Our ability to be productive is the key to our success.
Productivity is one of the greatest strengths the American worker holds. The ability to be more productive each day is how we earn our income, advance in our career, and live the life we desire to live. It goes without saying that productivity is essential.
What you might not know is that your productivity could be suffering due to something very unexpected: eating.
By now you've likely heard about intermittent fasting. It's become a hot topic in the world of physical health. Studies indicate that intermittent fasting can help with high-blood pressure, reduce the risk of some cancers, and help with diabetes. These and many other health benefits from intermittent fasting are being studied and hold hope for people suffering from numerous ailments.
What you might not know is that intermittent fasting can also benefit your mental health and boost your productivity. Fasting deprives our bodies (and minds) of food. While this may sound like a bad thing, it could be a very good thing. When we are hungry, our brain begins to operate at a high level to figure out where to find food. Working in “starvation mode” for a little while can produce a tremendous boost to our productivity.
Consider this: how much time and energy do you expend preparing and eating food? The average person will eat lunch every day. To do this, we either prepare something ahead of time and bring it with us, or we leave our office and find a place to eat. The amount of time and lost productivity eating out is incredible.
Beyond the time and energy it takes to actually go to lunch, is the affects of lunch on our bodies and our minds. You've heard of a “food coma,” right? How many day a week does the average person spend in a food coma after eating lunch? While our bodies work hard to digest the bacon cheeseburger and fries we've just eaten, we feel sluggish and tired. Our mind is foggy and not as focused because it is working to make sense of what we ate and what to do with it.
It is easy to conceive that the average worker loses up to an hour of day of high-level productivity due to eating and snacking. The physical and mental toll on the body from these dietary habits translates to lost production and lost revenue.
We have been trained, as Americans, to believe that our bellies should be full all the time. Any twinge of hunger is a bad thing and we must immediately put something in our mouth to satiate the hunger. But this habit could also be contributing to our many ailments, our problems focusing, lowered productivity, and obesity.
An article at Forbes last year comments on the mental benefits of fasting:
“[W]hen we fast: norepinephrine (closely related to adrenaline) levels increase which enhances mental focus, and increases memory storage and retrieval in the brain...Eventually, once the easily-accessible stores of energy in the form of sugars are exhausted, fasting leads to a state known as nutritional ketosis. In ketosis, metabolism is based mainly on burning of fat stores rather than sugar stores. There is some evidence that the brain runs more efficiently on ketones (the product of ketosis), especially in patients with Alzheimer's Disease.”
Aside from these benefits, there is evidence that fasting encourages neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change, to learn new things, and to create new neural pathways. It is believed that neuroplasticity is what promotes the mental health necessary to defend against diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia. Research is also being conducted into how neuroplasticity allows the brain to recover from traumatic events, and traumatic injuries.
Obviously the ability of our brain to adapt, create new neural pathways, and recover is important to ongoing mental health. And, according to one report, one of the top ways to promote neuroplasticity is through intermittent fasting. The report says that intermittent fasting promotes neuroplasticity through “increases synaptic adaptation, promotes neuron growth, improve overall cognitive function, and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative disease.”
The benefits to our mental health and production brought by intermittent fasting are numerous. The research is still young. The long-term benefits (and concerns) are still being studied and will take some time to fully realize.
For now it is clear that there is a distinct benefit to intermittent fasting that should encourage us to take part in this dietary practice regularly. It seems, for now, that the most we have to lose is the extra pounds we've been carrying around, our risk of diabetes and some cancers, and joint pain. On top of it all we might become more productive in our daily lives while saving money on the snacks and excess food we previously purchased.
Can you handle being healthier, saving money, and being more productive?