15 Best Nootropics For Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a hot diet trend that has significant clinical evidence behind it
There are a number of nootropic supplements that can help you transition into and maintain an IF schedule
Some of these nootropics can regulate blood sugar and hunger levels
Other nootropics may enhance the beneficial processes that occur during IF, making the diet more effective
Intermittent fasting is a rapidly growing health trend based around skipping meals at regular intervals. It has been practiced around the world for thousands of years, often for religious reasons. Now, modern nutritional science is starting to confirm it’s various health benefits.
This method encompasses eating patterns in which you might go from 12 to as long as 48 hours with little or no energy intake. It is broken up by intervening periods of normal food intake.1Mattson MP, Longo VD, Harvie M. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes, Ageing Res Rev. 2017
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
The most typical intermittent fasting routines include:
- 16/8: fasting for 16 hours every day, then eating during an 8-hour window in the evening.
- 1-on-1-off: fasting for 24 hours every other day
- 5/2: fasting for 48 hours once every week.
Regardless of the schedule, many people report a wide variety of physical and mental improvements from fasting at scheduled intervals.
Intermittent Fasting Health Benefits
One of the major reasons people turn to intermittent fasting is for weight loss. People have used calorie restriction since practically forever as a method to shed pounds. Obviously, eating less means less caloric intake which means (hopefully) losing weight.
However, most of these restricted-calorie methods have mixed results. But, while intermittent fasting can be considered a form of calorie restriction, the time-restricted feeding structure actually leads to more profound results.
Some of the major benefits of intermittent fasting over typical calorie restriction include better insulin and blood sugar control, increased metabolic rate, and more balanced hormone levels (including higher levels of Human Growth Hormone).2Mansell PI, Fellows IW, Macdonald IA. Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans,Am J Physiol. 19903K Y Ho, et al. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man, J Clin Invest. 1988
This may allow for more sustainable, effective weight loss over the long-term.
There is clinical evidence that intermittent fasting may also have benefits for treating:4Mizushima N. Autophagy: process and function, Genes Dev. 2007 5Choi KS. Autophagy and cancer, Exp Mol Med. 2012 6Louiza Belkacemi, et al. Intermittent Fasting Modulation of the Diabetic Syndrome in Streptozotocin-Injected Rats, International Journal of Endocrinology. 2012
- Heart conditions
- Preventing free-radical damage
- Metabolic disorders
Not eating for extended periods of time allows your body to clean up and eliminate intracellular waste in the body. This necessary process can help overall cellular function and prevent disease.7Mehrdad Alirezaei, et al. <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/”
Brain Benefits Of Fasting
Many intermittent fasting enthusiasts report feeling more clear-headed, focused, and mentally sharp while following this schedule.
It’s also possible that intermittent fasting can also help with mental issues like:
Sticking to an intermittent fasting routine is not only helpful for your physical health. It can also have profound effects on cognition and mental function.
Research shows that intermittent fasting can increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor. These are powerful mechanisms that contribute to brain-plasticity and neurogenesis.8Navin Maswood, et al. Caloric restriction increases neurotrophic factor levels and attenuates neurochemical and behavioral deficits in a primate model of Parkinson’s disease, PNAS. 2004
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve memory and prevent memory loss.9Shin BK, et al. Intermittent fasting protects against the deterioration of cognitive function, energy metabolism and dyslipidemia in Alzheimer’s disease-induced estrogen deficient rats, Exp Biol Med. 2018
There is also evidence that this regimen can help treat the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.10Halagappa VK, et al. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, Neurobiol Dis. 2007 11Xiang Bai, et al. Rapamycin improves motor function, reduces 4-hydroxynonenal adducted protein in brain, and attenuates synaptic injury in a mouse model of synucleinopathy, Pathobiology of Aging & Age-related Diseases. 2015 12Bruce-Keller AJ, Umberger G, McFall R, Mattson MP. Food restriction reduces brain damage and improves behavioral outcome following excitotoxic and metabolic insults, Ann Neurol. 1999
Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Brain Fog?
Many people claim that this routine can lift brain fog and give them more overall mental clarity.
According to some research, longer fasts can be associated with higher cognitive abilities.13Rima Solianik, et al. Effect of 48 h Fasting on Autonomic Function, Brain Activity, Cognition, and Mood in Amateur Weight Lifters, Biomed Res Int. 2016
However, other people find that going long stretches without food makes them foggy-headed and irritable. For many, this will clear up after a few days or weeks of intermittent fasting, after their body adjusts to the new routine.
