Fringe topic today, just how the Alchemist likes it

Let's learn about a gateway practice into biohacking



Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle choice in which an individual goes through extended periods of time between meals, with limits on energy intake. These periods can last anywhere from 16 hours a day to eating every other day.



Through extensive periods of fasting, the body switches over its primary energy source from liver glycogen (through carbohydrate intake) to ketone bodies (body fat). This shift in energy source triggers ketosis, the biochemical process in which ketone bodies are produced in the blood and body through conversion of triglycerides. This transition in metabolism not only increases lipolysis, but also enables the brain to us an alternate source of energy. These ketones become a fuel source for a brain, and will only happen if insulin is low. With an inverse relationship between ketones and insulin, the longer your body goes without food, the higher the level of ketosis the body shifts into.


Scientific research has shown that fasting significantly increases the lifespan of lab animals. In a trial with lab mice and rats fed an alternate day diet vs one fed ad-libitum, the animals fed every other day lived 30% longer [1].

In addition to the many longevity health benefits associated, there are many neurological health benefits which include [1]:

  • Neuroplasticity
  • Ketone bodies as a fuel source for brain
  • Antidepressant
  • Increased Cognitive Function
  • Increased BDNF

In terms of neurological benefits, intermittent fasting plays a huge role in improving cognitive function through its production of ketone bodies, specifically alpha-ketoglutarate and beta-hydroxy-butyrate [1]. 

Furthermore, research has shown that these ketones have signaling functions. For example, beta-hydroxy-butyrate inhibits certain protein deacetylases, while also increasing the neurotrophic factor, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This protein promotes growth and survival of neurons and is also important for learning and memory retention. BDNF increases the neurons resistance to degeneration in animal studies with degenerative diseases and also holds beneficial effects of blood glucose stabilization and cardiovascular function.

By fasting for extended periods of time, the body cleanses itself of damaged proteins through a process called neuronal autophagy [2]. It can repair itself after by stimulating neurogenesis. Without this process, the brain does not function properly due to old and damaged cells remaining.

In addition, BDNF plays a significant role in neurogenesis or the creating of new neurons from stem cells. This can be complemented by its ability to autophagy, or maintain homeostasis through the destruction of damaged cells.




There are five main programs by which Intermittent Fasting adopts:

  1. LeanGains
    1. Fast for 14-16 hours, followed by an 8-10 hour feeding window
    2. This program is best for those living an active lifestyle who want to lose fat and build muscle
    3. Adaptable to any person’s lifestyle but maintaining a consistent feeding window is crucial
  2. Eat Stop Eat
    1. Fast for 24 hours once or twice a week
    2. Once the fast is over, continue on with everyday life
    3. “Act like you didn’t fast”
  3. Warriors Diet
    1. Fast for 20 hours every day and consume one large meal for dinner
    2. Consuming enough calories and nutrition all in one meal may be difficult for many
  4. Fat Loss Forever
    1. Eat one large cheat meal followed by a 36 hour fasting period
    2. Extended periods reap the largest benefits of intermittent fasting
  5. Up Day Down Day
    1. Eat very little one day, and normally the next. On low-calorie days, consume less than 20% of normal caloric intake
    2. This method focuses on weight loss

One thing that all of these methods have in common is the health benefit associated with fasting. Although, initially it may be hard to go through extended periods of time without food, physiologically and mentally, there are numerous advantages to incorporating it in everyday life.



“Brain Fog” is a common occurrence that happens during the induction of intermittent fasting. It can be characterized by a lack of mental clarity, difficulty comprehending thoughts, or slow processing. This commonly occurs as the body begins shifting from using glucose as its primary energy source to using ketones.

If adaptation is overwhelming, one option is to have a low-calorie drink (under 50 kcal). Another is to take nootropic supplements that help with the brain fog. Caffeine, for example, will give you the energy to push through the day and also increases epinephrine which will stave off hunger. There has also been anecdotal evidence that Acetyl-L-Carnitine is effective at reducing hunger during the fast as well [3].

Pretty good intro, huh? Sometimes the Alchemist keeps it light, other times I dive deep

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  1. Mattson, M. P., & Wan, R. (2005). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 16(3), 129-137.
  2. Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702-710.
  3. Lamhonwah, A. M., Hawkins, C. E., Tam, C., Wong, J., Mai, L., & Tein, I. (2008). Expression patterns of the organic cation/carnitine transporter family in adult murine brain. Brain and Development, 30(1), 31-42.