Nutrition for Better Performance

Nutrition for Better Performance

“Manage your energy, not your time”

Tony Schwartz

Poor eating habits can affect more than your waistline, it could also affect the way your brain works and your productivity at work. 

We know that proper nutrition is important for athletes to perform at their best but any performance requires energy and a clear mind.

Whether you work at home or in an office, eating right is an essential component for a healthy lifestyle and productive work. The types of food you eat also affect your brain. The various ingredients you get from food enter your brain through the blood stream and will either enhance concentration or lower it. 

Almost all of what you eat will be broken down to glucose, which is the fuel that keeps the brain alert and focused. Studies show that the brain is at its best with 25 grams of glucose running through the bloodstream. That is the amount you’ll get from a banana. The food you eat is as important as how and when you eat it. 

According to Mayo Clinic, eating healthy foods can do more than help lower your cholesterol level.  In fact, it can help you become more alert, more attentive, and well tuned to developing problem-solving skills and enhancing your productivity. 

If you want to be successful in your career it is important that you pay attention to all the details that can improve your performance and having the right nutrition plan can have a huge influence on your productivity and your success. 

Some Surprising Facts about Productivity

Research has shown that up to 66% of decreased productivity is caused by not eating in a healthy way, 50% of decreased productivity is caused by lack of exercise, and 28% of decreased productivity is linked to smoking, alcohol and other addictions. 

Research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization, conducted by professors and renowned researchers at the Brigham University showed that workers who had healthy meals and exercised frequently were more productive and had lower absenteeism than those who didn’t eat well and lacked exercise. 

Understanding the Link between Poor Diet and Productivity

It suffices to look at the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand how poor dieting can affect productivity either at home or at the workplace.  

Obesity leads to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and it also lowers productivity while increasing costs in the workplace.  Studies show that obese people missed up to twice as much work as those who were a healthy weight.

According to UCLA Health System, poor eating habits contribute to the following:

  • Increased fatigue at work
  • Poor mental effectiveness
  • High level of irritability
  • Very low energy levels
  • Inability to think clearly and efficiently

These statistics are enough to demonstrate the clear link between poor dieting habits and decreased productivity. How can you avoid experiencing poor productivity while staying fit throughout your working hours? 

It is important to understand that you body needs energy to get through the working day and this energy comes from the food you are eating.  It is imperative that you eat regular meals to ensure your body is getting the energy it needs to perform. 

Hunger pangs between meals is a sign that you are delaying too long before you eat and these hunger pangs lead to a drop in blood sugar and poor concentration.  A hungry person is an angry person, as the saying goes, and if you’re hungry, you also become very irritated, which can affect the way you relate with others and the way you do your work. 

Instead of skipping meals, spread your food intake over five to six smaller meals and snacks, rather than eating three large main meals a day.  They don’t have to be huge meals but smaller regular meals and snacks, which can significantly improve your performance.  Aiming to eat every 3 hours means that you are eating on time, keeping you healthy and fueled for greater productivity.

Some super foods to help brain function

Pumpkin seeds

To get your recommended daily allowance of zinc, which is essential to enhance memory and thinking skills just take a handful of pumpkin seeds. 

Broccoli

Broccoli is a fantastic source of vitamin K. This vitamin is known to boost cognitive function and improve brainpower.

Nuts

Along with leafy green vegetables, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains, nuts are a great source of vitamin E.  A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent poor memory so adding nuts to your diet could improve your brain function. If you have a nut allergy always make sure you check labels. 

Wholegrain food

One study found that an increase in folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 showed an improvement in recalling information.  Eating a diet rich in a mix of wholegrain foods such as wheatbran, cereals, and wholewheat pasta will give you the amounts you require. 

Oily fish

The essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish, as well as fish oil, are high in DHA, a fatty acid crucial to the health of our nervous system. Walnut oil and flaxseed also contain these fatty acids.

With low DHA levels been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss taking fish is a great way to improve mental clarity.

Blueberries

Research from Tufts University in the United States and published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that short-term memory loss can be improved by using blueberry extract.

Tomatoes

There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.

