Many of us spend a great deal of time improving our performance at work. We make lists, set goals, attend seminars. So how often do you think about the ways that what you eat affects how you perform?
Eating right has been extra hard since last year’s lockdowns and this year’s ever-changing mandates cultivated a combination of boredom and stress. In 2020, a study suggested that more than 42% of respondents were eating more while one in three gained weight. Still, the picture wasn’t entirely bleak as many discovered that they ate healthier when office vending machines and break room donuts were no longer a few yards away. So whether you’re fully remote, back at the office, or operating under a hybrid model, nutrition in the workplace has a huge impact on your performance. Here’s how.
Modify Your Morning Meal
Many of us either skip breakfast entirely or opt for calorie-dense sugar bombs like muffins, bagels, or most cereals. These foods give you fast energy but your body pays the price later. Because when your blood sugar spikes, it inevitably crashes –– usually in the late morning when you need energy the most.
If you’re not a breakfast person, that’s okay. The notion that your first meal of the day is the most important was actually a myth created to sell cereal Fasting for 12 to 16 hours has proven benefits including reducing your risk for diabetes, cancer, and obesity. However, whether you opt to eat first thing in the morning or later in the day, be mindful of how vital good nutrition in the workplace is for optimal performance.
That’s because declining glucose or blood sugar levels will inhibit brain function –– especially the ability to focus and complete complex work. The key is to include some form of protein in your first meal regardless of when you eat it. That can mean having a delicious bowl of steel cut oatmeal which offers slow-digesting complex carbs along with B vitamins which have been shown to improve concentration. Added blueberries are not just an antioxidant but contain flavonoids –– a proven stress buster. To boost your bowl’s protein, add some whey protein powder. You can also get an easy protein boost from hard boiled eggs, which contain the nutrient choline. This has been shown to improve memory and reaction time. For a midday snack, try a banana which offers around 25 mg of glucose –– the amount your brain requires for optimal function.
In fact, grazing can be a great solution to improve nutrition in the workplace –– whether your job is at home or the office. Most people don’t get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, which studies suggest can not only tame hunger cravings but reduce your risk of death. Planning is key. Before your work week starts, get some carrot sticks, sliced apples, or avocados which can keep your blood sugar on an even keel.
Lunch Isn’t for Losers
If you’re skipping lunch or scarfing fast food at your desk, you’re likely all too familiar with that unpleasant afternoon energy crash. Keep in mind the worst time to order food is when you’re starving. That’s because your body releases a hormone called ghrelin when you are hungry. Unfortunately, studies show it can make you more impulsive and less capable of making a good decision.
When you pound a burger and fries or a massive sub, you will get more sustained energy than you would from a donut but the downside is the heavy meal forces our digestive system to work harder, depleting our brain of oxygen and leading to afternoon grogginess. Unfortunately, managing that fatigue with a late-day cup of coffee isn’t the solution either. That’s because the caffeine can stay in your system for up to nine hours –– all but guaranteeing a restless night and poor performance the next day.
So make food decisions before you are hungry. Order early in the day. Prep a healthy salad the night before. Yes it takes time, but it’s well worth it. If you’re wondering about the benefits of good nutrition in the workplace, an examination of studies showed that when healthier eating habits are introduced into a job, productivity and work performance improved while absenteeism declined.
More alarming than how poor nutrition affects your work, is how it affects your life. Over the past three decades, obesity rates among American adults have more than doubled. The average overweight person has medical costs of at least $1,200 more than someone who has a healthy Body Mass Index. Not only is obesity linked to heart disease, diabetes, and numerous cancers but a majority of the country’s COVID-19 hospitalizations were overweight.
Embarking on a healthy nutrition program at work isn’t easy. Yet the benefits in improved performance and overall health makes the time and money well worth it.
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