There are so many diet fads and so much conflicting advice about what to eat that it can be hard to know which to follow—and whether any are worth following at all.
Intermittent fasting has become more and more popular in recent years. It’s been popping up all over social media, in magazines, and promoted by influencers and celebrities.
But for those who aren’t yet familiar with it, here’s a brief summary: IF involves pretty much what it sounds like. It doesn’t specify what to eat, but instead requires that you fast (intermittently, no surprise) for periods of time. For most, that means fasting for a certain number of hours each day, but it also includes practices of fasting for whole days or multiple days (much less common and something that should ideally only be done after consulting a physician). A very popular version of IF is fasting for 16 hours out of each day, though some people fast a little longer or a little shorter.
I myself first tried out intermittent fasting a couple of years ago. I originally wanted to try it as a way to stabilize my health and prevent weight fluctuations. But it had some unintended benefits that I never would have expected.
The unexpected benefits of intermittent fasting
One of the most common problems that people run into when it comes to achieving goals, succeeding at work, and using the full potential of their creativity is maintaining the focus, energy, and productivity needed to get everything done. We exercise, we inhale cup after cup of coffee, yet so many of us still run into energy crashes or those afternoon lulls when we feel our focus waning.
For those who swear by intermittent fasting, one of the most surprising reasons why is because of the impact it has on productivity. When practicing intermittent fasting, many people report feeling more focused, energized, and at higher levels of concentration.
Most of us know that feeling of having a large meal and then feeling like we are in desperate need of a nap. Eating, though intended for energy, can often actually make us feel more sluggish. So it would make sense that taking breaks from eating would reduce sluggishness and prevent those dips in productivity that many of us feel after lunch breaks at work, for example.
Another explanation that some have offered for the productivity benefits of intermittent fasting is the idea that the on-and-off practice of eating allows the body to become more efficient at using energy, which, if true, is obviously of huge benefit to our output and success.
If you’re interested in trying out intermittent fasting — whether for increased productivity or other reasons — it’s often best to ease into the practice. Start off with shorter fasts, and then slowly increase the hours as the days and weeks go on. A 12-hour fast, 12-hour eating cycle can be a good place to start (if you’re not already doing that), then working your way up to 14, 15, 16-hour (or longer!) fasts.
It will likely feel challenging at first, and your body and brain won’t be used to ignoring cravings. In fact, when starting intermittent fasting, people will sometimes feel reverse effects at first (increased fatigue, lower energy levels, etc.), before they adapt and start feeling the benefits. So give yourself the time you need to adjust fully and appreciate the effects.
While for some the idea of not eating for most or all of the workday might sound crazy, tons of people who have tried it out decide they’re never going back.
If you’re skeptical of intermittent fasting as a productivity hack, you’re not alone. But, if your health and lifestyle allow it, it’s definitely worth a try—and can make a huge difference in the long run for career success and achieving all of our energy-taxing goals.