For others, it will continue causing issues, and so they may need to quit the fasting schedule. Every body is different, and the most important thing is to listen to yours.
If you have problems thinking clearly that do not relent after your initial couple weeks of intermittent fasting, it simply might not be for you.
So, while it does seem like sticking to a fasting routine can lift brain fog for many people, it all ultimately comes down to the individual.
When To Take Nootropics While Fasting
In general, we don’t recommend taking these nootropics while actively fasting, as most of these are better absorbed with food.
Best Nootropics For Intermittent Fasting
If you are currently on or considering an intermittent fasting schedule, there are some nootropics that may have some specific benefits for you.
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is a preformulated Nootropic "stack" that includes 11 cognitive-enhancing ingredients that work synergistically to deliver next-level brain optimization.
As opposed to taking just one, or even a few individual nootropics, Mind Lab Pro's formulation is designed to give you the right doses of each nootropic to deliver the best results.
To get the most cognitive enhancing benefits out of intermittent fasting you want to optimize neuroplasticity while controlling your body's stress response through the HPA axis as much as possible.
Mind Lab Pro includes a number of nootropics that work together to check these boxes.
You also get B-vitamin co-factors to better optimize absorbability.
I love this stack for nootropic newbies and experienced nootropic users alike.
Check out our Full Review of Mind Lab Pro
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Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring phospholipid that makes up a significant part of every cell membrane in your body. It may be useful to supplement this compound while your body is in a fasting state.
It can help with blood glucose regulation which may enhance the benefits of fasting, including lowering stress.14Michael A Starks, et al. The effects of phosphatidylserine on endocrine response to moderate intensity exercise, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008
Intermittent fasting is known to increase a process called apoptosis, or clearing out cellular waste. According to research, phosphatidylserine can help identify cells for clearance in apoptosis. This may increase the efficiency of this process.
This could have a broad range of benefits for mental and physical processes, as well as treat the symptoms of a number of disorders.15R B Birge. Phosphatidylserine is a global immunosuppressive signal in efferocytosis, infectious disease, and cancer, Cell Death And Differentiation. 2016
Phosphatidylcholine is the counterpart of phosphatidylserine, and together they compose large amounts of your cell membranes.
This nootropic supplement can increase the function of the liver and aid in transporting lipids.16Author links open overlay panelSergio O.Serna-SaldivarJanet A.Gutiérrez-UribeSilverioGarcía-Lara. Phytochemical Profiles and Nutraceutical Properties of Corn and Wheat Tortillas, Wheat Flour and Corn Products. 2015
During starvation, your liver breaks down lipids in the bloodstream in a process called macrolipophagy. This is an important process that can regulate metabolism and possibly prevent some metabolic disorders.17Singh R, et al. Autophagy regulates lipid metabolism, Nature. 2009
Phosphatidylcholine can theoretically support this process while you are fasting.
Where To Buy Phosphatidylcholine:
This amino acid is critical for overall metabolism.
L-Glutamine helps maintain the integrity of your gut lining. This helps both digestion and immune function regulation during fasting.18Mignon M, Beaufrère AM, Combaret L, Meynial-Denis D. Does long-term intermittent treatment with glutamine improve the well-being of fed and fasted very old rats?, JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2007
Glutamine has been shown to improve gut and colon barrier function, which could ultimately help brain function through the gut/brain axis.19Clément L’Huillier. Glutamine, but not Branched-Chain Amino Acids, Restores Intestinal Barrier Function during Activity-Based Anorexia, Nutrients. 2019
Where To Buy L-Glutamine:
Chromium is a trace mineral that you need for proper metabolism.
Chromium picolinate has been found to improve blood glucose control.20A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance, Diabetes Educ. 2004
Blood glucose control is crucial during intermittent fasting for controlling insulin response.
It can also improve insulin sensitivity in double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study.21Wilson BE, Gondy A. Effects of chromium supplementation on fasting insulin levels and lipid parameters in healthy, non-obese young subjects, Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1995
As you control insulin sensitivity, you can also mitigate insulin rise and fall, which can in turn control hunger and cravings during fasts. This may be useful for staying on track with your regimen, especially in the beginning while your body is adjusting.
GABA is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that is often described as the “brakes” of the central nervous system. It can also affect glucose and insulin levels, possibly making GABA supplements useful for fasters.
