Another Reason to Take a Closer Look at Intermittent Fasting

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As I’m writing this, it’s been about 40 hours since my last meal. (Okay, I’ve had a little coconut oil, some fish oil and a lot of BCAA.)

And, no, I’m neither broke nor crazy.

It’s called Intermittent Fasting (and, as usual, I was doing it long before it was cool :-)

If you’re ready to take a serious look at intermittent fasting, you should grab a copy of Brad Pillon’s, Eat Stop Eat.

Meanwhile, here’s yet another reason I’m so darn smart …

Fasting Two Days a Week May Benefit Your Brain
by Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have collected evidence that reducing food intake to under 500 calories per day for two days a week may help to prevent brain damage from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Diseases (Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, February 19, 2012).

Fasting Grows New Nerves
Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins has shown that fasting increases the growth of new neurons in the brain, and this can help prevent dementia. He believes that:
“The cells of the brain are put under mild stress that is analogous to the effects of exercise on muscle cells.”

He also showed that skipping meals stimulates brain cells in mice to produce Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that causes the brain to grow new nerves, helps protect nerve cells from being damaged by toxins, and helps mice learn new things.

Skipping Meals Protects Your Brain
Earlier studies showed that mice who fast every other day while eating double the normal amount of food on non-fasting days have better protection from becoming diabetic (lower insulin and sugar levels), and less brain damage from poisons than mice on 40 percent calorie-restricted diets {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 13, 2003; 100(10):6216-6220; and The Journal of Nutrition, June 2003;133 (6): 1921-1929}. Meal-skipping mice gorge when provided food so they do not eat fewer calories than mice on unrestricted diets.

In the same study, mice were given a chemical, called kainate, that damages nerves in the same part of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s disease. The meal-skipping mice had far less brain damage than those who were on a 40 percent reduced calorie diet.

Exercising Helps Your Brain Store More Glycogen
More than 98 percent of the energy for the brain comes from sugar in the bloodstream. Ten years ago, it was shown for the first time that certain brain cells, called astrocytes, store sugar in the same way and form (glycogen) that muscles store sugar. Like muscles, the brain can store extra glycogen and like muscles, the brain will have greater endurance and function better when it stores more glycogen.

During exercise, your brain uses up tremendous amounts of sugar, directing each muscle fiber to contract and relax. It takes a lot of energy to do this. Recently, a study from Japan showed that when rats exercise, their brains use up their stores of glycogen in the same way that muscles use up glycogen (J Physiol, August 15, 2011;589(Pt 16):4079). When the rats ate after exercising, their brains, like their muscles, were able to store up to 60 percent more glycogen than they could before they exercised. After 24 hours, their brain levels of glycogen dropped to their previously lower levels.

However, when the rats continued to exercise regularly for four more weeks, their brains were able to store much higher levels after eating and the levels did not drop soon afterwards.

What Does This Mean for You?
Future studies will tell if intermittent fasting is more effective than overall calorie restriction in preventing and treating dementia in humans.

Meanwhile, you may want to try intermittent fasting to lose weight or to avoid the weight gain that often comes with aging. The recent studies shows that adding exercise to intermittent fasting may make you even smarter.


More Info on Intermittent Fasting

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Wikipedia – Intermittent Fasting

The Leangains Guide

What is Intermittent Fasting?

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About Stephen Holt

Literally millions of readers of magazines like Shape, Fitness, Men's Fitness and Men's Health have made their exercise programs both more efficient and more effective with the help of Stephen Holt.

For his contributions to the knowledge base in the fitness industry, Stephen was named "Personal Trainer of the Year" by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2003 and "Expert of the Year" by in 1999.


  1. If you're someone who's interested in losing weight, one question on your mind is whether intermittent fasting will help. Is this really the fastest route to diet success? Or, are other approaches just as helpful?

    The answer to this depends partially on who you ask. Some people do firmly believe that intermittent fasting is going to yield the best results overall and if you want to achieve long lasting success, it's the route to go.

    They feel it's the form of diet that tends to work best in the 'real world' and that it's going to ensure that you are reaching your goals quickly and seemingly effortlessly.

    That said, intermittent fasting may not be for everyone.

    Let's take a closer look at what this diet is all about so that you can make the decision about whether it is in fact right for you.

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