Table of contents
- Increased Cognitive Function
- Better Time Management
- Less Stress and Lighter Mood
- Multiple Health Benefits
I spent the last few months of 2022 integrating intermittent fasting into my daily routine. Fasting has gained popularity over recent years as a way to improve health and well-being. In essence, it's a behavioural pattern that requires individuals to only eat for specific "windows" during the day. I've been experimenting with the 16/8 plan; this means I do not eat food for 16 hours a day and then eat pretty much what I want (within reason) for an 8-hour window, which finishes around 20:00.
Effectively, you land up cutting out breakfast and a morning snack. Intermittent fasting has been shown to have several benefits for the human body.
Software engineers, plagued by the stereotype of poor eating and collecting bad habits, can uncover some surprising benefits to health and lifestyle when incorporating fasting into their daily routine.
In this article, I'll run through four essential benefits of intermittent fasting and how they can add value to your life.
Increased Cognitive Function
The most significant benefit of intermittent fasting is improved cognitive function. When you fast, your body increases the production of a protein called *Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (*BDNF), which is associated with improved memory and learning. As any software engineer will tell you, memory and learning come in handy when writing complex code. Software Engineers rely heavily on their mental sharpness and problem-solving skills to do their job and stay on top of their game. More than that, fasting has been shown to increase focus and concentration.
I'm an avid fan of Dr Andrew Huberman's Podcast, Huberman Labs. He has done a great episode on the Effects of Fasting & Time Restricted Eating on Fat Loss & Health if you want to discover more scientific details about intermittent fasting.
From my own experience, I feel like I've experienced improved mental capacity and function for months now. For the first week or so, you are distracted by the "hunger" feeling, but your body eventually adapts. When you feel that tinge of hunger, it's not always because you're hungry - generally, it's because you haven't had enough water, or it's habitual.
Better Time Management
Perhaps not a direct side effect of fasting, but a benefit nonetheless is the change in time you feel when you begin fasting. You'd be surprised by how much time you spend thinking about, planning and making food during the day. As fasting limits that window to 8 hours in 24 hours, what you eat and when you eat it is dramatically reduced to a small window - generally lunch and dinner.
After a few weeks of fasting - your cravings for unhealthy snacks disappear, and the amount of time you spend eating and planning snacks/meals reduces dramatically. I've always been a morning person, so I've found that fasting helps me keep my morning routines and rituals incredibly streamlined and focused.
When you re-focus the time you spend thinking about food, on food items that keep you full longer - nuts, avocado and Low GI items you can stay full longer, eat less, remain healthy and feel better.
Less Stress and Lighter Mood
A direct result of fasting is that your body produces less cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is generally associated with stress and anxiety. If your body is making less of it, you should naturally feel a reduction in both symptoms. As a double-whammy, your body simultaneously increases the production of endorphins (the happy hormone) which can lift your mood and make you feel happier.
Although I cheat to a degree with my fasting routine (I have black coffee with a bit of honey when I wake up) - I've also found that fasting has helped me curve my need to drink too much coffee every day. 4 cups of coffee, in terms of caffeine, mainly after noon is enough to heighten anyone stress/anxiety response. I'm down to 2 cups daily and don't drink coffee past 1 PM.
I've also found that my afternoon sugar crash has disappeared. I noticed this within the first few days of fasting. I have always struggled with the afternoon crash; feeling sluggish, tired, and lethargic was a reality around 4 PM every day. I now feel much better, and though I don't feel like I have "more" energy, I think it's sustained more these days.
Multiple Health Benefits
I'm not a medical professional, and I'm sure for everything I list here, there will be an argument against it, but some documented health benefits of controlled, intermittent fasting are:
- Reduced inflammation
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved cholesterol levels
The benefits will vary from person to person, and other than weight loss, I have yet to track the other 3 with any seriousness. I think these benefits are less about the fasting itself and more about the fact that you are simply consuming less "bad" food or food that your body can't use.
Intermittent fasting is a journey - you can decide whether it's the right fit for your lifestyle. Through my own experience, I've found it to provide considerable benefits to my routine, not only physically but mentally, as well as financially (buying less food, fewer snacks etc.).
Fasting has many potential benefits: reducing inflammation, lower stress levels, weight loss, and overall well-being. For software engineers who sit all day, focused and passionate about their work, fasting is a valuable practice to introduce into your day-to-day that doesn't require significant commitments or time to see actual, healthy results.
I'll stress again that I have no medical training and that you should consult your doctor before introducing intermittent fasting into your routine.