GABA and GABA-enriched natural products can be effective agents in lowering blood glucose, attenuating insulin resistance, and stimulating insulin release.22Soltani N, et al. GABA exerts protective and regenerative effects on islet beta cells and reverses diabetes, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011
In one study, GABA significantly reduced the concentrations of fasting blood glucose, and improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in the High Fat Diet-fed mice. More importantly, after the onset of obesity, GABA inhibited the continued weight-gain and stabilized insulin and glucose levels.23Tian J, et al. Oral treatment with γ-aminobutyric acid improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity by inhibiting inflammation in high fat diet-fed mice, PLoS One. 2011
This means that GABA supplementation may help your body stabilize during intermittent fasting.
N-acetyl L-tyrosine, or NALT, is a potent derivative of the essential amino acid L-tyrosine. Both NALT and L-tyrosine convert rapidly into dopamine, one of your body’s most important neurotransmitters.
Fasting can (naturally) cause you to experience mental and physical stress. Luckily, studies show that NALT helps cognitive ability while under stress.24O’Brien C, et al. Dietary tyrosine benefits cognitive and psychomotor performance during body cooling, Physiol Behav. 2007
NALT can help with overall mood and behavioral deficits that may come as a result of the stress of intermittent fasting. This may be especially relevant as you start a fasting routine and your body adjusts.25Lehnert H, Reinstein DK, Strowbridge BW, Wurtman RJ. Neurochemical and behavioral consequences of acute, uncontrollable stress: effects of dietary tyrosine, Brain Res. 1984
So, this could be a good option to maintain cognitive function while fasting for extended periods.
Where To Buy NALT
Alpha-GPC is a direct, highly-bioavailable source of choline, which is an essential nutrient. Adding Alpha GPC to your stack can work as a sort of neurohack to increase overall brain processing and problem-solving.26Amenta F, Parnetti L, Gallai V, Wallin A. Treatment of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease with cholinergic precursors. Ineffective treatments or inappropriate approaches?, Mech Ageing Dev. 2001
Choline has many neurological benefits, and it can overall enhance the mental benefits of intermittent fasting.27Parnetti L, Amenta F, Gallai V. Choline alphoscerate in cognitive decline and in acute cerebrovascular disease: an analysis of published clinical data, Mech Ageing Dev. 2001
Alpha-GPC can enhance inter- and intra- cell communication, which is important during the cellular cleanup work that happens during intermittent fasting.28Zeisel SH, Blusztajn JK. Choline and human nutrition, Annu Rev Nutr. 1994
As a supplement, it may be good for helping maintain strength for those who may feel weak and nutrient deficient after fasting.29Tim Ziegenfuss, et al. Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008
Where to Buy Alpha-GPC:
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb that has been used in traditional medicine for millennia to combat stress and balance hormones.
Fasting can induce physical stress and tilt the autonomic nervous system more towards sympathetic responses (stress responses).30Solianik R, Sujeta A. Two-day fasting evokes stress, but does not affect mood, brain activity, cognitive, psychomotor, and motor performance in overweight women, Behav Brain Res. 2018
Luckily, there is evidence that ashwagandha can help control and lower cortisol output to help relax the body during fasting-induced stress.31Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012
According to research, ashwagandha can lead to a statistically significant reduction in anxiety, depression, and overall stress ratings, as well as an increase in testosterone in men.32Lopresti AL, et al. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Medicine (Baltimore). 2019
Similar to ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen with a long history of use for stress relief and increased mental ability.
This herb has adaptogenic and stimulatory qualities to help keep you energized and alert during times of fasting and keep your mental acuity high.
Taking Rhodiola can boost learning and memory as well. Even one dose of Rhodiola extract was found to improve learning and memory in rats. Researchers suspect that this is most likely due to its adaptogenic qualities.
As you may imagine, by boosting mood and lowering anxiety/stress, you indirectly give your brain more energy to use on productively.33Petkov VD, et al. Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on learning and memory, Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg. 1986
Rhodiola can significantly increase stamina and energy. Young military cadets who took Rhodiola extract performed much better on cognitive tests after engaging in physically strenuous activity.
They were consistently more alert and “on top of it” compared to their counterparts who took a placebo. They even showed lower physiological measures of fatigue, such as blood pressure and heart rate.34Shevtsov VA, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work, Phytomedicine. 2003
This makes Rhodiola a great overall nootropic for anyone interested in fasting.
