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Empty-Stomach Intelligence: How to Maintain Productivity during Fasting Day at Work


“Being hungry makes me cranky.” Do you relate to this statement? Many people do. In fact, a hungry stomach often results in negative states. A study by Psychopharmacology suggested that while people often link negative states and stress to psychological factors and not necessarily metabolic factors, poor eating behaviour can have an impact on people’s mood. 

The study used rats as a subject by injecting them with a glucose metabolism blocker causing the rats to experience hypoglycemia and then they were placed in a specific chamber. On a separate occasion, the rats were given an injection of water and placed in a different chamber. When given a choice of which chamber to enter, the rats actively avoided the chamber where they experienced hypoglycemia. 

This type of avoidance behaviour is an expression of stress and anxiety, the researchers explained. The animals are avoiding that chamber because they had a stressful experience there, thus they do not want to experience it again. The researchers also tested the blood levels of the rats and found more corticosterone, an indicator of psychological stress. The finding of the study supported the idea that animals experienced stress and depressed mood when they were hypoglycemic. 

Researchers also mentioned that humans might have similar experiences when they are hungry. The leading factors of depression and anxiety in an individual, nonetheless, can be different from one person to the next. But knowing that nutrition is a factor contributing to depression or stress could be a good thing. It means that developing good diets and eating habits can come as a possible treatment. 

Missing one meal might make someone “hangry” (hungry-angry) and could decrease their mood. If someone is constantly missing meals and constantly experiencing “hangry” stressor, the response could affect their emotional state on a more constant level which might lead to a decrease in productivity and decision-making. 

See also: Watch Out! These Habits Can Kill Creativity and Self-Development

Empty stomach might affect one’s moods but research also suggests it can make us smarter 

As the maxim goes, hunger could make the best sauce. Yale Medical School researcher Tamas Horvath expressed his findings that the stimulation of hunger causes mice (subject of the study) to take in information more quickly, and to retain it better. Basically, it makes the mice smarter and that is very likely to be true for humans as well. 

Horvath and team analysed the pathways followed in mouse brains by ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach lining, when the stomach is hungry. To their surprise, they found that ghrelin was binding to cells not just in the primitive part of the brain but also in the region that plays a role in learning, memory and spatial analysis. 

When you are hungry, Horvath explained, you need to focus your entire system on finding food in the environment. In fact, some biologists believe that human intelligence itself evolved because it made early hominids more effective hunters, gathers, and foragers. Hovarth also advised that individuals can go in mildly hungry, not carbo-loaded for endurance when they are facing an LSAT or final exam - but snacks to accompany the day might be necessary to maintain the edgy state. 

Maintain productivity and creativity during fasting day at workplace 

It is undeniable that eating or not eating affects our moods. The way our brains are working on an empty and full stomach is different. Although Hovarth’s study shows that an empty stomach can make tremendous productivity, prolonged hunger might result in bad mood and weariness. 

The takeaway here is we should maintain our diet and meal during the day to be more productive. For those who do dieting or fasting, maintaining the nutrients and carbos during the workday is important. 

As an instance, Muslims must fast from dawn till dusk during the month of Ramadan. They could not eat or drink until sundown, meaning their energy might drain easily throughout the day. They might not be able to focus on an important project because they miss out on lunch and the nutrients needed to maintain their moods. In this case, when you are fasting, it is better to finish tasks early, especially difficult tasks. Combining our body state in the early morning and an empty stomach might yield positive results. In the afternoon, you can focus on a less important task that does not require focus. This way you can fulfil your duties while maintaining your productivity. 

In fact, many prominent leaders engage in a routine of doing tasks early in the morning, such as writing a journal, exercising, or reading. One of famous writers, Earnest Hemingway, also began his writing routine in the morning, as soon after first light as possible, be it after breakfast or before having anything to eat and even before coffee. 

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