At some point, you’ve likely heard about the benefits of “intermittent fasting” but maybe you’re not sure how it relates to sales performance.
Depending on your goals – you also may not be fasting in an optimal way.
This post dives into what intermittent fasting is, why it helps and how you can best use it while working in sales.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
If you do a Google Search for the “benefits of intermittent fasting” you’ll find millions of articles and research backed data points that show intermittent fasting has proven to help people:
- Lose Weight
- Build Muscle
- Enhance Hearth Health
- Repair Cells
- Lower Inflammation
Among countless other benefits…
The benefit I’m most interested in achieving through intermittent fasting is boosting cognitive focus. Working in sales and running a business is primarily a Mental Game. This means I’m always looking for ways to improve my focus and speed up my learning.
Intermittent fasting is usually defined as fasting for ~16 Hours during a 24 Hour period. For me this usually means not eating between 7pm to 11am (16 hours) and then consuming all my meals between 11am and 7pm (8 hours).
Why Intermittent Fasting Helps
The reason intermittent fasting helps boost cognitive focus is largely due to the role it plays in helping your body release additional cortisol. As our blood sugar falls (from fasting/ not eating) cortisol and adrenaline are released into the body. This survival system was designed to get us moving and find food so we don’t starve.
When we finally eat food, our body releases insulin which blunts the effect of cortisol and adrenaline. This allows them to return to normal levels. When our blood sugar drops and we “get hungry” again (AKA Hunger Stress), the systems restarts.
The cool part is cortisol also plays an extremely important role in learning and focus. The media typically describes cortisol as the “evil stress hormone” we should avoid. In reality, we can use intermittent fasting to slightly elevate our cortisol levels to improve our performance.
Too Much Cortisol = Bad Stress, Anxiety and Poor Performance.
Slightly Elevated Cortisol = Good Stress, Focus and Optimal Performance.
Now this where salespeople usually get intermittent fasting wrong. They don’t adapt their eating habits to their high stress sales environment.
How To Intermittent Fast While Working In Sales
Remember, my goal for intermittent fasting is boosting cognitive focus and NOT weight loss, muscle gain, etc. To achieve this goal, my decision to intermittently fast is highly dependent on the day.
Yes cortisol is released in response to “Hunger Stress”, but it is also released in response to stressors we face within sales like rejection, big client presentations, a poor night’s sleep and dealing with angry customers.
What this means is… If you already have a big presentation coming up in the morning that you’re nervous about; cortisol levels will already be elevated. Intermittent fasting and “Hunger Stress” will raise them even further and likely move you out of that sweet spot of optimal performance.
If you have a cold calling block coming up, where you’re likely to be rejected and rejection really bothers you; then your cortisol levels are likely to jump when you encounter these events in the future. Entering this calling block with unnecessary Hunger Stress is a bad idea and you should eat something beforehand.
So when should you use intermittent fasting?
I typically fast on days when I’m feeling sluggish or experiencing a lot of brain fog. This is usually a sign my cortisol and adrenaline levels are low, which means I can raise them and get my body moving by fasting in the morning. I also try to fast on days when I need to be creative (aka writing content, recreating a pitch, etc) or in deep learning mode.
The Golden Rule…
Try to eat dinner every night by 7pm (and eat nothing after). This provides a lot of flexibility the next morning.
If I have a big client meeting or presentation in the morning that I’m nervous about; I won’t fast and will eat something for breakfast. If my morning is lighter, I’ll fast until 11am which will allow me to boost my ability to focus while I’m working on content.
Keep in mind, if you have different goals for intermittent fasting, like losing weight, you’ll likely want to explore a different routine or fasting regiment. If you’re like me and looking to level up your Mental Game; then it all comes down to fasting on the right days and managing your external stressors.
This is how you’ll find that sweet spot of peak learning, focus and sales performance.
If you found this interesting, then the online course below, focused on Improving Sales Performance Through Better Mental Health is for you. It’s packed full with these types of performance strategies that are rooted in neuroscience and physiology.
About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.