Sarah McGrath, Nutritional Therapist at Body Balance Nutrition, provides tips on how simple diet changes can help to stabilise your energy levels for improved performance in the workplace.
Healthy eating is something we all know we should be doing, but with a hectic work and home life, this is often easier said than done. However, by not adopting a healthy eating mind-set, you are making life – and work – more difficult for yourself in the long run.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel fatigued when you wake?
- Are you bloated and de-motivated?
- Are you tired at 3pm?
- Do you struggle to sleep?
- Do you find you have brain fogginess and an inability to focus?
- Are you sleepy after a meal with more than half a plate of carbohydrates?
- Do you find yourself procrastinating over picking up the phone to make that all important sales call?
If you can relate to these points then it is possible you have a deranged metabolism resulting from an insulin – in other words blood sugar – imbalance.
So what do we mean by ‘blood sugar’? It is simply the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Whilst glucose is the main fuel molecule used by the body to give us our energy, too much or too little at any one time can cause a number of health issues.
This blog post will focus on the end result – lack of energy, de-motivation, elevated stress levels and general feebleness. For sales and insurance professionals in general, this is not ideal when you are trying to hit targets, handle extra work loads and dig deep to find motivation.
How does this happen?
When eating a breakfast or lunch that is loaded with carbohydrates, our intelligent and resilient bodies digest these carbs in the digestive tract (stomach and intestines) by various enzymes for absorption into the blood stream. It takes around an hour or two for the digestive system carrying out its part of the deal, breaking down the carbohydrate meal into its digestible (monosaccharide) molecule form – or as we commonly know it, glucose or sugar, the form in which we get our energy.
Your blood stream is now loaded with glucose after a heavy carbohydrate meal, which then activates and releases a hormone called Insulin. This wonderful and also hindering hormone senses the heavy load of glucose and removes it from the blood, storing it in our cells (to make energy) and muscles.
If our cells and muscles are full from overeating and reaching our quota then in come the fat cells, particularly fat cells around our waist as that is where our vital organs are located. This sudden shift of glucose can result in you having no energy half way through your working day.
Now you are faced with the 3pm slump, feeling quite de-motivated. This is a very general explanation but hopefully it paints a picture.
How do you fix this?
There are a number of ways you can counteract the 3pm slump and boost your energy throughout the day.
1. Eat foods low on the glycaemic index
These foods release energy (glucose) slowly into the bloodstream. You can probably guess what they consist of:
- some fruits (the darker in colour the better)
- whole grains
- meat, poultry and fish.
2. Include a snack in between main meals (only if you feel you need to)
This will allow you to stay nice and stable throughout the day, avoiding those slumps and becoming too hungry, however you don’t want to over eat or to eat just for the sake of it. Protein rich and quality fats are best. Eating every three hours can be a good start.
3. Eat protein with each meal
This can benefit your energy levels when you eat carbohydrates, as protein is harder to digest making the release of energy more stable. Protein is the most satiating macro-nutrient, meaning it releases energy slowly, which helps signal to the brain that you are full.
Quality sources include lean meats and poultry preferably not out of a packet, any wild fish, nuts, seeds and legumes for those who prefer not to eat meat.
4. Eat breakfast
Make sure it includes protein and healthy fats. These satiating macro-nutrients are sure to keep your blood sugars stable and help prevent you from feeling weak and irritable and prompting us to reach for sugary foods.
5. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
These are the main culprits of blood sugar spikes. They include white foods that have been stripped of their fibre. Examples of these are white bread, white rolls, large white pasta dishes and sugary snacks.
When eating grains choose those high in fibre. These include – whole grain foods, rye, spelt, buckwheat and any grain dark in colour. Whole grains are harder for the body to break down and offer an array of nutrients including B Vitamins which are required to make energy in the body.
6. Avoid sugar filled drinks
These are filled with sugars, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, which can lead to a hormonal imbalance and blood sugar spike. Don’t fall victim to effective marketing, read the labels be mindful that anything over 5g of sugar per serving is moving away from low sugar foods. Also, if you don’t understand the ingredients you can be sure it is not that good for you.
7. Reduce stimulants.
Caffeine, nicotine, and even alcohol all cause our blood sugar to rise due to a spike in adrenaline.