Beyond just weight loss intermittent fasting (IF) is able to improve many other body systems and organs including the brain. In this article, we’ll share 7 evidence-based ways IF boosts brain power.

Throughout this post, we have provided useful links to our line of  IF and Brain Power friendly Teas—feel free to visit our shop page.

Outline: 7 Ways IF Boosts Brain Power

1. BDNF – the Brain-ON Switch

2. Neuroplasticity – Greater Brain Capacity

3. Less Brain Inflammation

4. Lower mTOR = Greater Autophagy

5. Raise AMPK Boost the Energy

6. More Mitochondria Equals More Energy

7. Neuro-Protection and Healthy Aging

But, what about the hunger pains?

Final Thoughts

Intermitted Fasting (IF) Basics

Intermittent fasting is an eating regimen where all meals are eaten within certain time period (be it 2 to 12 hours) and rest of the time spent fasting (12 to 22 hours) within each day. This schedule compliments body’s two states—feeding and fasting.

Eating food triggers insulin release which signals the storing of extra calories as glycogen (glucose) or fat (triglycerides). Fasting reverses the process by tapping into stored reserves to be used as fuel for body’s activity.

Fasting periods are flexible and can be adapted to any lifestyle, lasting from hours to days. Some people consume nothing but water, while others add minimal calories (up to 500 or so). [2]

Fasting is different from starvation.

With starvation, we’re not in control and the next meal is unknown. Fasting is strategic withholding of food for specific time—we control the next meal. Human beings are well adapted to keep going without food. Current fasting record is 382 days where a man lost 125 kg (276 lbs) with no negative side effects. [3]

Learn More: Intermitted Fasting beginners guide

7 Ways IF Boosts Brain Power

The brain acts as a primary controller and along with the spinal cord makes up the central nervous system (CNS) that regulates most of body functions. It weights about 1.5 kg (around 4 lbs) and containing roughly 190+ billon cells (half nerve and half glial type) consuming about 60 to 70 percent of total body’s glucose. [4,5]

Glycogen reserves often reduce after 6 hours of fasting and our metabolism steadily shifts to burning body fat. The only problem is that triglycerides (fat molecules) can’t pass through the selective blood-brain barrier (BBB) and thus can’t enter the brain. [6]

But, triglycerides get a quick makeover inside liver by converted into ketone bodies (ketones). Ketones are used as energy throughout the body, and can move through BBB into the brain. As fasting goes on, ketones become the brain’s major energy source. [7]

The following 7-points were consistently noted by researchers inside the brain that not only clears up fogginess but, enhances neural health and cognitive power.

ARISE Chai (Focus & Energy)

Arise Brain Boost Tea box

Flavour: Classic Masala Chai (prominent Cinnamon and Ginger Tea)

Function:  7-Spice Brain Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

  • Black Tea promotes blood flow, cognition, focus and attention.
  • Cinnamon improves brain nourishment, boosts cognition.
  • Ginger improves focus, memory, mood and response times.
  • Cardamom reduces anxiety, enhances nerve cell growth and development.
  • Cloves fights brain inflammation, elevates memory and learning.
  • Fennel Seeds decreases oxidative stress, enhances memory and brain function.
  • Black Pepper increases brain cell communication, antidepressant agent.
  • Coriander Seeds calms the brain, improves memory, natural headache remedy.

1. BDNF – the Brain-ON Switch

IF increases production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is super important for brain activity and ability when it comes to learning and memory. This includes better mood, alertness, concentration and faster reaction times. [7-10]

BDNF can also increase serotonin levels, [8] a key hormone shown to improve mood, clarity and memory while reverting some symptoms of anxiety and depression. [11]

2. Neuroplasticity – Greater Brain Capacity

Learning new skills requires growing new nerve cells (neurons) and improved connectivity (synapses). This is called neuroplasticity which has been linked to learning, memory, clarity and speedier recovery from brain injuries.

Higher BDNF levels via IF increase neuroplasticity and all associated benefits. [7-10] BDNF has been located in most of brain areas including spinal cord enhancing nerve tissues function while making them more resilient to stress. [9]

3. Less Brain Inflammation

Fasting reduces inflammatory proteins (cytokines) like IL-6, TNA-alpha and reducing the risk of many autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. [7,10] Again, BDNF also shown protective properties making nerves stronger and more resistant to inflammation and oxidative damage [8,9] As a result, BDNF has been used in detecting and treating neural-inflammation disorders like multiple sclerosis. [9]

Intermittent fasting increases ketone production including beta-hydroxybutrate (BHB). High BHB levels protect brain cells and reduce neuro-inflammation by lowering key protein markers. [8] The insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) produced in the brain and muscle cells also shown similar protective properties against inflammation and metabolic stress. [8]

FORTIFY Chai (Anti-inflammatory)

Fortify Immunity Restore Tea

Flavour: Green Chai (prominent herbal with touch of green tea)

Function:  5-Spice Immunity Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

  • Green Tea supports immunity and restorative processes.
  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) fights chronic-inflammation and reduces stress.
  • Turmeric reduces inflammation, improves immune response.
  • Ginger combats oxidative stress, elevates organ and detox systems.
  • Cinnamon reduces allergic reactions, combats inflammation, and boosts immunity.
  • Fennel Seeds decreases allergies and inflammation, reduces infectious bacteria.
  • Black Pepper improves immune system, helps absorption of other powerful ingredients.

