Our co-founder Ruth ran a workshop for the Women’s Leadership Network at Mastercard this month on ‘Optimum foods for optimum health and performance’. She shares her top 5 tips for eating to fuel your body and mind in a busy workday.
1. Eat regularly – when you’re stressed your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is linked to weight gain (especially around the middle), sugar spikes, inflammation in the body (why digestive and skin issues often flare up when we’re stressed) and in the long term is linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes risk. Skipping meals spikes cortisol by putting the body into a ‘stress zone’. On top of this, people who are mentally stressed often forget to eat regularly – so it’s a double cortisol whammy. Eat every four hours and choose a low-sugar, high protein snack like a handful of almonds or a Greek yogurt.
2. Watch the caffeine ☕️- We often think that another cup of coffee will help to keep us alert and at the top of our game during the workday. And to a certain extent caffeine does boost alertness. But the downside is that like with sugar, the high is short lived and is followed by a quick slump. Caffeine also increases cortisol levels in the body – not great for inflammation, weight management, and sleeping patterns. On top of this, caffeine stays in your bloodstream for between 8-10 hours – so that mid afternoon coffee will still be floating around when you’re trying to get to sleep at 11pm! Limit yourself to two caffeinated drinks a day and have them before lunchtime. Don’t forget green tea still contains caffeine – although slightly less than black tea and coffee. Filter coffee can have around four times the amount of caffeine as instant coffee.
3. Bin the booze ????- OK, we’re not saying completely but if you’re looking to perform at your best in a pitch, a meeting or simply needing to get through a long working day then being hungover isn’t a wise plan. Studies have shown that people make 30% more errors on mental tasks when hungover, and memory decreases by 10%.
4. Don’t skip the carbs in the evening if you’re struggling to sleep ????– You may’ve been told that if you eat carbs in the evening they are miraculously transported directly to your outer thighs or tummy. WRONG. Calories are calories whatever time of day you eat them. And if you’re struggling with sleep it may be that you need more carbohydrate in the evening to help your body produce the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps to regulate sleep.
5. Boost your brain with fat ????????- Did you know our brains are almost 60% fat? So it makes sense that to keep them firing on all cylinders we need to eat enough fat. The healthy fats found in avocadoes, nuts, seeds and oily fish have been linked to memory, speaking ability and performance. Make your day full of healthy fats by adding some linseed or chia to your breakfast, snacking on dark chocolate brazil nuts (yum), having salmon at lunch and whipping up a guacamole to go with your dinner.