Does a stressed out/over-thinking brain consume more fuel? How much?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 16, 2011 at 3:22 AM

I've been doing a TON of thinking about stress and how it destroyifies our bodies. I'm pretty stressed out at the time being (although there might be something to this meditation thing...it helps a lot, I don't care how hippie that makes me) and I keep wondering why such a mental thing can have such a physical impact. Enough backstory already!

Our brains consume somewhere around 150g of glucose (need literature on ketone weight used if lc/fasting) per day. That's a bunch.

Excess use of glucose by the brain could potentially drain our blood (body) supply pretty significantly. Brains use 150g, there's somewhere around 4g of glucose circulating in our blood supply normally. Seems like a sensitive system to me. Can we relate brain and other organ issues to low glucose supply due to a busy mind? <--Fake Question!

Real Question:

Do brains that are stressed the F out/doing complex thinking/multitasking all day burn more fuel than brains that are nice and relaxed?

Bring me your comments and scientific literature!!!



on November 16, 2011
at 01:46 PM

Seconded...I'm always cramming food down my gullet during exam time.



on November 16, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Awesome question!



on November 16, 2011
at 03:33 AM

my god the prospect of wasting all that glucose really stresses me out! except wait a minute, how much of our brain does it actually take to stress out all the time about sh*t, when we barely use .05% or something of our brains anyway?

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5 Answers



on November 16, 2011
at 08:36 AM

I have read a study, not on hand ATM, that during high levels of concentration the body will burn aprox 15 calories more per hour. Not really very much. I also read that people will feel more hungry during times of mental stress.

I know from studying that concentration will make me restless for food and I will consume shit loads, but this is through procrastination more than anything.

I will look for the study.



on November 16, 2011
at 01:46 PM

Seconded...I'm always cramming food down my gullet during exam time.


on November 16, 2011
at 01:45 PM

Active parts of the brain are using more energy than inactive parts, which is why they show up on PET scans etc.

As some parts of the brain are happy to use ketones, not all of this energy consumption has to be glucose.

Stress makes me crave sugar, which I believe is because I become more insulin resistant under the influence of elevated cortisol.



on November 16, 2011
at 03:58 AM

Could look at this a couple ways....First would be that your brain processes trillions of bits of information and provides the correct response based on those bits of info without your conscious know how. Is your conscious active stressing really utilizing a whole lot more energy than you were already utilizing? Or more than you use to read a chem paper? I doubt it.

Could your stressing brain lead to other hormonal and physiological changes that in the periphery change your needs....I believe that is quite likely.



on January 30, 2013
at 03:19 AM

In the year since you asked your question, "decision fatigue" and "ego depletion" have been getting a lot of press. Hard decisions do burn lots of fuel, which is why it's possible to sit at your desk for 2-3 hours having stressful discussions and feel more wiped out than if you had been exercising for the same amount of time.

As an added bonus, the longer you keep trying to make good decisions without a break, the worse your decisions get until you refuel and/or sleep. And you probably already know that refueling has diminishing returns - one coffee perks you back up but the third or fourth might have deleterious effects like overconfidence or the jitters.

An article with several links http://petereliasmd.com/index.php?module=news&func=display&sid=62



on November 16, 2011
at 11:24 AM

If I feel stressed 9/10 its because I haven't eaten enough sugar.

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