Porridge Oats

We couldn’t really have a section on food that is good for productivity and not mention porridge oats.  They have a very low Glycaemic Index, meaning they are slowly absorbed into the blood stream giving a long gradual release of energy and helps keep your blood sugar level stable for longer.

As well as being proven to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease porridge has also been shown to boost serotonin, which is is widely believed, among other things, to help prevent depression, particularly in the dark winter months.  

Blackcurrants

Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin is blackcurrants.

Here is a good guide to the type of food you should be eating at different times of day. Remember that you want to keep the fuel coming in so that you can sustain energy.

The power of breakfast. 

Your 8-hour workday begins the moment you sit down to eat. Starting your day with breakfast is important, but you’re not going to eat just anything for breakfast. 

If you’re like most people, you’ll certainly want to go for the first thing you find in your cupboard, but it may not be the best thing for the workload ahead. You need to prepare an energy packed breakfast if you’re to keep your energy levels high and enhance your concentration at work. 

A grab-and-go slice of toast or what you pick up at McDonalds will not do. You should have a healthy meal, a well-prepared, nutritious breakfast to begin your day. 

Foods that you can have for your breakfast will include porridge, whole grain cereal, peanut butter, lean meat, hardboiled eggs, skim milk, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt. It is absolutely important to start your day with a healthy breakfast if you want to ensure better productivity throughout the day.  

Here are some examples of breakfasts that will help you get going.

Breakfast 1

2 Shredded Wheat

Skimmed Milk

2 tbsp of raisins

1 small glass of Orange juice

Breakfast 2

1 average bowl of muesli (60g)

2 tbsp low-fat yogurt 

1 slice of wholegrain toast

Breakfast 3

2 slices wholegrain toast

2 scrambled eggs

glass of orange juice

Snacks to give you energy

You will need to replenish your body with healthy foods packed with minerals, vitamins and other nutrients to keep a productive day. It is very tempting to skip snacks especially when you get busy and have to get a lot of things done, but you’ll lower your energy levels and will subsequently feel the toll of the neglect on the way you do your work. 

Mid morning and mid afternoon snacks are important to keep the energy high.  The snacks help keep you blood sugars up and prevent a loss in concentration.

For a good snack you can choose from the following list:

1 cereal or fruit bar

1 banana

1 apple + 1 carton of low-fat yoghurt

1 orange

200g of mixed berries

200g of strawberries

200g of grapes

1 handful of dried fruit (Apricots, Dates)

1 cup of popcorn

Small bag of nuts

Rice cake

2 Wholemeal crackers

Lunch Time

Remember not to skip meals, especially lunch.  To prevent this from happening make sure that you have something that is easy to prepare. 

A salad is a great way of getting lots of nutrients and if you think about adding an egg to the salad you are getting a great source of protein.  Not only that but the egg yolk has been shown to boost brainpower by speeding up the sending of signals to nerve cells in the brain.

Another great food for building gray matter and cell membranes is fish, due to its high level of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

It is advisable to stay away from junk food at lunchtime as it can lead to a feeling of sluggishness throughout the rest of the day. 
Ending lunch with a yogurt helps produce neurotransmitters, improving signals amongst neurons. 

The following are some examples of great lunches to keep you going

Lunch 1

1 bagel

100g low-fat soft cheese

1 bowl salad

Lunch 2

Bowl of vegetable soup

1 slice wholegrain bread

1 carton yogurt

Lunch 3

Pasta salad made with:

100g (Uncooked Weight) wholegrain pasta

2 tbsp tuna in brine

1 large handful chopped peppers

1 tbsp oil dressing

Dinner Time

Eating dinner allows us an opportunity to continue with vital nutrients that will help us recover from the day’s workload and revitalize for the next day. 

Dinner 1

1 average portion (170g) grilled salmon

½ plate boiled brown rice (115g uncooked weight)

1 large portion broccoli (125g)

Dinner 2

Turkey breast (100g) baked or grilled

1 large sweet potato

1 portion (85g) carrots

1 portion (85g) courgettes

Dinner 3

Stir-fry with just vegetables or add grilled chicken

Portion brown rice (115g uncooked)