Sports Medicine

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 35–47 | Cite as

Effects of Intermittent Fasting, Caloric Restriction, and Ramadan Intermittent Fasting on Cognitive Performance at Rest and During Exercise in Adults

  • Anissa CherifEmail author
  • Bart Roelands
  • Romain Meeusen
  • Karim Chamari
Review Article


The aim of this review was to highlight the potent effects of intermittent fasting on the cognitive performance of athletes at rest and during exercise. Exercise interacts with dietary factors and has a positive effect on brain functioning. Furthermore, physical activity and exercise can favorably influence brain plasticity. Mounting evidence indicates that exercise, in combination with diet, affects the management of energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity by affecting molecular mechanisms through brain-derived neurotrophic factor, an essential neurotrophin that acts at the interface of metabolism and plasticity. The literature has also shown that certain aspects of physical performance and mental health, such as coping and decision-making strategies, can be negatively affected by daylight fasting. However, there are several types of intermittent fasting. These include caloric restriction, which is distinct from fasting and allows subjects to drink water ad libitum while consuming a very low-calorie food intake. Another type is Ramadan intermittent fasting, which is a religious practice of Islam, where healthy adult Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours for 1 month. Other religious practices in Islam (Sunna) also encourage Muslims to practice intermittent fasting outside the month of Ramadan. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown that intermittent fasting has crucial effects on physical and intellectual performance by affecting various aspects of bodily physiology and biochemistry that could be important for athletic success. Moreover, recent findings revealed that immunological variables are also involved in cognitive functioning and that intermittent fasting might impact the relationship between cytokine expression in the brain and cognitive deficits, including memory deficits.


Synaptic Plasticity Caloric Restriction Religious Practice BDNF Level Vascular Endothelial Cell Growth Factor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of interest

Anissa Cherif, Bart Roelands, Romain Meeusen, and Karim Chamari declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anissa Cherif
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bart Roelands
    • 2
    • 3
  • Romain Meeusen
    • 2
    • 4
  • Karim Chamari
    • 1
  1. 1.Athlete Health and Performance Research CenterAspetar-Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine HospitalDohaQatar
  2. 2.Department Human Physiology, Faculty of Physical Education and PhysiotherapyVrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO)BrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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