4. Lower mTOR = Greater Autophagy

There is a great amount of recent research about protein complexes (enzyme) called mechanistic (or mammalian) target of rapamycin (mTOR). Essentially, mTOR is a nutrient sensor of dietary protein (amino acids). Eating protein raises mTOR levels triggering cellular growth. [10,12-13]

Fasting reduces mTOR which activates a “re-purpose and recycling” process called autophagy. [10,12,14] This is an internal housekeeping mechanism where old or damaged compounds (like proteins, organelles) are broken down into their basic building blocks (amino acids from proteins, fatty acids from fats) to be used to make new structures, make repairs or convert to energy. [12-14]

Autophagy happens in all tissues (muscle, cardiac), organs (liver, kidneys) and systems (CNS, endocrine). [10,1214] Besides clearing mis-folded proteins and cell debris, autophagy improves cellular and organ ability and has immense potential in treating diseases like atherosclerosis, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer. [7,9-10,12-14]

5. Raise AMPK Boost the Energy

Repairs and other metabolic activity requires energy which is monitored by an enzyme called AMP-activated proven kinase (AMPK). AMPK is an energy sensor inside each cell that activates when ATP (adenosine triphosphate – body’s energy molecule) levels go down. [8,15-16]

AMPK boosts autophagy as well as energy producing pathways (production of ketone bodies and burning of glycogen and fat stores). [15-16] The growth phase is put on hold while key tissues (like nerves and muscle) are supplied with energy.

6. More Mitochondria Equals More Energy

Mitochondrion is an organelle inside a cell that produces energy (ATP and equivalent). Cells contain different amount of mitochondria. Intermittent fasting shown to increases mitochondrial biomass and output through several proteins and pathways.

These include BDNF, BHB (ketone) and PGC1-alpha which contribute to mitochondrial growth as well as their energy production capacity. [7-10] This all comes in handy during neuroplaticity and newly formed neural connections.

Latest fasting studies show mitochondria within cells link up into a network and work together to produce even more energy for longer. [17] Elevated human growth hormone (HGH) levels contribute to this phenomenon by providing much of starting material (through increased fat burning) inciting tissue mitochondria in producing more energy. [18]

ELEVATE Chai (Digestion & Detox Tea)

Elevate Gut Power Tea

Flavour: Cafe Tea Latte (prominent Star Anise and Nutmeg Tea)

Function:  5-Spice Gut Support Blend (1,250 mg spices / teabag)

    • Black Tea helps weight-loss, improves good gut bacteria.
    • Ginger eases stomach pains, improves digestion.
    • Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels.
    • Cardamom combats harmful bacteria.
    • Nutmeg soothes the gut, enhances digestive processes.
    • Star Anise stops dangerous bacteria.

7. Neuro-Protection and Healthy Aging

Intermittent fasting increases youthfulness and better brain aging. Higher BDNF and BHB levels elevate neuroplasticity while making neural tissue tougher and more resistant to common degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons) or injury (stroke). [7-10,19]

HGH is another powerful anti-aging compound. IF raises HGH levels which protect lean muscle and bone mass as well as the CNS. [18] This hormone is converted into several growth factors, IGF1 being one of them. IGF1 further improves mood and brain health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. [8,18,20-21]

But, what about the hunger pains?

During fasting periods many keep themselves busy while drinking zero (or very low) calorie beverages such as water, plain tea or coffee. [22] These choices don’t raise insulin to noticeable levels and keep mTOR low while raising both autophagy and AMPK. [7-10,18-20] This is an ideal method of burning body fat while enjoying brain-strengthening perks through greater production of ketone bodies, BDNF and IGF1.

Caffeine in tea and coffee improves alertness, energy and cognition. [22] These benefits can further be extended by taking polyphenol content of these drinks into account.

Being strong antioxidants, polyphenols are found in plants and have highest concentrations in spices. Like tea and coffee, spices don’t noticeably increase blood sugar while improving fasting experience by limiting hunger, revving up metabolism and burning fat. [23]

And, polyphenols pass through blood-brain barrier (BBB) into the brain, reducing inflammation, enhancing functionality and protecting neurons against oxidation. [24-25]

At Dupi’s Chai, we combine specific spices with teas into superfood blends containing potent polyphenols that amplify fasting benefits. [23-26] These functional blends are convenient and tasty.

chai teabags product photo

Not all IF-Teas are created equal as many companies shortchange their versions of this traditional drink using flavours and sprays to create the feel without substance.

Health benefits of chai come from wide range of active ingredients found within spices and herbs.

These ingredients possess compounds called polyphenols which are released during the brewing process.

A chai tea with purpose and more benefits must be:

  • High Quality and Quantity of Ingredients: no dust, presses or extracts.
  • More Spices: as most potent superfoods, spices are what give chai its benefits.  
  • No Sugar: #1 ingredient in most chai blends, sugar and/or substitutes have been linked to cascade of health issues and should be avoided.
  • No “natural” or artificial Flavours: majority of Chai tea brands spray their blends with spice essence, flavours and alike rather than adding real ingredients. Cost saving strategy for them and no health benefits for you. 

Final Thoughts

Intermittent fasting steadily switches brain food from glucose for ketone bodies which cross ever selective BBB. This metabolic shift increases BDNF production and along with BHB (ketone) supply, the two engage in numerous biochemical pathways that improve neuroplasticity and all associated health and wellness rewards. 

During fasting, low insulin and mTOR levels trigger autophagy—natural recycling and repurpose program. The energy is monitored by AMPK and constantly delivered to the brain and rest of the body from body fat reserves.

Water, coffee and teas are the beverages of choice in order to maintain fasting state. Additionally polyphenols, which don’t noticeably raise insulin levels are also acceptable to capitalize on our efforts and maximize results.

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