It’s Called Empty-Stomach Intelligence

 When I have a big meeting, no matter what time of day the meeting is scheduled, I never eat before it, ever. This means even if I wake up at 5:00 am, and my meeting isn’t until 4:00 pm, I starve myself most of the day. I might have a granola bar or small bag of peanuts several hours before the meeting, but I always make it a priority to go into my meeting literally hungry.

Yale Medical School once conducted a research with mice to gage how they retain information on full versus empty stomachs. The results were pretty interesting. Hunger stimulation caused the mice to generate information quicker, retain it better, and make smarter decisions.

Ghrelin (the hormone produced by the stomach lining that sends the brain ‘hungry’ signals) is found to bind to the part of the brain that registers hunger, but also binds to the region of the brain that registers learning, memory and spatial awareness. When researchers placed ghrelin injected and control mice in a maze together, they found that the ‘hungry’ mice performed noticeably better than those that were not hungry.

And I, myself, am a firm believer that this application is the same for humans. Not only because “science says so”, but because there is something primal about the idea that when we are physically hungry, we are metaphorically hungry as well. What will it take to buy that new car, pay for that next vacation, provide benefits to my employees? The answer is money. If I go into a meeting hungry for money, I focus on what it takes to satisfy that hunger. If there is a physical connection of true hunger in the pathway to the part of my brain that absorbs information and produces intelligence, then I know I will perform my best.

Since starting my own marketing agency nearly ten years ago, I’ve gone into hundreds of these big meetings on an empty stomach. Something happens when I am there, meeting with key c-suite executives and decision makers. I’m smarter. I’m well spoken. I’m creative. I’m thinking on my feet. I’m clever. I’m personable. I really like who I am when I am put in these challenging meetings.

Back at the office, I almost always eat lunch later in the day. After every meal, no matter how big or small the meal is, I feel a bit sluggish and less like myself. My brain sort of takes a nap… and I am not nearly as productive and creative. The funny thing is, I find that I always take care of important tasks prior to eating. This might be why I skip breakfast and lunch altogether sometimes, when I have a lot of deadlines or big proposals to create. I work and grind through the ‘hunger’ until I feel satisfied with my progress.

I do my best work when I’m hungry.