Jatamansi is a powerful ayurvedic antioxidant that has been used to treat epilepsy, seizures, and hysteria in traditional medicine.35Rasheed AS, et al. Evaluation of toxicological and antioxidant potential of Nardostachys jatamansi in reversing haloperidol-induced catalepsy in rats, Int J Gen Med. 2010
It has free radical scavenging potential, which makes it a good compliment to intermittent fasting’s effects.36Madan Mohan Pandey, et al. An Important Indian Traditional Drug of Ayurveda Jatamansi and Its Substitute Bhootkeshi: Chemical Profiling and Antioxidant Activity, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013
Usually, modafinil (and it’s prodrug adrafinil) are considered stimulant/anti-narcolepsy drugs.
But, there is clear evidence that modafinil/adrafinil can also decrease appetite. Obviously this may be useful if you are attempting to fast.37Perez GA, et al. Modafinil decreases food intake in humans subjected to simulated shift work, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2008
Keep in mind that these nootropics are a bit stronger than some of the others on this list, and may have more side-effects.
Modafinil requires a prescription in most places (including the US), but adrafinil is an over the counter supplement.
Where to Buy Adrafinil:
Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) is a great anti-inflammatory agent that could be useful for healing the body during fasting.
Curcumin has been shown to promote autophagy while significantly inhibiting tumor growth.38Aoki H, et al. Evidence that curcumin suppresses the growth of malignant gliomas in vitro and in vivo through induction of autophagy: role of Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathways, Mol Pharmacol. 2007
A recent study has shown that curcumin provides numerous health benefits, including anti-oxidation, antimicrobial, immune-system boosting, and antitumor, among others.39Amalraj A, et al. Biological activities of curcuminoids, other biomolecules from turmeric and their derivatives – A review, J Tradit Complement Med. 2016
B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12)
A good B-vitamin complex is a must-have for any nootropic stack. It’s especially important for anyone who is fasting regularly.
B-vitamins, especially B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12, are critical for proper health and metabolism, but they can become depleted during fasting.40Depeint F, et al. Mitochondrial function and toxicity: role of the B vitamin family on mitochondrial energy metabolism, Chem Biol Interact. 2006 41Debreceni B, Debreceni L. The role of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamins in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, Cardiovasc Ther. 2014 42Gray LR, Tompkins SC, Taylor EB. Regulation of pyruvate metabolism and human disease, Cell Mol Life Sci. 2014 43Marriage B, Clandinin MT, Glerum DM. Nutritional cofactor treatment in mitochondrial disorders, J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 44Orton DJ, Naugler C, Sadrzadeh SM. Fasting time and vitamin B12 levels in a community-based population, Clin Chim Acta. 2016
Ensure your body has enough of these crucial micronutrients to function properly by supplementing with a B-vitamin complex while you are fasting.
Berberine is a potent insulin-sensitizing herb. A large meta-analysis found that berberine can reduce fasting and post-meal blood glucose by more than 30%.45Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, Metabolism. 2008
There is also evidence that berberine can increase insulin secretion and reduce antioxidant stress.46Abbud W, et al. Stimulation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is associated with enhancement of Glut1-mediated glucose transport., Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000
Probiotics are supplements that improve the health of the “helpful” bacteria in your digestive system. These bacteria have a big effect on digestion, the immune response, and the gut-brain axis.
The intestinal flora that populates your gut can be thought of as a “microbial organ,” and researchers are discovering more and more how critical it is to overall physical and mental well-being.
There is evidence that intermittent fasting can significantly improve gut bacteria health. You can amplify these effects by adding a probiotic supplement to your stack. This can further encourage a happy, healthy gut biome.47Christine Tara Peterson, et al. Prebiotic Potential of Herbal Medicines Used in Digestive Health and Disease, J Altern Complement Med. 2018
You may want to look for supplements containing bifidobacteria in particular. Bifidobacteria are a class of bacteria that play an important role in the regulation of the intestinal flora. Bifidobacteria may improve glucose tolerance and glucose-induced insulin secretion, lower inflammation, and improving overall metabolism.48Cani PD, et al. Selective increases of bifidobacteria in gut microflora improve high-fat-diet-induced diabetes in mice through a mechanism associated with endotoxaemia, Diabetologia. 2007
Have you been intermittent fasting? What’s been your secret to success? Let us know in the comments!
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.