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it makes sense that fasting would have a tremendous effect on our brain when we look at how our ancestors operated and when they would go long periods of time between meals it would make sense that they would have to have a lot of focus why would you want to be fatigued and not have your brain functioning very well if you have to be paying attention to what you’re doing in order to get food a lot of us believe that fasting is absolutely terrible simply because you’re gonna lose all this cognitive function you’re gonna have cognitive decline but that’s not the case it actually does the opposite because it causes your brain to become very efficient so let’s get down to the science I’m gonna make some sense of this so you know I’m not just full of hot air when it comes down to fasting and its effect on your brain [Music] the first thing that we’re gonna look at when it comes down to fasting and its effect on the brain is the actual neural activity and what is called synaptic activity you say you have these things in your brain and you have these things in your nervous system that are called synapses these synapses are what allow neurons to communicate with each other they’re sort of the bridge between each other now normally we have a high amount of activity that’s going on with these synapses and it’s causing different kinds of sparks it’s causing cells to communicate in one way or another but when we’re fasting our body tries to become a little bit more conservative it becomes a little bit more efficient so it actually slows down this synaptic activity now at first this sounds like a bad thing it sounds like we would not want to decrease our brain function that’s not really what’s happening our brain function isn’t really decreasing our brain energy is decreasing and our brain sort of goes into a restorative mode or sort of a restful mode well what does that mean it means it becomes more efficient and I’m gonna give you somewhat of an example that’s laid out with some simple kind of math to make it make a little bit of sense if you normally have 100% energy in your brain when you’re not fasting right when you’re eating a normal diet 100% energy it’s going to be diversified throughout multiple areas of your brain so to make things simple as far as synaptic energy goes and that whole synaptic process let’s say it’s just ten things so you have a hundred percent ten percent is given to ten different areas of your brain but when you’re fasting your body is becoming more efficient and it’s turning off mechanisms that don’t need to be used so even if your overall energy directed in your brain is down to 50 percent instead of 100 percent that 50 percent is being focused in one area at a time that is why you can feel so much more focused and so much more alert with the task at hand when you’re fasting you see it takes us right back to that old hunter-gatherer thing you want to be able to be focused with what you’re working on at that point in time so even though the brain is slowing down you’re actually in a good position because that energy is being utilized much more efficiently I would rather have 50% less energy but have all the energy focused on where I want it then have a hundred percent energy firing in all different areas that I don’t really need and now that leads me into the next part we’re just talking about neurotransmitter production you see when we’re fasting we’re also not producing nearly as many neurotransmitters talking about things like serotonin dopamine and multitude of other ones the thing is is that these neurotransmitters are important but they’re metabolically costly to produce they cost a lot of sort of internal money for our body to make meaning they’re not exactly the best use of our body’s energy because a lot of times we produce more than we need so if we in the same fashion as we did with the synaptic activity can reduce the amount of neurotransmitters that are produced and become more efficient with them it takes a lot of load off the central nervous system and it also allows us to be a lot more efficient and productive with how we use those neurotransmitters it’s also worth mentioning that high levels of synaptic activity and high levels of neurotransmitter production are associated with a multitude of different neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease which goes to show that long term this extra brain activity is not good now of course for the sake of fasting we’re talking about the short term we’re talking about the benefits you’re getting while you’re fasting but long term there are copious benefits as well so it just goes to prove the concept that if the brain slows down a slower pace of life might just be best when it comes down to longevity and focus now let’s talk about something else something called brain-derived neurotropic factor BDNF you see BDNF is sort of like a brain fertilizer at least that’s what I call it because it grows neurons it grows synaptic connectivity to be a lot stronger now so we’re in we’re in a fascist state or even during a heightened period of physical activity we start producing more BDNF now we honestly don’t know why we don’t know why we’re producing more but we just know that we do and we do know what BDNF does so here’s what BDNF does within the body it grows new neurons it allows neurons to multiply and it also increases that synaptic connectivity which in tandem with decreasing that synaptic activity like I mentioned before is powerful let me explain if we are decreasing the synaptic activity okay remember like I said we’re decreasing the amount of communication that’s going from neuron to neuron but we’re increasing the connectivity we are increasing the potency of how the activity is communicated so let me explain it like this if you have two neurons that are communicating with each other and you have a high amount of activity but you have a low quality connection you’re basically trying to cram 10% of that energy across a broken bridge where things are falling off and the activity is falling through the cracks but in the sake of fasting you are actually in a position where you have more neural connectivity with a more efficient synaptic activity so now you have 50% of your energy like we talked about going across a bridge that is really structured and not broken ensuring that the communication gets from neuron to neuron that’s what BDNF does not only grows neurons but it grows the bridge between the two now BDNF also has a powerful effect when it comes down to an antidepressant activity within the body which explains why when you’re fasting or even after exercise you end up feeling pretty good you don’t feel nearly as down you feel like you have a lot more energy and your sense