Morning Fast and Mental Clarity
Have you ever noticed a sharp clarity during your morning fast, before breakfast?
It’s your body telling you it’s ready to face the challenges you are currently experiencing. Your body doesn’t realize that you’re wearing footy pajamas and currently looking at a GIF of a sea lion attacking a little girl and laughing about it.
Your body thinks you are in a world where food is scarce. It thinks you will need to go hunting for food soon.
What’s really going on deep inside that Power Rangers onesie?
According to the above studies, your body is heating up and wants to expend more energy in the fasted state you are currently in. An increase in production of the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) are making you more active and mentally sharp for survival purposes.
Keep in mind that the current human form has not lived in our modern comfortable and civilized state long enough for it to cause generational physiological changes across the race. That being said, all of our hormones, biochemical reactions, organ functions, and mental processes are still optimized for living on the Savannah hunting prey, collecting wild foods, and avoiding predators.
Back when I was in school, I would do my homework in the early morning prior to classes, I found that I was sharper and able to complete the work quicker and be distracted less. I’m sure some of this effect came from the urgency of having the work due soon, but, I now also understand that my body was primed in the morning because of the hormones that were pumping through my body.
Now that I better understand the relationship between fasting, hunger, and mental acuity, I maximize my work time in the early morning. I save the easy work for the afternoon when I know I will have a belly full of food.
In the fasted state, our body thinks it’s time to go find food.
When we fast, we prime our system for functioning in the fasted state. Think of the fasted state as the opposite of the feasting state, the state most people are always in. In the fasted state, there are tons of processes that the body conducts, such as autophagy and apoptosis* that are otherwise rarely experienced.
The sympathetic nervous system is initiated, epinephrine and norepinephrine are increased, and you become more ready to tackle the day’s issues.
The common modern day thinking is that if you don’t eat, you will get tired, sluggish, and unmotivated. When you actually think on that, you realize that is quite counter-intuitive.
We use “hungry” as a slang term to describe someone who won’t stop until they succeed. Not someone who is tired and complacent.
This is our nature as homo sapiens. Hunger makes us active, sharp, and alert.
The 12 Hour Rule
A general consensus in the scientific community is that you start reaping the mental benefits of fasting around 12 hours after you stop eating**. This is highly variable and depends on your last meal, but it is a satisfactory rule of thumb. After 12 hours, your body has run out of easily accessible food energy in the form of glucose, and is forced to tap into the glycogen stores in the liver.
During this shift of energy sources, the body starts the transition to the fasted state and begins pumping hormones like norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline), which is necessary to help make the glycogen in the liver available for energy. These hormones stimulate us and make us ready to go find more food.
That means that during your morning fast after around 12 hours without food, your adrenaline is pumping, your body is running off glycogen, and you feel more alert.
If you finish eating around 8 PM***, around 8 AM the next day you should start to feel primed and ready to move. When you eat breakfast as soon as you roll out of bed, you never get the benefits of this brain and body force multiplier****.
The next time you find yourself about 12 hours from your last meal, take a minute to notice if there is anything different about your body. You’ll feel it. This is a great time to try to get some serious work done, or to schedule a brutal workout. This doesn’t need to be a morning fast, you can time it to take place during any part of the day.
Use This Knowledge
This information is relatively new, only really being realized and studied in the last 30 or 40 years. This is one of the benefits of being alive now; 90% of all scientists ever are alive today. Every hour of every day new things are being discovered. When it comes to something as complicated as the human body, don’t rely on some old wive’s tale passed down for 1000 years. Listen to the latest and greatest science that could not have been conducted any time other than today.
Dismissing modern science for traditional “knowledge” because it seems counter intuitive is a crime. Remember, modern breakfast was invented by the same guy that took your (or someone you know) foreskin and guess what…. He was selling something*****
If you think this isn’t true, try a 16 hour fast. Take note of hour you feel for the last four hours of those 16 hours.
If you want some guidance on how to fast like a pro take a look at our coaching page.
Everyone has a morning fast, some of us choose to maximize its benefits, some don’t.
There are powerful benefits of fasting that were not understood until now. Use these benefits to be smarter, more productive, healthier, and happier than those who came before you.
*I’ll cover these in another post. Just know that they are really good and on average modern humans don’t experience them nearly enough. Here’s an intense Primer on Autophagy
**As long as you don’t suffer from metabolic syndrome, diabetes, on insulin resistance. In these cases it could take longer for some effects to begin. Always keep in mind that humans are highly variable. So you won’t be the same as the person sitting next to you.
***which is probably the latest you should be eating. New studies on our internal Circadian Clocks by Dr. Panda show that the body is not designed to function properly when we are eating outside of our natural rhythm. The natural rhythm is in concordance with the sun.
****It’s 7AM now as I’m writing. It’s hitting me now. 😉
*****If nothing else check out the “masturbation prevention” section of his Wikipedia page