The best foods for a productivity boost
Sometimes it can seem like feeling tired, uninspired and lethargic is just part of the deal of being an adult. But this doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re struggling to stay motivated and productive, adopting a few simple nutrition habits can raise those productivity levels and give you the energy you need to make it through the day. According to dietitian and performance nutritionist Tara Kaff, by adopting a handful of small lifestyle changes, you can “hack” your body’s energy levels. This will allow you to be more focused, with better brain function. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s how you fuel them that counts.
The right fuel matters
When you eat poorly, you’re subject to a range of issues that can seriously impact your overall productivity. If you’re feeling tired, suffer from “brain fog”, find yourself procrastinating or get stressed out easily, you might want to take a look at your diet.
One of the biggest energy-hacking lessons around food is how various ingredients enter your brain through your bloodstream. Most of what we eat is broken down to glucose, which is the fuel that keeps our brains awake and alert. So, at different times of the day, you’ll have differing glucose levels in your blood. Kind of like petrol in a car. Certain foods, like refined grain products or sugary snacks, release glucose quickly. Others, like whole grains and fruits and vegies, do so more slowly and sustainably. When it comes to making it through the workday, the latter is what you should be aiming for.
So how do you start eating for productivity? Read on for Kaff’s dietary hacking tips that’ll keep your brain activity and energy levels firing on all cylinders all day long.
It all starts with breakfast
Too many people deprive themselves of a good morning meal. But if you skip breakfast or start the day with something convenient but nutrient poor, this is only setting you up for a mid-morning slump. Having a nutrient-packed breakfast essentially serves as a catalyst for your body and brain. For starters, it kickstarts your metabolism, which is responsible for the speed at which your body and brain perform. Kaff recommends eating a good protein source like eggs, as well as leafy greens and wholegrain bread or oats.
While coffee will always have its place, if you want a pick-me-up that lasts, you need something that will sustain you throughout the day. The brain needs very specifically portioned amounts of food to function at its peak. For instance, too much refined sugar will give you a spike that rapidly declines into a crash. But eating slow-releasing complex carbs and healthy sources of fats and protein will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This will help you avoid a slump, and also provides your brain with a sustained source of energy. Kaff recommends making your three daily meals a bit smaller and then adding in two very specific, healthy snacks to keep your brain plugging away at full speed. Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats for proper brain activity and lots of energy. Fruits are a great source of “good” carbohydrates, AKA the brain’s favourite source of energy.
Drinking green tea is beneficial for your brain, bones, skin and heart. Given the amount of caffeine in green tea is much lower than what you’ll get from coffee, you’ll enjoy some of the benefits without the unpleasant side effects, like the jitters. Green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been found to help reduce stress and boost your mood. Research also shows that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine improves brain function by strengthening working memory and attention and reducing anxiety. Kaff recommends the Green Tea X50 formula, which provides a source of clean energy, boosts your metabolism and even has added resveratrol for anti-ageing properties.
Never be without water
Water is the source of life, literally. Dehydration causes lethargy, sluggishness and an inability to focus and concentrate. Our body needs plenty of water to distribute nutrients through the bloodstream to our body parts, including the brain. So have a glass of water with every meal. And never leave home without a (reusable) bottle of water. Keep it with you at your desk at work, and take a sip every time you open an email. One UK study found that drinking an adequate amount of water can increase productivity by 14 percent.
Foods for brain power
When it comes to specific foods that transform you into a productive powerhouse, you should build a meal plan that includes these brain-boosting foods:
1. Oily fish: fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential in brain function and development.
2. Dark chocolate: a little goes a long way! Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants that slow down cognitive decline.
3. Blueberries: studies have shown that these small but mighty berries can actually delay brain ageing. They also improve memory and learning, and provide a mood boost.
4. Broccoli: packed with powerful plant compounds and antioxidants, broccoli is also high in vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin has been found to boost memory and brain function.
5. Eggs: egg yolks are a good source of choline. This essential nutrient is associated with reducing inflammation and promoting brain function, such as maintaining memory and communication between brain cells. Eggs are also high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that’s a building block of serotonin — the “happy hormone”.
For more on how the right foods and drinks can help you power through the day, check out this advice on food and mood. For a productive day, you also need a good night’s sleep. So check out this advice on what to eat for a refreshing night’s kip.