of well-being is significantly higher that’s exactly how that process works within the body so the combination between B D and F and the decreased activity of the brain ends up being very very powerful and lastly this BDNF grows this neural connectivity and it grows neurons in the right areas of the brain it grows them in the hippocampus the cortex and what’s called the basal forebrain all areas that are involved in memory focus and overall sense of well-being last but not least we have to talk about how beta-hydroxybutyrate works I’m always touting the benefits of BHB it’s the main ketone body that we always talk about when we’re referencing ketosis or fasting and it’s extremely important to know how it works but basically what bhp does is it has the ability to be a direct source of fuel for the mitochondria so in the case of the brain it looks something like this your brain is encapsulated with something that’s known as the blood-brain barrier it’s a tightly regulated mechanism that doesn’t allow much into the brain the brain is the focal point of your entire life you need it so we have to protect it with a golden sword so the whole idea of the blood-brain barrier is to make it so things don’t get in that means a lot of enzymes don’t get in that means a lot of inflammatory cytokines don’t get in that means a lot of nutrients don’t even get in but beta-hydroxybutyrate the ketone body that’s produced when you’re fast is so hydrophilic that it has the ability to cross through the blood-brain barrier and be used as a source of fuel so it crosses through the brain then it crosses through the mitochondria where the carboxyl acid group is cleaved off and it creates what is called a sido acetyl coenzyme a which is further broken down into acetyl coenzyme a which therefore produces ATP don’t worry about all that Dargan basically it means beta-hydroxybutyrate crosses through the brain gets into the energy powerhouse and creates energy in the brain much more efficiently so as you can see all of these things combined together end up creating a nice trifecta for the brain to have the most efficient source of energy possible last but not least beta-hydroxybutyrate also stimulates something known as mitochondrial biogenesis meaning the body can now create more mitochondria so you don’t just have a more efficient mitochondria you have multiple new mitochondria that are more efficient so hopefully this clears some things up when it comes down to how the brain works in a fasted state and hopefully it debunks the myth that you’re gonna feel foggy and you’re gonna feel cruddy when you’re in ketosis or when you’re fasting because quite frankly it’s the opposite you feel focused if you’ll alert and now we’re starting to see that you can actually prevent some neurodegenerative diseases so as always make sure you comment let me know what kind of videos you want to see in the future and I’ll see you in the next one
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How Intermittent Fasting Affects the Brain: Thomas DeLauer…
The brain responds to nutrient scarcity (which occurs during fasting) by reducing synaptic activity – synapses are the connecting structures that allow chemical signals to be passed between neurons. So fasting blocks the synaptic activity of neurons that normally occurs in the brain, which essentially means that the brain slows down. Although a brain “slowing down” sounds undesirable, it may actually be beneficial for brain health – the brain’s way of conserving energy and giving itself a chance to recharge (1,2)
Because when nutrients are unavailable, an organism reduces neurotransmitter release and thus saves a good proportion of its overall energy expenditure. By reducing the release of neurotransmitters from synapses in the brain, fasting may also give the nervous system a break.
The process of neurotransmitter release is an energetically costly process, because of this high requirement for energy, it also generates waste including reactive oxygen species – could lead to oxidative damage in cells including neurons. So, tuning synaptic activity as a result of fasting might help limit the unwanted oxidative damage in the nervous system. Overactive synaptic activity is linked with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease (1,2)
Fasting and BDNF:
When the brain is challenged by physical exertion, or extended periods without food, the body produces a protein called BDNF, which not only strengthens neural connections and increases the production of new neurons but can also have an anti-depressive effect. Simply, it helps neurons grow, and when they grow they can branch out towards each other making it easier for the neurons to communicate. BDNF interacts with neurons in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain (the parts of the brain that regulate memory, learning, and higher cognitive function ) and helps existing neurons survive while stimulating the growth of new neurons and the development of neuro-synaptic connectivity – low levels of BDNF are linked to Alzheimer’s, memory loss, and cognitive impairment (3,4)
Fasting and Ketones:
Fasting is known to increase ketones – beta hydroxybutyrate floats around in your blood and can cross different important barriers to be able to be turned into energy at all times. One of the most important areas where this happens is in the brain – the blood brain barrier is usually a very tightly regulated interface, but since BHB is so hydrophilic, your brain knows to let it in so it can bring energy at any time. It does this by going into the cell, then enters the mitochondria at which stage it cleaves the carboxyl acid group and becomes acetoacetate, which turns into acetoacetyl-CoA, which then is cleaved to acetone and acetyl-CoA. This jumps into what is called the Kreb’s cycle and is churned into ATP – the energy currency of your cells. Mitochondria numbers also increase in nerve cells when an individual fasts, since neurons adapt to stress by producing more mitochondria – means that neurons are better able to form connections between one another, which translates to improved learning and memory ability.
*Called mitochondrial biogenesis – the process by which new mitochondria are formed inside of cells* (5)
References: 1) How Fasting Allows The Brain To Recharge Itself. (2016, December 7). Retrieved from
2) Intermittent Fasting And The Brain – mindbodygreen. (n.d.). Retrieved from
3) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor – Biowiki. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2017, from
4) Retrieved from
5) What Is Betahydroxybutyrate or BHB? – Perfect Keto Exogenous Ketones. (n.d.). Retrieved from
6) Neuroscientist Shows What Fasting Does To Your Brain & Why Big Pharma Won’t Study It. (2017, February 27). Retrieved from /