady-state of mind through the process. Keep in mind; There should be no room for cream or added sugars with these, as these added calories will take you out of ketosis and bring you right back to where you started. 

Drinking your breakfast is probably the most efficient way to do a short term fast without having to deal with the hangry consequences and emotions, as the ingestion of these liquids will cause you to feel “full” and activate satiety centers in your brain. 

4.) Recharge The Batteries with Sleep

Sleep has had a complete revolution and newly acquired respect over the last decade due to the amount of research and clinical trials that have shown how beneficial it is for our overall health and well being. The old sayings of “sleep is for the weak” and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” have quite a different connotation today. Especially since we now understand how important sleep can be for the consolidation of memories, increasing energy levels, and improving our mental health and well-being

Outside of these beneficial attributes, sleep can be your secret weapon while fasting, as it takes up 6-8 hours of your fasting window, which in turn takes away all the negative emotions of being hungry. Proper sleep can also promote higher cellular repair, as altered sleep has been shown to increase cell injury and delay recovery times. 

Use sleep to your advantage! 

5.) Enjoy The Rush!

Here’s the deal: With fasting, you will be hungry, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the benefits of what’s to come. Once you’re able to get through the hunger stage, you will start to notice improved mental clarity, greater energy, better mood, and even a point of acquiring a small fruity taste in your mouth (which is VERY different than the medical emergency of diabetic ketoacidosis). Going into a fasting state can be emotionally draining in the beginning, but once you’re able to get through it a few times, you will find yourself enjoying the numerous benefits of the fast itself. 

As “simple” as this guide may be, there is no shortage of information and references to look into if you want to dig deeper into Intermittent Fasting (IF), but the hope is that you are now able to take this information and put it into use! 

Just remember, it’s not about creating a diet, but a lifestyle and a way of living.