Intermittent Fasting and its effect on the Brain

Intermittent Fasting is the act of abstaining from calorie consumption for extended periods of time. Usually this spans between 16-24 hours.

Let’s explore the neuroprotective benefits of Intermittent Fasting.

A study conducted in 1984 restricting the calorie intake of rodents through alternate day IF, resulted in the mice having an enhanced ability to navigate through complex mazes.

[1] Since then, there have been numerous studies linking Intermittent Fasting to improved cognitive function in mice and other animals.[2][3][4]

A more recent study highlighted the fact that a diet high in fats and sugars actually reduced the mental capacity in mice.

[5] Although, these are animal studies, it is clear that there is a correlation between intermittent fasting and increased brain function. It begs the question, why?

SARMs Australia are a great supplement when fasting.

“Intermittent Fasting” causes Hormesis.

Hormesis is a biological event in which a low dose of a toxic chemical causes a positive effect, resonant with the colloquial phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

“Recent findings have elucidated the cellular signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that mediate hormetic responses which typically involve enzymes such as kinases and deacetylases, and transcription factors such as Nrf-2 and NF-kappaB.

As a result, cells increase their production of cytoprotective and restorative proteins including growth factors, phase 2 and antioxidant enzymes, and protein chaperones.”[6]

A publication revealed that IF induced sirtuin 1 protein expression in deficient mice resulting in improved brain function:

“After eight weeks of intermittent fasting, sirtuin 1 protein expression was recovered in SAMP8.

This recovery was accompanied by a reduction in the two acetylated targets… Our findings provide new insights into the participation of sirtuin 1 in ageing and point to a potential novel application of this enzyme to prevent frailty due to ageing processes in the brain.”[7]

A recent review of the therapeutic effect of fasting found:

“Several interrelated cellular mechanisms contribute to the beneficial effects of IF on the nervous system including reduced accumulation of oxidatively damaged molecules, improved cellular bioenergetics, enhanced neurotrophic factor signaling, and reduced inflammation….intermittent fasting may also promote restoration of damaged nerve cell circuits by stimulating synapse formation and the production of new neurons from neural stem cells (neurogenesis)”[8]

This study reveals that not only does IF have neuroprotective factors but it may in fact help recover lost brain cells and improve brain function.

How to Intermittent Fast

I get quite a few questions on how you can implement fasting so I reached out to intermittent fasting expert Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat to set the record straight for you, and here is what he had to say…

“The concept of the Reverse Taper Diet is still one of my favorite ideas.
Without getting too technical, the concept is that you should be in your largest calorie deficit (eating the least amount of food) at the beginning of your diet, when you have the most fat to lose and thus the most fat available to be used as a fuel.

Then, as you slowly lose fat you also slowly up your calories, ideally ending at a spot where you are eating maintenance level calories when you are at your leanest.

The benefit of dieting in this manner is two fold.

Firstly, you have much less risk of rebound weight gain. At the end of the diet, you would be eating exactly the amount you need to eat to maintain your new ideal body.

Secondly, you would always have available energy so you could workout and so your energy levels didn’t diminish the further into the diet you lasted (lots of people complain about not having enough energy to workout by the end of a traditional diet).

The only problem that seems to come up with this approach is that people don’t like to fiddle with their calories, and they also have a very hard time increasing their calories if they’re seeing really good fat loss progress with the lower Calorie amounts.

Some people just like to get into a groove of eating and stay there.
That’s why I thought of using periods of fasting as a way to recreate the reverse taper.

Basically, pick a daily calorie amount that is satisfying but responsible (maintenance) then use periods of fasting as a way to alter the deficit.

What I have always done in the past was taper my fasting frequency based on my waist circumference.

Reverse Taper based on Fasting Frequency:

If my waist was over 33 inches I would fast 2 times per week for 24 hours.
If my waist was between 32-33 inches I would do one 24 hour fast once every 4-5 days.
If my waist was under 32 inches I would fast for 24 hours once per week.

(Basically Eat Stop Eat as it’s written in Eat Stop Eat)

This works great for me, but unfortunately most people don’t like that amount of change… basically, they like having some routine to their fasting. People don’t want to fast once or twice per week, they pick always fasting once per week, or always fasting twice per week.

And the vast majority of people skip right over the once per week and always associate Eat Stop Eat with doing two 24 hour fasts every week.

So here’s my solution… based on Eat Stop Eat style 2x per week fasting…
(I’m trying this now and really enjoying it)

Reverse Taper Based on Fasting Duration:

If my waist was over 33 inches I would fast for 24 hours 2 times per week.
If my waist was between 32-33 inches I would fast twice per week, once for 24 hours and once for 20 hours.
If my waist was under 32 I would fast twice for 20 hours 2 times per week.

Lowering your total weekly fasting by 4 hours doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a big difference in how you feel while dieting.

The benefit of this approach is that your daily eating routines never really need to change.. and since many of us are creatures of habit, this makes dieting easier.

The food doesn’t change, just the lengths of the fasts.

This is one of the benefits of being flexible with your fasts. A 20 hour fast can feel very different than a 24 hour fast, especially in the final stages of leaning out.

To try this out, you’re going to need to know your ideal waist. (I trust waist measurements more than weight measurements.)

I know when I’m photo shoot lean, my waist is under 32 inches. I have suggestions for you, but if you already know what your best waist is you can use that number.

Ideal Waist Suggestions

Ideal waist circumference of a fairly well muscled man (measured at the belly button in the morning) would be about 44.7% of your height

Ideal waist circumference for a fairly well muscle woman (measured NOT at the belly button but at the narrowest point just below your rib cage) would be about 38.2% of your height.

These may seem a little low, but keep in mind that from my experience reverse tapering is only really needed during the final 10-15 pounds of fat loss

If this is you, and your struggling to stick with your diet during the final last push, consider a reverse taper IF approach.

If you want THE BOOK on fasting, check out Brad’s book: Eat Stop Eat. ->>>> Check it Out Here