Food is fuel and there is no doubt we each need a certain number of kilojoules every day to function. However, our minds and bodies suffer when we consume low quality kilojoules, such as foods high in fat and low in nutritional value.
In addition to this, take the time to consider how much of a vicious cycle fatigue can be!
When we don’t get enough sleep or we sleep poorly, our Leptin levels drop - resulting in a feeling of dissatisfaction after eating. This is followed by cravings for high sugar and carbohydrate (high energy) foods. While this is all happening, the lack of sleep also causes our Ghrelin levels to rise - this hormone stimulates our appetite, so we want more food!
An unhealthy diet taxes the body’s organs, weakens the immune system, opens the door to illness and greatly reduces our daily energy levels.
A study from the Sussex Innovation Centre, Brighton, UK found that eating breakfast improves people's mental performance. 61% of test subjects showed improvements in English and mathematics tests after eating breakfast. Hand-eye coordination was also improved. Breakfast eaters also showed a reduction in anxiety levels when faced with stressful situations.
It can boost your brain power by providing your brain with needed fuel. After an overnight fast, your brain’s fuel is at an all-time low. The brain cannot store its fuel so it is dependent on what the blood can provide. Breakfast provides your brain with an immediate and steady source of fuel for optimal performance.
The HOW and WHY:
Eating fresh, healthy & regular meals for steady energy
When we eat a big meal the sugar level in our blood rises, but once that meal is digested, the blood sugar level falls taking you energy and mood with it. And the bigger the meal, the bigger the crash! And how do we react to this crash – usually by opting for a sugary snack to refuel your body.
On the other hand, the regular influx of food with a light (small meal) and often approach, keeps your energy level stable, making it easier for you to cope with everything you need to do in a day.
Why? Small, frequent meals provide a regular moderate ‘hit’ of blood sugar, that keeps you in the stable zone – not too much that will end in a flood of insulin.
And it’s not just your energy and sugar levels that stay stable, levels of fatty acids in the blood also remain stable when you eat light and often – which is great news, because peaks and troughs in fatty acid levels have been linked to heart disease. (Medical Research Council Nutrition Unit). Eating strategically also helps to reduce your risk of weight gain and the subsequent risk of development of Type 2 diabetes.
You can aim to keep your glucose levels stable throughout the day by eating 5-6 smaller meals instead of 3 large ones.
If you want to tweak your food choices for better performance and productivity outcomes, try these:
- Brain Foods - Protein: Protein is found in meat, fish, milk and cheese. Protein provides the building blocks for most of the body’s tissues, nerves, internal organs (including brain and heart). Proteins are used to make neurotransmitters and are essential to improve mental performance.
- Brain Foods - Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates enhance the absorption of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin in the brain. Within thirty minutes of eating a carbohydrate meal, you will feel more calm and relaxed. The effects will last several hours. Grains, fruits and vegetables are key sources of carbohydrates.
- Brain Foods - Healthy fats: The brain is more than 60% fat. Fats also play a crucial role as messengers. They regulate key aspects of the immune system, blood circulation, inflammation, memory and mood. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to the optimum performance of your brain.
To ensure that your diet is rich in omega-3 fats, ensure that you eat plenty of oily fish including mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and anchovies. Supplements, including fish oil capsules, also provide good sources of omega 3.
You can also try these healthy snack ideas throughout your work day to keep your energy levels stable:
- Vegetable sticks and hummus
- Low fat yoghurt and sliced fruit
- Wholegrain English muffin with peanut butter
- Dried fruit and nut trail mix
- Small tin of tuna with wholegrain crackers
- Fruit smoothie with skim milk, honey, sliced banana and strawberries
Want more ideas, or a tailored approach to addressing nutrition, fatigue & productivity at your workplace? Contact us today!