Intermittent Fasting (IF) is one of the ultimate diet routines for burning fat, building muscle, and, yes, enhancing cognition. While fasting has been practiced for millennia, recent research has revealed the practice's adaptive benefits on energy metabolism, cellular protection, neuroregeneration, anti-aging and more.
- Given fasting's neuroprotective and clarifying benefits for cognition, it's no coincidence that nootropic enthusiasts and brain biohackers have picked up on the intermittent fasting trend.
Now, nootropics for intermittent fasting are utilized to help optimize the mind for greater comfort, clarity and success. This guide discusses some of the best nootropics for enhancing your fasting efforts.
How Intermittent Fasting may Fortify Brain Function
Intermittent fasting is not dieting, it’s simply taking a break every now and then at no cost to your total calorie count.
The brain and body weren’t designed for constant consumption, even constant light consumption. When you eat, you feel relaxed. Your stress levels decrease. You digest. Sounds nice, but when you engage this “rest and digest” mode too often, with far too few “breaks” in between, the brain and body become sluggish. They atrophy.
Take note: Intermittent fasting is not caloric restriction -- you still maintain complete caloric intake. Instead, intermittent fasting only lengthens the time-span between meals, biohacking the brain and body to grow again, to efficiently use their natural biological resources in the face temporary, intermittent halts on consumption.<1,2>
Intermittent fasting operates by properly scheduling between the:
- Fed State. The parasympathetic, metabolic “rest and digest” reaction to feeding, involving an increase in insulin activity and blood flow to the gut.
- Fast State. A reversion of the parasympathetic feeding mode, engaged after hours of fasting, marked by ketogenesis (fat burning for energy) and clearer cognition.<3>
By lengthening the fast state between feed states, brain functions fortify. The metabolic benefits may be neuroprotective in the long-term, yet can be further enhanced in the here and now by stacking with nootropic supplements.
Choosing an Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Within each 24-hour day-and-night cycle, eight hours are spent feeding and 16 hours are spent fasting. This typically requires only skipping one meal daily, usually breakfast or dinner, and reassigning those calories to the remaining meals.
Popular Daily Fasting Routine: Skip breakfast, begin feeding at noon. This allows for an 8-hour eating period from noon to 8 p.m. – or 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., if late-night feeding is essential to your diet goals, e.g., bodybuilding.
Alternate Day Fasting
One day on. One day off. Rinse, repeat. Hypothetically more beneficial than the daily fasting routine, Alternate Day Fasting expands the fast-state from 16 hours to a full 24-hour fast, followed by a 24-hour span of double caloric intake.
Popular Alternative Fasting Routine: Begin your fast after dinner (e.g., 8 p.m.) and continue until the next day’s dinner (~8 p.m.), ensuring that at least one meal is consumed during each wake state.
Weekly (or Monthly) Fasting
Pick a single day of the week (or month) and fast for that 24-hour span every week (or month), then resume your normal eating habits throughout the remaining days. Additional fast days may be added to your schedule as needed.
Popular Weekly Fasting Routine: Match with your workout schedule. Athletes and bodybuilders tend to gravitate towards the Weekly Fasting Routine, as it allows for near-daily feasting while flexibly “stockpiling” the benefits of intermittent fasting into a single, weekly 24-hour span.
How Nootropics May Help a Fasting Brain
Under fasting conditions, the brain adapts to the “stress” of nutritional absence by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), promoting hippocampal neurogenesis, upregulating cellular communication, bolstering antioxidant capacity, and more <3,4>.
Intermittent fasting bolsters the brain on a biomechanical level. Nootropics guide IF's efforts by engaging the same biopathways, most notably:
- Antioxidant Status. Some antioxidant nootropics support brain health, function, and longevity by reducing free radical damage in brain cells.
- Stress Support. Fasting is stressful, subjectively and biologically. Nootropic adaptogens limit the negativity of excess stress hormones activity; cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and more.
- Energy Production. Nootropics enhance cell membrane structures and neurotransmitter status for optimized brain cell growth, communication, and mitochondrial energy output.
Overlapping the benefits of intermittent fasting and nootropics appears to not only maximize brain performance and plasticity but improve your motivation to stick with an intermittent fasting schedule.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Intermittent Fasting
NALT is a nootropic precursor amino acid for neurotransmitters, e.g. epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. NALT sustains mood, memory, and focus during stressful conditions, replenishing catecholamine brain chemicals otherwise burned by stress <5,6,7>.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits: Hunger is a stressor. NALT may limit the cognitive impairment incurred by fast-state hunger, keeping your cognition competitive and stable until the next feed cycle.
One of the premier Russian adaptogen herbs, best known for its anti-stress, anti-fatigue modulation of neurotransmitters and hormones.<8,9> Both physical and mental performance improve as Rhodiola naturally strengthens resistance to stress, fatigue, and free radicals.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits: Rhodiola improves fast-state mentality and metabolism <10>, acutely spiking brainpower for up to 6 hours while ameliorating insulin resistance for sharper insulin sensitivity. Particularly beneficial to the “empty stomach” training athletes.
A two-part nootropic compound, citicoline is unique among smart drugs because it supplies organic raw choline for acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine as well as cytidine, the precursor to uridine, which optimizes neuronal synapse strength. Research suggests the bound duo improves concentration, memory, focus, and verbal acuity.<11,12,13>
Intermittent Fasting Benefits: The brain consumes over 20% of the body’s energy supply. The Cognizin® form of Citicoline keeps the brain energized and running, boosting brain energy by 13.6% and neuronal membrane formation by 26%.<14>
Associated with the “wakeful relaxation” effects of green tea, this Camellia sinensis-derived amino acid promotes alpha brainwaves for calm, anxiolytic, “free-flow” thinking. Research suggests L-theanine reduces anxiety without impairing mental performance.<15>
Intermittent Fasting Benefits: During the fast-state, coffee is fair game. Stacking caffeine with L-theanine not only reduces caffeine’s jittery side effects but synergizes the compounds’ individual effects beyond their individual nootropic potential.<16>
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for intermittent fasting help maintain mental energy, clarity and focus during any fasting regimen.
Intermittent fasting can have a profound effect on your brainpower, but it is not without its pitfalls. Some brain-boosting nootropic compounds appear to offer unique support for fasted cognition -- potentially helping to enhance fasting brain benefits while reducing the brain fog that may accompany some phases of fasting.
Stacking intermittent fasting with Mind Lab Pro® may help you to maximize the benefits of this age-old practice by nourishing the brain for greater fasting success.
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- Banderet LE, Lieberman HR. Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. Brain Res Bull. 1989 Apr;22(4):759-62.
- Ishikawa, Masago et al. Dopamine Triggers Heterosynaptic Plasticity. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience33.16 (2013): 6759–6765. PMC. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.
- Thomas JR, et al. Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Nov;64(3):495-500.
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- Olsson EM et al. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardized extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 2009 Feb; 75(2): 105-12.
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- McGlade E. et al., Improved Attentional Performance Following Citicoline Administration in Healthy Adult Women Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2012; 3: 769-773.
- Alvarez XA, et al. Citicoline Improves Memory Performance in Elderly Subjects. Methods & Findings in Experimental & Clinical Pharmacology. 19(3): 201-10, 1997.
- Spiers PA, et al. Citicoline Improves Verbal Memory in Aging. Archives of Neurology. 53(5): 441-8, 1996 May.
- Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008; 21(10): 1066-75.
- Nobre AC, et al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 01/2008; 17 Suppl 1: 167-8.
- Haskell CF, et al. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008 Feb; 77(2): 113-22.