5 Ways What you Eat Can Improve your Productivity, Performance, & Energy at Work

When I presented this topic to a local company, I started by asking, "How many of you tend to feel an afternoon slump? Maybe you start to feel a drop in your energy around say, 2 or 3 o'clock?"

For some reason, I expected just a handful of hands to go up. To my surprise, every single hand in the room went up, many with a chuckle, implying 'ah yeah. of course.'.

Energy seems to come up in many of my counseling sessions. Some know right off the bat that they feel tired throughout the day, they're running on caffeine or don't have energy by the time they get home. Others don't seem to notice a lack of energy until they improve their eating habits and all of a sudden don't know where all their energy came from. A boost in energy is a huge reason people report just 'feeling better'. Feeling energized, feels good, doesn't it? And it often ties back to food. 

There are many reasons you may feel the afternoon slump. It could be stress related, a lack of sleep, limited exercise, boredom, and even your food choices. But wellness is a cycle. Sleep, stress, nutrition, fitness, mental health - they're all connected. When we take care of ourselves in one area, we tend to take better care of ourselves in other areas too. The opposite is true to. When we neglect one area, other areas can fall by the wayside. Have you noticed when you exercise you want to eat healthier food? Or when you're stressed or tired do you tend to eat more or crave greasy, sugary foods? 

Below are 5 ways to boost your energy with nutrition, scroll all the way down for 9 nutrients to boost brain power and prevent fatigue.


1. Get Enough Fuel

A lot of busy people tend to skip meals. Some do this intentionally because they think it will help them lose weight, while others get caught up in meetings and to-do lists all day long. I would recommend you try not to do this.

Your brain needs a constant supply of glucose and fat. Glucose (sugar/carbohydrates) are used for a quick source of energy. Fat provides a a more sustained source of energy because it is not broken down as quickly as carbohydrates. Fat also provides the most energy per gram and therefore goes to the brain and heart first before tackling it's other responsibilities.

Undereating

lunch at work

When your body isn't getting enough fuel (i.e. you skip meals or restrict your intake) your body is working to conserve the energy it has, making you feel tired.

Overeating

On the other hand, overeating also makes the body work harder causing you to feel lethargic. Heavy, dense, or greasy meals may make you feel like this. Have you noticed?

What you can do

Start by eating something for breakfast. It sets the tone for the whole day. Even if it's an energy bar as you run out the door, a banana in the car, or a yogurt at your desk - give your brain a boost of energy right off the bat.

Get something in mid-day for lunch. Again, this does not need to be an elaborate sit down meal (although actually taking a break and clearing your mind can also improve productivity), but whatever you have time (or make time) for will work. Pack peanut butter crackers, an apple and string cheese, a sandwich, or leftovers for something easy to keep you fueled.

 

2. Stay Hydrated

flavored water

Dehydration can make you feel tired or cause headaches. Keep a water bottle with you during the day, especially during warmer weather or if you're an especially sweaty person. Aim for 8 8oz glasses per day. If you don't like water, try sparkling or flavored water or try adding fresh or frozen fruit.

 

 

 

3. Limit Alcohol

alcohol and productivity

Alcohol decreases the effectiveness of neurotransmitters and blocks oxygen from getting into cells. While research is a bit mixed as to how alcohol consumption effects our brain health long term; a 2017 study showed that those who drink, even moderately, have smaller hippocampi than non drinkers. Drinking can also affect sleep quality, which is huge for productivity!

 

4. Use Caffeine Wisely

Current science shows that we can safely consume 3-4 cups of coffee per day. However, caffeine affects everyone differently and research is still mixed on how it can affect our long term health.

Caffeine can temporarily enhance your memory, alertness, and cognitive function, but it also suppresses your appetite. When you're feeling tired and reach for another cup of coffee, your body may actually be asking for fuel. Sometimes a snack or meal is really the boost of energy your body needs. When the caffeine wears off, you often still feel tired and possibly even more hungry.

Caffeinated drinks also often carry other added ingredients, like cream, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or processed ingredients. Many of these ingredients can spike your blood sugar and energy temporarily but cause a crash in energy shortly after.

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5. Choose Whole Foods & A Balanced Diet

When we feel that afternoon slump, we often go for 'airy' types of snacks. But, things like chips, cookies, and pretzels can just leave us feeling more hungry.

