Intermittent Fasting for Brain Health: A Guide to Benefits and How To


Key Information

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary practice that cycles between fasting and eating periods

IF involves regular periods of abstaining from food, followed by windows of normal eating. There are different types of IF protocols, such as 16:8, 5:2, or 24 hour fasts.

IF enhances neuroplasticity and cognitive performance

IF stimulates the growth of new neurons, the connections between them, and the factors that support them. IF also improves mental clarity, focus, memory, and learning ability.

IF supports brain detox and protects against neurodegeneration.

IF activates cellular recycling and waste removal processes that clear out damaged proteins and organelles3. This reduces inflammation, oxidative damage, and the risk of dementia and mood disorders.

IF can be optimized with nutrition and supplements

IF can be made easier and more effective with anti-inflammatory, gut-friendly, and ketogenic foods and supplements. Nootropic bio-stacks can also enhance the benefits of IF for brain health.

Affiliate Disclosure: Holistic Nootropics may earn affiliate commissions if you purchase through the links on this page. Here's how it works.

I’ve been experimenting with various biohacks for optimizing my health and cognitive function over the years, but intermittent fasting (IF) stands out for its remarkable benefits for the brain. As a certified Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I use a holistic approach to wellness that considers the interdependence of the mind and body.

IF powerfully enhances many pathways that support optimal brain performance – spurring neuron growth, reducing inflammation, triggering cleansing processes, and more. I created this beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting based on extensive research and my personal experience with clients and myself. My goal is to demystify IF and empower you to give it a try!

Biohack Your Brainpower

Stay ahead with our newsletter: cutting-edge biohacking tips and the latest in nootropics, all in one place.

Overview of Intermittent Fasting

There are various IF protocols, but they all involve regular cycling between a fasting state and eating window. Common examples are:

  • 16:8 method – 16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating
  • 5:2 diet – 5 regular eating days, 2 non-consecutive fast days
  • 24 hour fasts – 1 day a week without food

During the fasting windows, you can consume zero-calorie fluids like water, coffee, and tea. The eating window is when you fit all your meals.

IF is emerging as an extremely effective intervention for cognitive health – protecting against neurodegeneration, dementia, and mood disorders. Let’s explore some of the key mechanisms behind these brain benefits.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Enhances Neuroplasticity

Fasting triggers a cellular stress response that stimulates neural stem cells in the hippocampus to produce new neurons

This neurogenesis and connections between neurons aid learning, memory, and ability to adapt to new tasks – the very definition of neuroplasticity!

Fascinatingly, IF also boosts growth factors like BDNF and NGF which support neuronal health.[1] The synergy with nootropic supplements makes fasting even more attractive for harnessing neuroplasticity.

Supports Brain Detox

Toxic protein build-up and inflammation are drivers of neurodegeneration. Periodic fasting activates cellular recycling and waste removal processes which clear out damaged proteins and organelles.[2] This reduces oxidative damage and inflammation protecting neuronal health.

Autophagy, ramped up by fasting, is essentially cellular cleansing on an epic scale!

Enhances Cognitive Performance

Mild stress of fasting paradoxically builds resilience and mental adaptability over time. In one study, IF improved processing speed, working memory, learning ability, verbal fluency etc in aging adults.[3]

Fasting also stimulates ketone production which provide an efficient energy source for the brain cells. In essence, IF shifts gears from glucose to ketones which enhance focus, memory and cognitive stamina.[4]

Intermittent Fasting Protocol

Convinced about making IF a part of your brain optimization toolkit? Here are step-by-steps on getting started:

Choosing the Right Fasting Protocol

Select an IF regimen based on your lifestyle, health status and comfort level. 16:8 or 5:2 plans allow normal eating several days a week while easing into fasting. 1 or 2 24 hour fasts can provide deeper cleansing benefits once adapted.

Prepare for Success

Get plenty of sleep, reduce alcohol and caffeine early on. Stock up on mineral supplements and bone broth to manage fatigue. Gradually transition – your body needs time to adjust.

Schedule Meals & Activities

Planning ahead helps stick to protocol. Distract yourself with work, exercise or hobbies during fasts. Save social events for eating periods.

Optimize Nutrition

Focus meals on gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory whole foods like plants, healthy fats and clean proteins. Support glucose regulation with cinnamon and berberine. Consider ketogenic aids like MCT oil to ease into fat adaption.

Support Process with Supplements

Nootropic “bio-stacks” magnify the benefits of fasting for brain optimization. Lion’s Mane mushroom and alpha-GPC boost NGF. Melatonin, the “darkness hormone” drives cellular cleanup. Magnesium relieves hunger pangs and aids sleep.

Case Study Example

Maria, a 45-year old professional, decided to try a 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol 5 days a week, supported by targeted supplements and light resistance training during the fasted state. After several weeks, she noticed increased mental clarity, stable energy levels through the day, improved sleep quality at night. Her fitness metrics like body fat and lean muscle mass also showed measurable improvements.


Can I exercise while fasting?

Light cardio or yoga is typically fine. High intensity workouts can be done but watch your energy levels closely. Save heavy resistance or HIIT training for feed window.

What supplements aid intermittent fasting?

Minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium help manage fatigue and muscle cramps. Omega-3s support ketone utilization for fuel. Antioxidants fight inflammation and free radicals. Consider MCTs as ketone source.

How soon will I experience brain/health benefits?

Positive impacts on energy, cognition, cravings may show within 2 weeks. But allow 4-6 weeks for more regenerative payoffs like autophagy activation, growth of new neurons etc. Be patient!

Over to You! Would love your comments and feedback on your own IF experiences. I try to continuously evolve recommendations based on new learnings and research.


Where to Buy Recommended Supplements

To purchase high-quality supplements referenced in this article, visit our top recommended vendor:

I personally vet all nootropic suppliers for purity, potency and efficacy. This takes the guesswork out of sourcing brain-boosting nutrients tailored to your bio-individual needs.


Intermittent fasting is emerging as an effective intervention not just for weight loss but enhancing multiple markers of health and disease prevention.[1] For brain optimization IF checks all the boxes – spurring growth of new neurons, triggering repair processes, reducing inflammation, improving energy metabolism and ultimately cognitive resilience.

While results will vary based on the individual and protocol followed, many may notice benefits within weeks in terms of better energy, mood, self-control around food and cravings. Supporting your IF practice with light exercise, stress moderation and targeted nutrition allows the process to flow more smoothly.

There can be initial humps to overcome like hunger pangs, fatigue, irritability until ketoadaptation kicks in. This is where nootropic bio-stacking truly helped my clients optimize their intermittent fasting journeys. The supplements aid energy production, neurotransmitter balance, neuron recovery doing those tough early days.

Over time however, these fasting regimes promote a cascade of regenerative and cleansing mechanisms leading to enhanced cognitive resilience – improved memory, processing speed, learning capacity etc. What lifestyle intervention could rival that for your long term brain health?

So are you ready start your own IF optimization process? What benefits or insights have you noticed? Share your experiences below!

Biohack Your Brainpower

Stay ahead with our newsletter: cutting-edge biohacking tips and the latest in nootropics, all in one place.
Photo of author


Erik Abramowitz is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Naturopathic Doctoral student, health coach, and father. He is the primary content creator for and the host of the Holistic Nootropics Podcast.

Leave a Comment