You may be one of the people who returned back to work this week, or perhaps you are still working from home getting used this new way of life for now. Either way, what you eat and how you eat has a direct impact on you performance at work throughout the day. Ever notice how after a large heavy carbohydrate based lunch you feel exhausted and need a cup of coffee with a side of chocolate to get you through the remainder of the afternoon? There’s a reason for that and also ways to reduce this fatigue and reliance on caffeine to get you through the day. Good nutrition helps your body build up resilience against life’s daily stresses and maximise its performance potential on a day to day basis.
Blood Sugar Control
What we eat has an effect on our blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which leads to a spike in blood sugar levels. This spike in blood sugars corresponds to a quick surge of energy, but it’s not long lasting. Quickly this spike falls and we get a dip in energy levels, fatigue, poor concentration and cravings. To satisfy the cravings you reach for something quick and sugary to give you that energy hit and so the blood sugar rollercoaster starts again. So how do we get off this rollercoaster and maintain steady energy levels throughout the day?
1. Include a source of protein with each meal. Protein takes longer to digest and therefore doesn’t give rise to sharp blood sugar peaks. It’s the most satiating of the macronutrients, meaning it keeps you fuller for longer, reduces those cravings and dips in energy levels.
2. Switch to complex carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates contain fibre that are slower to digest and don’t cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels. They help to provide sustained energy in between meals are high in vitamins and minerals required for optimal health. Complex carbs include oats, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, sweet potato, fruits and veg.
3. Eat every 3-4 hours. This helps to keep energy levels stable by avoiding low blood sugar levels which can lead to strong carbohydrate cravings. Regular meals with a lean source of protein and complex carbohydrates will keep you fuller for longer and ensure you don’t get back on that rollercoaster again.
4. Drink up. Water makes up about 60% of our body and every single cells requires water to function properly. Water helps to nourish those cells and keep us focused and help us to concentrate throughout the day. Keep a water bottle filled up on your desk and aim to finish it by lunch and refill it again to finish it by the end of the day.
We all remember being told to eat our salmon before exam time. The reason being about 60% of our brain are made of fats so it makes sense we eat healthy fats to support brain function. Omega 3s contain EPA and DHA essential fatty acids which are important nutrients for memory and learning. These fatty acids also help to reduce inflammation in the brain and may positively effect diseases including Alzheimer’s and depression. A study analysing 260 cognitively normal individuals found that consumption of fish was positively associated with larger grey matter volumes in parts of the brain responsible for decision making, memory and emotions. Overall omega 3 fats are important part of the brains structure and play a role in disease prevention, cognitive function and improving mood. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are good sources of omega 3s. Walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are a good plant based source of omega 3 fats.
We all know that fruit and vegetables are good for our health. Fruit and veg contain antioxidants that fight off free radicals produced in the body. Free radicals are produced in response to stresses perceived by the body such as smoking, pollution and inflammatory diets. Build-up of these free radicals in the body cause oxidative stress which increase the risk of cancers and other diseases. Antioxidants counteract these free radicals. Antioxidants also protect the brain from oxidation and improves the supply of oxygen to the brain. Dietary sources of antioxidants include fruit and veg, berries, coffee, green tea, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds. Including a number of these foods in your daily diet can help reduce your risk of developing diseases including diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.