This article is curated medical advice by a set of medical practitioners. It expresses the views of the medical practitioner. The article follows the editorial guidelines and policy of WYF. Recommendations made in this article are meant to be general guidelines. In case you have any medical conditions, consult your doctor. These do not reflect the views of editors or the team at WYF and are not meant to be prescriptive.
Being fasted is great for focus and concentration, provided you are not thinking about food the entire time. Being fed is terrific for focus and concentration too, and actually can improve neural function provided that you don’t eat too much food.
Your ability to focus and in fact, your ability of neurons to encode specific information in your environment that represents what is out there in the world is actually related to your blood glucose level. Here, in this article, we will discuss the neuroscientist Andrew Huberman’s study on the diet make you feel more focused. Setting aside the discussion of ketosis and ketogenic diet, we will be discussing the study about neurons that was published not long ago.
The study showed that the tuning, that is, the precision with which neurons in the brain will represent things in our environment is actually much greater when there is sufficient glucose in the brain. When we are fasted or when our blood glucose level is very low, we are not able to perceive and think about things as clearly.
Does Intermittent Fasting give greater clarity on mind?
However, there is a twist that many people who practiced intermittent fasting and practice a sort of pseudo-intermittent fasting, performing longer fast or eating in a six hour window get more clarity of mind during the period of fasting.
Neurons and glucose
Neurons thrive on glucose
Neurons unless you are in a ketogenic diet really thrive on glucose, they love glucose and your ability to think and perceive things is actually enhanced by having sufficient glucose in your bloodstream. However, some people experience a heightened state of mental clarity when they are fasted provided that you are well hydrated and you have enough electrolytes in your system.
Feeling sleepy after eating food
What tends to happen is that when you ingest food and there is a shift in your nervous system towards the parasympathetic mode which makes you feel more relaxed and sleepy. There are many carbohydrates that make us sleepy. If we have too much and our gut is full, it diverge blood to our gut and we become sleepy making it hard for us to focus as well.
Hence, few people in the state of being fasted are able to be more focused and concentrated as they don’t have that much of parasympathetic activation. And in fact, under those condition, half as much caffeine will give you just as much lift as twice as much cough caffeine will give you on a full belly of pasta, that’s just the way the caffeine interact with blood glucose.
Two ends of the spectrum
Imagine you had a measure of focus from 0 to 10, these are arbitrary units, 10 being maximally focused on zero being not focused at all, there would be a U-shaped function, where if you’re very fasted, you are going to have a high degree of focus and concentration, but then if you ingest some food and your bellies full, your focus and concentration is reduced.
But having enough blood glucose and maybe even elevated blood glucose will also increase cognitive function. So there are two ends of the spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, blood glucose is relatively low and you are fasted and you can think and behave in a very concentrated way. And on the other side of the spectrum, when you have sufficient blood glucose, not too high as it is dangerous for our health, it allows your neurons to encode and perceive and basically allow you to think clearly.
So you sort of have to choose your condition, what do you want for your bouts of focus and concentration?
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman does both, by having his breakfast at 11 AM and doing the work out and one focused work that is the hard physical work fasted early in the day. He consumes water with electrolytes, maybe some caffeine in the form of yerba mate or coffee. He experiences a diminished capacity of focus after he eats but then again in the afternoon he does another 90 minute bout of focus, which is optimal for getting the most amount of focused work done, whether it’s mental work or physical work. Hence, being fasted is great for focus and concentration, provided you are not thinking about food the entire time. Being fed is terrific for focus and concentration too, and actually can improve neural function provided that you don’t eat too much food.
How to manage eating and fasting?
One way to manage this is, if you’re going to have a lunch make sure that you don’t stuff yourself at lunch, that you are not over eating and getting quite so full that you push your nervous system into parasympathetic mode and make it hard to focus in the afternoon .
A lot of people experience a crash and energy in the afternoon makes it really hard to focus. The biology of an adenosine and caffeine, etc., which is to delay your first caffeine intake to 90 to 120 minutes after waking up, unless working out very early in the morning, helps not crashing in energy by afternoon.
Concluding, some people would say being fasted is a great way for focus and concentration and ideal for a certain part of the day, they are not wrong and some people would say that the neurons run on glucose, need glucose in your bloodstream in order to get those neurons to be tuned, that is to respond with electrical activity in the optimal way, when you’re reading something or when you’re trying to perform exercise, that is also true. You could choose you way, and of course, you can incorporate both.