Intermittent fasting (IF) can vastly increase your productivity by optimizing your mental focus and enhancing your brain’s ability to stay on task.
New year, new goals, right?
It seems like every company, marketing agency, and leadership expert is focusing on having this year be “the year” of losing weight, increasing their income, and making the changes they’ve desperately wanted to make.
New years resolutions are as old as time, yet they never seem to change, even as we age.
The problem? 80% of New Year resolutions fail. Yes, you read that correctly.
And after the year we had in 2020, it should come as no surprise that people are desperately looking for a change.
What does “change” mean to you? More importantly, how can we create long-lasting changes in our habits to increase our chances of accomplishing our goals?
The secret may lie in an ancient tradition that has been in practice for centuries throughout religious groups worldwide: Intermittent fasting (IF).
Intermittent fasting has gotten much attention over the past few years, and for a good reason, it has become one of the most efficient ways for people to lose weight, get healthy, and improve their energy levels. It consists of an array of time intervals (most commonly an 18:6 or 16:8 ratio of fasting:eating) where an individual will essentially “fast” for a designated period of time while still drinking water, tea, and coffee without consuming calories or food during this fasting window.
But while fasting may be a great way to improve your general health, it can also vastly improve your productivity and output at work. Here’s why:
1.) It Helps You Lose Weight
Fasting can be an efficient means to help people lose weight, which is a big issue considering 42.4% of adults in the US are obese or overweight. These figures are estimated to cost around $147 billion in medical costs, which is troubling considering the average medical costs for an individual suffering from obesity averages around $1,429 higher than individuals at a healthy weight.
Obesity kills at a slow rate, making it difficult to make people change their ways until it’s eventually too late.
By merely implementing a weekly or scheduled time for intermittent fasting, you could be saving yourself money over the long run, along with the compounded positive benefits of increased livelihood and quality of life into your later years.
On top of that, losing weight could make you smarter and more focused in the boardroom.
Research from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University found that excessive visceral body fat promotes inflammation and immune cell activation within the brain, causing impaired cognitive processing and decreased mental focus. Inflammatory mediators created by visceral fat can travel through the tightly-regulated brain barriers, causing chronic inflammation and higher neuronal loss rates, which eventually lead to dysfunction of neural circuits responsible for mental processing and clarity of thought.
2.) It Keeps You Focused On Tasks At Hand
If obesity can cause chronic inflammation and a subsequent decline in cognitive processing, then losing weight and utilizing intermittent fasting benefits should intuitively allow you to increase your mental focus and job performance.
It can also vastly change your brain’s physiology through the use of ketones, which are a byproduct of fasting that can be used as fuel for the brain as an alternative to glucose. Since the brain primarily runs off of glucose, transitioning to ketones can give the brain and bodily organs a chance to reset their glucose sensitivity. This sensitivity is commonly decreased in conditions like Type II diabetes, which can cause high sugar levels to remain in the blood, subsequently damaging vessel walls and increasing the production of plaque inside arteries.
Fasting also triggers the mobilization of free fatty acids from fat deposits within the body, which can supplement energy production throughout the brain and body, once again creating a positive feedback loop for weight loss and improved cognitive performance.
As these processes repeat over time, the brain starts to expect and utilize these feedback cycles to a greater extent, making it easier for your brain to function and focus, even in a fasted state.
And there is also evidence that various forms of fasting, specifically Time-Restricted Fasting (TRF), can affect your circadian rhythms, which help you regulate sleep patterns and metabolism rates. Since sleep plays a significant role in the consolidation of memories, fasting may further enhance our concentration and focus by increasing our sleep quality, thus positively affecting our ability to form and recollect memories from previous conversations and business meetings.
Because of this, intermittent fasting may be one of the most efficient ways for you to enhance longevity, improve overall health, reduce disease, and even reduce blood pressure.
3.) It Helps Form Foundational Habits For Success
For those of you who have read James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” this should come as no surprise: Existing habits can help form future habits through a process called “habit stacking.” This process essentially takes existing habits, no matter how good or bad, and uses them as the foundation to create new habits of success.
Take brushing your teeth as an example. As a child, your parents used to fight you tooth and nail to get you to brush your teeth consistently, but as an adult, this should be instinctive and easy to do (let’s hope…). If brushing your teeth requires little to no effort, then you don’t have to think about it, thus making it a tremendous foundational habit to “stack” other habits onto.
One way to do this is to essentially pair a new habit with your old “automated” habit.
Let’s say you’re trying to start reading a book for 10 minutes/day but haven’t found the time or energy to do it, even though your nightstand is stacked with partially read books. One way to overcome this is to implement a rule using brushing your teeth as a foundational habit to lean on. Making a rule where you have to read for 10 minutes after brushing your teeth can make these two habits easier to implement, as they are now married together in function. This process makes sense from a neurological perspective as well.
Neurons that “fire together wire together,” meaning that when circuits are repeatedly activated together over time, their bond strengthens. This same process governs what happens when we learn new information, workout for a while, and fall in love. We become master predictors of our world by using previous data and information to create a higher concentration of connectivity between circuits involved in these processes.
And this same process can happen via intermittent fasting because it can influence the formation of other beneficial habits. Intermittent fasting, once established, can become a foundational habit where you can “stack” other routines on top of it, recreating the wheel over and over again.
Knowledge is Useless Without Application
It’s difficult to dispute the benefits and advantages of Intermittent Fasting after looking into the research, but as previously stated, knowledge is useless without application.
Knowing this information is one thing; Implementing it is where the magic lies.
Even if you choose to start intermittent fasting one day a week, it will be a good start to a long road of growth and prosperity in both your personal and professional life.
“Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison.