By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
A major deadline is about to hit, you have been working all day and now into the night. With all this craziness you have only stopped to grab the next cup of coffee or a muffin from your local cafe before you get right back to the grind.
This may feel exhilarating at first, but it isn’t going to create peak performance and help you stay productive.
Consider this, your mind is a muscle, it is a professional athlete in the creative and business world. Like all pros, you need to take care of yourself, recover, and yes, be fueled properly.
Yep, you heard me put that candy bar down right now.
The next time you are tempted to neglect your nutrition consider these three ways it will impact your performance and how to combat it during times of stress.
1. Productivity will take a hit.
A typical breakfast consists of cereal, toast, muffins and fruit. But is all that early morning carbohydrate loading going to help you all day?
Research shows that high carbohydrate breakfasts similar to those of a standard America diet cause substantial impact to brain tryptophan levels and serotonin synthesis. What this means is, when you eat a lot of carbohydrates in one sitting your productivity takes a major hit. Your mood and cognition are greatly impacted and lead to fluctuations and reduction in your ability to focus and complete tasks.
That sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it can be fixed by having breakfast with varied nutrients if you spend a little time at the beginning of the week preparing. The more you can do upfront, the less you have to worry as the week rolls on.
Hard boil some eggs and grab a few beneficial fruits from the store. Eggs contain choline a nutrient that improves memory and reaction time while providing protein to your diet. Have these on hand along with a banana. Did you know your brain functions best with 25 mg of glucose circulating, this is about the same amount of what is in a banana.
When you have easy to grab food on hand you are better equipped to make the right choices and stay productive.
2. Self-control goes out of the window.
Don’t make a big work or life decision when you are hungry!
Consuming foods with a high glycemic index value cause blood sugar levels to spike. These spikes send your energy through the roof for a short period of time only to plummet into a deep decline. Not only will you lose energy, but you will quickly be hungry again.
When you are hungry your stomach releases the hormone ghrelin. Research has found that this hormone impacts impulsivity and decision-making capabilities. When you are hungry or consume a food that causes your blood sugar to drop drastically your ability to delay gratification and make the conscious best decision becomes seemingly impossible.
Fill your lunch with rolled oats, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens to get the most nutrients with the lowest glycemic index. This will lead you into the remainder of the day able to make smart decisions with long term gratification and goals in mind.
3. Exhaustion kicks into your daily life.
Dietary patterns impact not only your ability to function productively during the day but also make a major influence on nighttime sleep and recovery. The more you can align your diet with your natural clock and circadian rhythms the better rest and recovery you will receive.
When a late night at the office hits, resist the urge to consume that final cup of coffee, the caffeine half-life will lead long into the hours (five to six) after you drink it putting a damper on your sleep quality. And don’t eat that big meal when you get home before hopping into bed. This is like telling your body it’s time to fuel up and keep going, not wind down to rest.
Research recommends eating the largest meal of the day in the morning to fuel you for the day and to consume milk products, fish and vegetables in the evening to promote higher sleep quality.
It might be tempting to not worry about what you eat when working long hours, but if you can spend a little time each week in preparation and planning your diet will take a major boost, and so will your work performance.
Remember, you are what you eat, and you work how you eat. So do it right!
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