Will intermittent fasting help you study better?

benefit of intermittent fasting
Students conduct last-minute studying before sitting for the first day of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) in Beijing. Source: Jade Gao/AFP

A simple Google search will tell you that many diets focus on what to eat, not when to eat. One of the diets that revolve around the latter is intermittent fasting. Many who diet are concerned about weight management, but did you know that being able to study better could be a benefit of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting — an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule — is the subject of much research. While it has side effects like hunger, constipation, irritability, headaches, and bad breath, science suggests that it does have its benefits. Research shows that intermittent fasting can be a useful way to manage your weight, address chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, and prevent some forms of disease.

Keep in mind, though, that it is not for everyone — consider speaking to your general practitioner first before trying out intermittent fasting. If you have an upcoming exam or generally desire better brain function, here are some scientific reasons why you might want to consider joining the intermittent fasting bandwagon:

benefit of intermittent fasting

Students, rejoice: being able to retain information for longer periods of time could be a benefit of intermittent fasting. Source: Thibault Savary/AFP

It can maintain brain health

Science suggests intermittent fasting can be good for brain health. It may not only slow down the ageing process but increase neuroplasticity in the brain. If you’re wondering what neuroplasticity is, it’s basically the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. This helps optimise cognitive function

It may improve long-term memory

A study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London last year found that intermittent fasting can be effective in improving long-term memory. This is good news for students, especially those who struggle to retain information and remember what they’ve learned.

Cognitive decline in older people is inevitable, but intermittent fasting may help slow down the process by targeting the part of the brain — hippocampal neurons — that are important for memory formation. 

benefit of intermittent fasting

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it helps prepare you for your workouts. Source: William West/AFP

It can prevent cognitive disorders

Intermittent fasting triggers a process called autophagy, which literally translates to self-eating. This process can ward off brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University, was quoted saying by Healthline that autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. This can serve you well in university life and beyond.

It may help sharpen the mind 

Science also suggests that intermittent fasting may help with brain fog and in maintaining one’s concentration. This is especially helpful for those suffering from long Covid. Many who have tried it report clearer thinking and improved moods as a benefit of intermittent fasting. Research also suggests that doing this boosts verbal memory, or the ability to remember what you read or hear.

It’s not even a diet 

Here’s an interesting fact: intermittent fasting is not even a diet. Why is this good news? It’s because you don’t have to restrict yourself from eating certain types of food, including those that are good for your brain (e.g. oily fish, tea and coffee, and dark chocolate). You get to enjoy the food you eat (within reason) and still get your daily nutrients.

It may help keep you fit

It’s been said that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. You might have heard recommendations that exercise can help you study better, and it’s true! Intermittent fasting helps prepare you for those intense workouts by building your endurance. It helps improve your blood pressure as well as your resting heart rate. When you exercise, you exhaust yourself and get better sleep — which eventually leads to learning retention if you’ve studied the night before.