Good nutrition provides us with the energy and nutrients we need to excel in whatever we do, as well as to improve our personal wellbeing. We all know that eating the right foods contributes to our physical health but research into our biochemistry has linked poor nutrition with increased stress, anxiety and depression as well.
So, eating well improves our mental as well as our physical health. When you think that 70 million work days were lost in the UK in 2019 due to mental health issues, at a cost to employers of £2.4 billion*, it stands to reason that employers should be invested in what their employees are eating.
Prioritising good nutrition is critical for improved focus, productivity, stamina…and ultimately reaching our performance potential. This shouldn’t be so hard to achieve – everyone loves food after all and planning healthy meals might come more readily to you than attempting to practice mindfulness.
Here, then, are some top nutrition tips for boosting your performance in the workplace:
Top tips for workplace nutrition
Preparing nutritious meals ahead of time will free up headspace so that you can concentrate on your tasks for the day. There’s a reason Steve Jobs used to wear the same black jumper every day – that’s one less decision to make.
All carbohydrates are broken down to glucose. Glucose is your brain’s favourite energy source. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly and cause your blood sugar levels to spike and subsequently to crash, which is why people can feel sleepy after eating. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, release glucose slowly into the bloodstream and provide a long-lasting, steady supply of fuel for our brains. The brain works best with approximately 25g of glucose in the bloodstream, which just so happens to be the average amount of glucose in a banana. So, stick to fibrous fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes for example.
Processed foods are often created to make you eat as much as possible without feeling full. In other words, they are not satiating. So opt for whole foods and make sure you consume a good portion of each macronutrient: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Whole foods also provide a wide array of micronutrients: vitamins, minerals and fibre. Here are some examples of whole foods you can add to your meal prep to keep your body and mind healthy and functioning at its best:
Oily fish: Mackerel or salmon are the richest sources of omega-3. This is a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) which is the ‘healthiest’ form of dietary fat. Diets rich in fish containing omega-3 have been linked to improved concentration and memory.
Eggs: the yolk contains a fat-like B vitamin called choline. This choline promotes the release of certain neurotransmitters which helps improve our memory and reaction times.
Blueberries: Research suggests the flavonoids (a form of antioxidant) present in blueberries might aid memory, learning, decision making, numerical ability as well as many other cognitive functions.
Aubergine: In the deep purple skin of an aubergine you will find a phytonutrient called nasunin. It is this plant-based compound that contains powerful antioxidant properties, which protect the membranes of our brain cells.
Water is probably the most underrated nutrient there is. Your hydration requirements depend on individual body size and composition, as well as how much water you lose either through sweating from exercise or high temperatures for example. Around 2.5 litres for men and 2 litres for women daily is a good starting point but that doesn’t mean you need to drink 2 litres of just water. It’s the total amount of fluid that counts. The fluid in your coffee, but also fluid in food counts towards this total.
When it comes to optimal performance, whether physical or mental, nutrition will always play a key role. Fuel your body with the right foods and adopt certain habits to put you in the best possible position to smash your tasks for the day, week and year ahead!
*Mental Health Foundation
Sophie is head of nutrition at Fast Fitness food, is a qualified nutritionist, and holds a BSC in psychology.
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