By combining these snacks you crave with another food group or a good source of fiber, protein, or healthy fat will slow the digestion, stabilize your blood sugar, and boost your energy and brain power. Choose carrots and hummus, whole grain crackers and guacamole, slices of cheese with grapes or an apple, or Greek yogurt with berries. They key is to combine two food groups for a more filling, satisfying, and nutritious snack.

balanced plate

 

9 Nutrients to Boost Brain Power and Prevent Fatigue:

Magnesium
for relaxation and stress relief
almonds, cashews, spinach


Omega-3s
for brain power
fatty fish, ground flaxseed, chia seeds


Antioxidants
for brain power
berries, nuts, fish, beans, darker colored fruits & veggies


Fiber
can stabilize blood sugar and increase satisfaction and satiety
whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans

Unsaturated Fats
can stabilize blood sugar and increase satisfaction and satiety
avocado, olives, olive oil, nut butters, nuts, seeds

Protein
can stabilize blood sugar and increase satisfaction and satiety
nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, meat, dairy, soy

Folate
for nervous system function and messages
found in dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, lentils


Choline
for nervous system function and messages
egg yolks, wheat germ, scallops, chicken, broccoli, peanuts


Iron
sends oxygen to the brain and provides energy
beans, lentils, spinach, meat

White Bean & Artichoke Hummus

Guest post by Joey Bruno of ThriveCuisine.com.

 
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This white bean and artichoke hummus is perfect for a quick weekday lunch, snack, or as a crowd-pleasing appetizer and takes only a few minutes to prepare.


It is great for…

  • Spreading on bread or pita
  • Dipping celery, carrot sticks, or other veggies
  • Using on a sandwich as a more nutrient-dense alternative to mayo.

I often double or triple this recipe to prep for a few days. If you are making multiple batches I would suggest using a blender or food processor. Both countertop and handheld blenders work great. You can see my reviews and recommendations for countertop blenders here and handheld blenders here. For a single batch, you can use a potato masher or fork and leave extra chunks if you would like.

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Ingredients

1 16 oz can white beans (Cannellini or great northern), drained and rinsed
Juice from ½ of a lemon
1 clove of garlic (roasted if you'd like)
1 16 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 Tbsp tahini (optional)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)*
Salt and pepper to taste

*Note: Nutritional yeast is often used as a vegan alternative to cheese and is a good source of vitamin B12 (good for energy and brain function!). You can often substitute nutritional yeast with parmesan cheese.

 

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients except artichoke hearts in a blender or food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, leaving some chunks for texture if you would like.
  3. Add the artichoke hearts and pulse just a few times. This will ensure that they have some texture and won’t get liquified.

*Note: If you’re using a hand blender or potato masher, simply add all the ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl and mash to your desired consistency. It will take a bit more elbow grease and will be less smooth than your typical hummus but is just as delicious.

 

About the guest blogger:

Joey has a passion for making healthy and simple plant-based meals taste good. He also has an obsession with dips, smoothie bowls, and "nice cream". In his free time, he likes writing for ThriveCuisine.com, playing hockey, and practicing martial arts.

 

French Onion Soup Sliders with 'Au Jus' Dipping Sauce

Disclosure: I received free samples of Sabra mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Sabra and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


I've been loving hummus lately. I've mostly be using it as a snack with peppers and carrots so I was excited for this contest to try using it more creative ways. Sabra has a ton of different flavors, all of which are absolutely delicious. This recipe uses the caramelized onion flavor which is probably one of my favorites.

The dipping sauce mimics French Onion Soup broth and adds the perfect amount of moisture and salt. Technically 'au jus' is a sauce made with meat drippings, but I much prefer simple recipes so this recipe simply uses store-bought beef broth.

 
french onion soup burgers
 

These sliders are seriously delicious. They work great as sliders for a smaller meal or appetizer or as burgers for something a littler bigger. The Sabra Caramelized Onion Hummus is absolutely amazing and complements the burger so nicely.

 
caramelized onion burgers
 

Yield: 6 sliders (or 4 burgers)

Ingredients:

hummus burgers

Caramelized Onions:
1 onion, sliced thinly
1.5 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup low sodium beef broth

Burgers:
1 lb grass fed ground beef
1/4 cup Sabra Caramelized Onion Hummus

Au Jus Dipping Sauce:
3 cups low sodium beef broth
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
2.5 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup sherry

Toppings:
6 small burger buns for sliders (or cut regular sized buns in half)
4 oz gruyere cheese, sliced thinly
6 Tbsp Sabra Caramelized Onion Hummus
lettuce or other toppings of choice
caramelized onions and au jus dipping sauce from above

Directions:

Caramelized Onions:

1. Heat a medium sized non stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, butter, thyme, and brown sugar. After 15 minutes, add 1/4 cup beef broth to help prevent sticking. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until soft in texture and golden in color.

Burgers:

2. While the onions are cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef with 1/4 cup hummus. Mix with your hands.

4. Shape the beef mixture into 6 small, 2-inch wide patties. Place on baking sheet.

5. Bake for 8 minutes then flip to the other side.

6. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked through or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. With about 2 minutes left, add a slice of cheese to each burger.

Au Jus Dipping Sauce:

7. While the burgers are cooking, heat the beef broth in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat.

8. Add the soy sauce, garlic powder, and sherry. Add the flour 1/2 Tbsp at a time and whisk until combined.

9. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low to keep warm until serving.

Serve:

10. When the onions, burgers, and sauce are ready, compile the sliders with hummus on either side of each bun, caramelized onions, and any other toppings you choose. Pour dipping sauce in small serving dishes to dip burgers in. Enjoy!

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