June 9, 2010
Mom was Right! The Tie Between Diet and Work Efficiency
Mom always said you are what you eat and that is especially true when it comes to workplace efficiency. If you eat poorly you’re going to have less concentration, energy and mental acuteness; in short you’re going to be a less productive worker.
Our brains require a large amount of energy to do what they do. Even if you’re not stuck in front of a desk all day and your work is more physical than mental you still need to be sharp. If you don’t believe me, talk to all of the factory workers that are missing digits because they weren’t paying attention to what was going on around them. If you are a working in a cubicle then staying sharp throughout the day is just as imperative. You need to take care of your main tool, which is your brain, and the best way to do that is to eat a proper diet.
Our fast food obsessed, “give it to me now” culture has trained us to expect things on demand. As a byproduct of this we buy instant breakfasts, constantly take things “to go” and expect that we can get by on whatever tastes good. Unfortunately, this means we pump our bodies full of sugar, fat and caffeine in order to feel full and alert.
Let’s take a walk through a typical day and see what you need to be eating for optimal mental performance.
If you’re looking to maintain your mental acuteness throughout the day breakfast is ground zero. Getting a bad meal in you first thing can ruin your chances at performing properly for the rest of the day.
The brain needs complex carbohydrates to perform well throughout the course of its hours spent awake. These long chains of sugar molecules break down slowly and as a consequence the brain will have a steady supply of energy. Fruit is a great source of these complex carbohydrates so a nice sized helping first thing in the morning will fuel you up properly. Later on in the morning a good dose of protein, like that found in a healthy cereal or multi-grain toast, will keep you fired up the right way.
What you want to avoid are simple sugars. These will give you a quick boost of energy but will then take you down into the land sluggishness. Sugar laden cereal, cereal bars, processed foods, bagels, donuts and white toast are all some of the biggest culprits when it comes to this kind of sugar.
In addition to coffee you want to make sure you also steer clear of caffeine. It seems nearly impossible to do so in the modern workplace but if you’re serious about not crashing later you need to skip the Starbucks completely. You might get a quick pick up off the bat but it will fade and you’ll find you want even more. This is why you have to make so many trips back to the coffee pot throughout the day.
Despite what we have been raised to think it’s actually better to eat a bigger lunch and smaller dinner. A well-balanced lunch of vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins and grains is the way to go. If you can squeeze in an egg or fish, you’ll be better off as well. They both have nutrients in them that are proven to increase your mental focus, a very helpful boost for the afternoon.
Like lunch, keep dinner nice and balanced but try to make it smaller than you think. Loading too much food into your stomach over the night hours will lead to your body turning a lot of that into fat. Don’t eat too close to bedtime and you’ll be doing very well when it comes to preparing your body for the coming day’s work.
Don’t be afraid of alcohol either. In moderation alcohol reduces stress, enhances blood flow and oxygen to the brain and has a variety of positive effects. Now, just because we said this, if you show up to work drunk or hung over don’t come crying to us about it.