Men aren’t always comfortable discussing mental health but we need to talk about it. More men are committing suicide than women, and not talking about it isn’t the solution. Thus, international initiatives like Movember seek to shine a light on mental health issues in a fun and inclusive way. One aspect of Movember’s strategy involves fitness challenges. Exercise improves mental health by boosting creativity, increasing self-esteem, and reducing anxiety, among many other benefits. But it’s not just about how we move. It’s also about what we eat and how we eat it. Intermittent fasting could be another solution for our mental health problems that we’ve only just begun to explore.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves any diet approach in which you cycle between periods of fasting and non-fasting. For example, let’s say you decide to fast for the first 12 hours of the day. Then, you’ll eat as normal for the rest of the day. This approach speeds up your metabolism and supercharges your body’s fat-burning capability. In other words, it’s a surefire way to get ripped. And, this approach has even helped protect against Alzheimer’s and heart disease. But it has tons of other benefits.

Intermittent fasting and your mental health

Intermittent fasting can slow down your brain activity. It doesn’t sound desirable—after all, we all want to access and retain as much information as possible. But many degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are linked to overactive brain activity. Allowing the brain a chance to slow down means it’s rejuvenating. Not to mention, we also have a chance to think clearly.

Additionally, intermittent fasting improves your ability to learn and remember things, it sparks growth of new neurons, and helps prevent disorders like depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that those who fasted reported well-being, and even euphoria, after completing a fasting period.

Also, intermittent fasting helps regulate your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar and unregulated insulin levels have been linked to depression in several studies. By keeping this function in check, you’re protecting your mind from the mental health disorders that often spark more serious problems down the line.

How to do it

The great thing about intermittent fasting is that there isn’t a single way to do it. The following approaches are some of the most popular:

16/8: You’ll fast for 16 hours a day, meaning you can only eat in an 8-hour window. It’s likely you’ll eat 2-3 meals between noon and 8 p.m.

5/2: This approach involves days of the week. Here, you’ll eat normally for 5 days and take 2 to fast. For example, you’ll eat normally all week except for Tuesdays and Fridays, and on those days, you’ll eat 2 small meals.

24 hours: Every day is normal except one or two days, in which you fast for a full 24 hours.

Alternate: You can also alternate every other day with fasting, reducing your intake to a low number of calories for your fasting days.

Whichever method you choose, know that you’re doing more than blasting fat. You’re tapping into a powerful weapon against mental health disorders and safeguarding your mind against a problem that’s plaguing our community.