In the world of tech innovation, the focus of our activity in the workplace is largely cognitive. So much of our work is done on devices that only require the movement of our fingers, yet our tasks often require our fullest concentration. For long hours, day after day, we rely on the brain’s ability to process information, come up with ideas, solve problems, make decisions, and analyze results.
The brain can’t be charged via usb! It needs fuel, and the most central source of that fuel comes in the form of the food we eat. It’s important to remember that even when deadlines are looming over us, paying attention to what we eat, and how, will only make us more productive in the short run, and healthier in general.
The internet is flooded with opinions about what type of diet is the healthiest, so let’s not even go there. Food is very subjective. It comes down to trial and error to see which changes you can make to your eating habits to maximize your concentration at work, and improve your overall wellbeing.
The Power of H2O
Let’s start with the basics – stay hydrated! The importance of drinking enough water during the day can’t be over-emphasized. Experiments in nutrition have shown that not drinking enough water can have an adverse effect on the brain’s executive functions such as planning ahead and processing visual-spatial information.
Enjoy Your Meal
Here’s another simple tip, but one that many of us are guilty of not following. The pace of work can often make it hard to actually sit down and enjoy your food. Quick takeout meals in front of a laptop should be the exception, not the rule. When you take the time to sit down and be present while you eat, you’re more likely to feel recharged and refreshed afterwards, ready to get back to it. You’re also more likely to eat at a pace that suits your body, and prevent overeating.
No, an Americano isn’t Breakfast
Another habit that’s all too common is skipping breakfast. How dare you! The morning rush can be a huge distraction, overshadowing the necessity of getting those vital morning nutrients. Find a solution that is quick yet nutritious enough to get your metabolism off to a good start. A delicious and vitamin-packed smoothie is always a good option, but there are lots of others. Here’s a list of quick and healthy breakfast ideas to get you started.
A/B Test Your Stomach
If you feel you could do better with your choices of food, but you’re not sure where to start, then getting more information about your eating habits could really help. There are a lot of apps available that can help you keep track of your daily eating behavior. While some food-tracking apps are focused on weight loss, they can still be used as a general tool for monitoring what you eat. Some of the more sophisticated food-monitoring apps out there are Cronometer, Yazio, Kudolife, and Eatright, but there are lots more so just experiment until you find one that works for you.
Some foods are particularly good at boosting mental ability. For example, always opt for whole grains whether it be rice, cereal, bread or pasta. Whole grains release glucose, the brain’s primary source of energy, more gradually and steadily into the bloodstream, helping you maintain mental focus for longer periods of time.
Other foods known for their ability to boost mental performance are blueberries, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, sage, nuts, blackcurrants, tomatoes, and anything with the B6 and B12 vitamins or folic acid.
Remember that beyond food, other aspects of your daily routine will greatly affect how you feel and perform at work. Sleep is of course extremely important, as is exercise. Pay attention to what your body needs as well as your mind, and let mealtimes become an important part of how you energize yourself, not just tasks to tick off your daily list.