Here's one you may not think about often–food. With food sensitivities that make me miserable if I don't abide by strict rules, this has become more important to me over the last year, and I'm surprised how regularly I need to do this to feel good.
Article by Benjamin Hardy on Medium.com
4. Recover From Food
“Eat less food and you’ll get more done.” — Robin Sharma
Your body, and mind, need to recover from food. If not daily, you should be fasting from food for at least 18–24 hours on a weekly basis.
When you fast, or “recover” from food, your body is given the opportunity to repair and rebuild itself, rather than constantly digesting.
As will be shown, there are a ridiculous number of benefits to regular fasting.
Medically, fasting has been found to rapidly dissipate the craving for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other drugs. Neuro-chemically, fasting increases levels of catecholamines — such as dopamine — which elevates your happiness and confidence while reducing your anxiety.
Fasting actually increases your number of brain cells. Here is a short list of some of the scientifically backed cognitive benefits of fasting:
- Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy (e.g., “self-eating,”), which is how cells recycle waste material, down regulate wasteful processes, and repair themselves. Brain health is dependent on neuronal autophagy. Another study shows that interference of neuronal autophagy prompts neuro-degeneration. Simply put, without the process of autophagy, brains neither develop properly nor function optimally.
- Fasting increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that interacts with neurons in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain (the parts of the brain that regulate memory, learning, and higher cognitive function — uniquely human stuff). BDNF helps existing neurons survive while stimulating the growth of new neurons and the development of neuro-synaptic connectivity. Low levels of BDNF are linked to Alzheimer’s,memory loss, and cognitive impairment.
- Evidence suggests that low BDNF is related to depression. Indeed,antidepressants increase BDNF levels. Thus, many doctors believe fasting can reduce depression.
- Fasting reduces the likelihood of having a stroke.
- Fasting reduces the oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cognitive decline that normally results from brain trauma. Research has found that a 24 hour (but not a 48 hour) fast was neuro-protectiveagainst trauma to the brain like a concussion.
- Fasting reduces cognitive stressors that bring about aging, cognitive decline, and chronic diseases.
- Fasting reduces your risk of cancer.
- Fasting increases your longevity and lifespan.
- Fasting enhances learning and memory.
- Fasting elevates your ability to focus and concentrate.
If you’ve fasted before, you can attest to the radical mental benefits of fasting. If you haven’t, please start a regular practice of fasting. Over a period of time, you’ll be startled by the cognitive results.
Other scientifically backed health benefits of fasting including:
- Fasting can reverse binge eating disorders, and help those who find it difficult to establish a correct eating pattern due to work and other priorities.
- Fasting can clear your skin from acne, allowing you to have a healthy vibrant glow.
- Fasting “reboots” your immune system from free radical damage, regulating inflammatory conditions in the body and killing-off cancer cell formation.
- Fasting improves blood pressure levels.
- Fasting improves cholesterol levels.
- Type 2 diabetes has become commonplace in our unhealthy culture. Fasting has been shown to strongly support insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.
- Similarly, blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
- The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5X. Higher levels of growth hormone assist fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
Not only will your body functioning improve as you fast, but your decision-making regarding your health and fitness will improve.
Research has found that age-related declines in cognitive and motor abilities(such as physical balance) can be reduced by fasting.
Interesting, research at Yale has found that being on an empty stomach helps you think and focus better. Hence, many people, such as Malcolm Gladwell, purposefully “skip” breakfast so they can better focus on their creative work.
Fasting stabilizes your emotions. This happens by detaching from the emotional dependence on food, in addition to removing over-stimulating foods like caffeine, processed sugars, recreational drugs, tobacco and trans-fatty acids — all of which negatively effect our emotions.
Research confirms that being in a fasted state improves focus, memory, and ability to comprehend information. Put most simply, fasting improves brain efficiency and effectiveness.
How to fast?
Try eating an early dinner or late breakfast. It may be difficult at first, as you likely have an emotional, not physical, dependency on food. The idea is to eat within a 6–10 hour window each day, and allow yourself the rest of the day to recover. If you eat meals high in protein and healthy fats, you’ll be satiated, or full, for several more hours than if you’re eating carbs, particularly sugary carbs.
If daily doesn’t make sense, try a weekly fast where you either go 18–24 hours on a particular day.