Eat this, get more s*** done
As a population, we now spend the vast majority of our time at work: Monday-Friday, 9-5, and often a bit more, especially in the wonderful world of start-ups. But with the daily stresses of work, health and nutrition can often take a back seat which can soon take a toll. How many times in a day do you hear "oh I could do with another coffee", or "I just need a bit of a sugar hit"? Here are a few simple ways to eat more nutritionally at work to help you stay focused, energised, healthy, and not in need of your 4th coffee and a KitKat at 3pm - as well as having the added benefit of weight management and improved general health.
"Running late, I'll grab a pastry on the way in with my morning latte - I can't function without coffee!!" Sound familiar? The lack of protein and high sugar content of your morning latte and pastry is likely to leave you hungry and tired again pretty quickly - not the best for fuelling a productive morning. Your morning meal should contain a serving of protein and a mixture of complex (slow energy releasing) carbohydrates, and fats. Protein will keep you satiated, as well as providing amino acids which are essential to brain function. When sedentary, your body uses mainly fats for energy, so a combination of fats and carbohydrates will give you a stable energy source to last you the whole morning.
Why not try one of these and see if you notice a difference?
- Poached eggs with avocado on toast
- Overnight oats (there are loads of great recipes here) - you can prepare the night before and grab on your way out.
2. Watch the caffeine
Keep calm, there's no need to cut it out completely. However, to make sure you can stay hydrated and avoid excess stress and anxiety, try to limit yourself to 2 cups a day. Being optimally hydrated will help you to stay focused, as your brain function starts to decrease as soon as you become dehydrated, even if only slightly. Caffeine is a diuretic which causes you to excrete more fluid than you consume and therefore having a dehydrating effect. Aim to drink a minimum of 2L water per day (more if you exercise or it's warm), and for every coffee or tea you drink, have an extra glass of water.
Caffeine also raises cortisol levels - the hormone response to stress. Given that the pressures of work are likely to be leaving you feeling stressed already, high caffeine consumption will worsen the situation and may leave you feeling even more stressed and anxious.
Top Tip: Keep a 2 litre bottle of water at your desk and aim to drink the whole thing by the time you leave.
3. Power lunch
A nutritious lunch will energise you for a super productive afternoon, and provide your body with an array of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other good stuff to fight illness and keep your body and brain functioning at its best. As mentioned previously, fats are used as the main energy source when your body is sedentary, meaning a protein and fat based meal is often best and won't leave you in a sluggish carb-coma. Your blood sugar with stay stable so you can avoid the 3pm energy crash that leaves you reaching for the biscuits. Here are a few of my favourite easy lunch options:
- Leftovers from dinner the night before. A home cooked meal with be much richer in nutrient dense foods than shop bought, pre-packaged stuff. What about making a batch of chilli, and taking it in with a side of avocado?
- Prepping ingredients in bulk at the weekend. Take an hour to prep a batch of protein options (chicken breasts or salmon for example) and some roasted veg. In the morning, just throw your protein and veg in a Tupperware with some extra salad leaves and you have a delicious lunch!
- Supermarket saviours - when all else fails, check out these options you can pick up at the local supermarket and put together for an easy, healthy lunch!
4. Afternoon Slump-Busters
Of course it's perfectly ok to indulge every now and again - an 80/20 balance has shown to be the most optimal for weight managements and health - but maybe not every day. Try one of these tips to keep the balance:
- Choose your moments. Celebrating successes is one of life's pleasures, just pick the times when you really want treat yourself and stick to them, and practise politely declining the biscuit tin on other occasions.
- Factor in a few little treats into your nutrition plan. As long as the remaining 80% of your diet is full of nutrient-dense, whole foods, it's perfectly ok to treat yourself. Allowing yourself a little something can beat cravings and keep you on the straight and narrow - once something's completely "banned" you'll be wanting it all the time.
- Have some healthier options at the ready - a combination of fresh fruit and some nuts is a great afternoon pick-me-up that won't leave you with another sugar crash and will give you a hit of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Good nutrition not only has positive effects on body composition, it can help to dramatically improve focus, energy and brain function, as well as fighting illness and infection to keep you functioning at your best and allow you to work more productively. Remember to always seek advice from a qualified nutritionist or dietician when making drastic dietary changes.