You’ve all heard the tired advice about getting more sleep and how it’s good for the brain, and while it’s true, anything that can be fixed with a cup of coffee isn’t worthy of a place in this How to get more done series. But, one thing completely changed how my mind and body worked: Change what you eat, change your life! So, learn how to get more done with your diet.
This article is the fifth in a series, How to Get More Done. Each post covers a different aspect of becoming the most productive version of yourself.
I’ve eaten healthy my entire adult life. Fifteen years living in Asia does that to you. It’s not just because the food here is so good, but also because of a lack of tasty junk food. Most people choose fruit over chips and tea over soda.
Despite my mostly healthy food choices, it wasn’t until 2018, when I decided to change my diet drastically, that I realized how much impact diet could make.
A cloud was hanging over my life that I never knew was there. When it lifted I understood how much more potential there was.
A Day in My Life
Looking back at my journals, a typical day in 2014 looked like this.
“I woke up at 5 am again today. A bus ride and 16 subway stops later, and I got to Wang Laoshi’s (my tai chi teacher) house…I finished the ticketing system for HR finally! They’re going to start using it tomorrow if it gets approval…I had no other work, so this afternoon I managed to read the whole of Hymn of the Tiger Mom at my desk…The subway drained me today. When I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was work out, but at 11 pm, I felt so guilty I did it anyway, guess I just needed a rest.”
This was an everyday occurrence. I’d have so much energy and focus in the mornings that I’d do a whole day’s work. Then in the afternoons, I’d either read or do little work here and there, all the while being distracted by interesting articles or working on personal projects that needed something.
It was very unorganized, very unfocused work, and although I never realized it, my work became scattered because that was the state of my mind.
I never had that rock solid concentrate-on-one-task-energy that I had in the mornings. On most days, a single half-hour task would take me most of the afternoon.
Everything changed in 2018 when I decided to try the ketogenic diet.
The Ketogenic Diet
I decided to try Tim Feriss’ “slow carb” diet from the “4-hour Work-Week” a bulk had left me with an extra 40 lbs of fat. The book also piqued my interest in keto, but when I heard Joe Rogan start talking about it regularly on his podcast, I decided to try it.
On April 1st, 2018, I made my first keto coffee, and I never looked back. The result?
I had the worst keto flu symptoms imaginable! For two entire weeks, I was nauseated and had consistent migraines, and all I did was lie on the couch, waiting for it all to end. Then, finally, I realized what I had been doing wrong and how to cure keto flu.
When the keto flu lifted, I felt like I’d been injected with some futuristic performance-enhancing serum. My heart was beating so hard, somedays it would wake me up, my joints all felt young again, and my brain felt like it had had a hardware upgrade.
- My memory improved. I memorized three chapters of Matthew (5, 6, and 7) in two weeks.
- I could wake up and work immediately without coffee or needing to go through my morning routine.
- My mind was sharper and quicker, and I could think more deeply. My go game improved vastly almost overnight.
- Most importantly, my focus was rock solid all day. I decided to retake Tibetan classes because I needed somewhere else to put my newfound energy.
I also dropped the 40 lbs in about two months.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
At the time, I had no idea of the mechanism. It seemed like the keto gods were smiling on me, but as I read more about the diet, I understood where these benefits came from.
1. Improved Memory and Mental Clarity
The brain can run on different fuels—people who eat a regular diet fuel their brains with glucose—blood sugar. Glucose is created whenever you eat carbohydrates. It may be from fruit, starchy vegetables, bread, pasta, or the added sugar in most processed foods.
Your brain and body can run on glucose just fine, and most do.
On keto, however, the brain stops running on glucose because of the carbohydrate restriction and starts using ketones instead, which come from fat.
Ketones are a denser fuel source than glucose, and the brain doesn’t yet know how many ketones it needs. So it ends up over fuelling itself. This is where that incredible feeling of being a supercomputer comes from.
Brain function. Feeding older and obese rats a ketogenic diet leads to improved brain function (45, 46Trusted Source).Healthline
2. Stable Focus and Energy
Not only are your mental facilities improved, but elevated levels remain stable throughout the day. Here’s why:
When you eat a standard American diet, carbohydrates give you a sudden rush of glucose or blood sugar. To stop your blood sugars from spiking, your body releases insulin hormone. Insulin shuttles the glucose into your cells and out of your bloodstream, effectively crashing your blood sugar levels.
This is why people sometimes feel sleepy after a big meal; the blood sugar crash pulls energy away from the muscles and, more importantly, the brain. So now you’re tired, low energy, and your brain can’t fire on all cylinders—this was my afternoon scatteredness.
3. The Weightloss
The final part of the keto puzzle is weight loss. If you look at any keto-related comment section, you’ll see a stream of messages from people who have lost excess weight and turned their lives around. It’s because the weight loss is quick and much easier than other weight loss methods.
Due to the switch to ketones from glucose, the body gets incredibly good at using fat for fuel. So much so that it starts burning body fat 24/7. So hopping on the scales each morning becomes a treat.
When you’re not carrying around all that extra weight, everything feels more manageable.
Final Thoughts: Starting Keto
Starting keto is tough. It’s a huge change, very restrictive, and you have to face keto flu and losing your favorite foods. But what you get in return may be worth it for you. So if you want laser-like focus that lasts all day, if you want to lose weight or reduce inflammation, give keto a go.
Originally from the U.K, Greg has lived in Asia for over 15 years. Fluent in a handful of languages, he ran a management consultancy before creating Face Dragons. He spends his time now traveling around Asia, writing, taking photos, and drinking coffee.