Your body needs fuel.
Crap in = crap out. Well, technically everything you put in = crap out, but you know what I mean.
If you put lots of processed food (or God forbid the current most vilified product – sugar) into your body you will be functioning at sub-optimal physical and mental performance. You’re not giving yourself the chance to operate at full capacity.
I don’t mean running a mile in under 6:30, I mean those mid-afternoon energy slumps. Those lethargic starts to the day where it’s 10am before you really wake up and get going. Those meetings or conference calls where you struggle to maintain your focus and attention on the task at hand.
If this sounds familiar it could well be down to your diet. What you put into your body has a direct impact on your energy, mood, stamina and focus to name a few.
We all want to be better versions of ourselves. To improve on yesterday. To make gains and progress. If you’ve been struggling with this recently it could be down to your diet and / or eating habits.
I found myself talking to a colleague Paul Skeggs about this quite a lot recently so we decided to write a post about it. This is what he said:
A normal day for me used to be a very light breakfast at 5:30am, and then nothing until about 12 – that’s seven hours between eating. By 12 I was already feeling the slowdown, so I’d eat a big lunch, leaving me feeling bloated, then top up with sugary snacks during the afternoon before an evening meal at about 7pm. But by the time the evening meal came around I had zero energy so I’d take an easy option and do something quick and unhealthy just because I was hungry.
In short I used to eat what I wanted (usually crap), when I wanted, with no real structure or thought.
I’ve recently taken to seeing a personal trainer to help me with my goal to lose weight, and as a result I’ve been set the challenge of looking at my diet and specifically increasing my protein intake. After I got over the initial thoughts of “fad” and “gym bunny advice” I’ve been really paying attention to what I’m eating, and more importantly when.
Out went the snacks of chocolates, crisps, and soft drinks. In came protein shakes, nuts, beef jerky, chicken pieces, fruit and water. I’m a really fussy eater, but surprisingly I find myself spoilt for choice.
I find myself feeling fuller for longer and I get to the end of day still alert.
Now a typical day looks like this, breakfast (usually eggs and bacon) at 5:30, a juice and a handful of nuts at around 8:30. Lunch at 12 – rotisserie chicken, spinach with sage and onion stuffing, followed by a protein snack or fruit at 2, and protein shake at 5 before heading home. Dinner is usually around half 7, and will be steak, chicken or fish with steamed veg and rice. All this and my calorie intake is about 2100 per day.
How easy is it to make these sorts of changes? It’s taken me a while to get to this point. Small changes over a period of weeks, and I’ve had to get used to green things like spinach, kale and broccoli. But you know what, once you get over the initial assault on your taste buds, it’s not so bad.
This has had a clear impact on me in several ways.
I’m making progress in losing inches where it count
I can see through a long day without flagging mid-afternoon (where once a sugar craving would kick in)
My energy levels in the gym have increased in leaps
As Paul has seen, making small changes can make a big difference, but poor eating habits are incredibly commonplace in office environments. We see it everyday, so here’s our top 11 tips to help you improve your diet at work…
1. Avoid vending machines – you’ll never find anything healthy or that will fill you up for long, only stuff that will cause a short term spike in your blood sugar, followed by the inevitable low, followed by the craving for more sugar.
If like me you work in a cashless office and everything is done via your access card then avoid temptation by not putting any credit on it.
2. Find a healthy snack you like and enjoy – there are plenty of options out there, fruit (fresh or dried), veg, nuts, seeds, Biltong (The Naked Ape is my favourite), Loveraw organic bars (use this code for a 15% discount), Quest bars. You might notice lots of these contain high protein content, as was the advice Paul got from his trainer – but what’s the big deal with protein?
Protein is a vital part of your diet. Proteins are used to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve important physiological functions. Protein also supports muscle growth, reduces hunger and helps you to lose weight.
Read this to find out more about the importance of protein in your diet.
3. Drink water – not only is this incredibly good for you in general, but it also helps to fight off hunger (a little bit). Here’s my favourite water infographic.
4. Plan ahead (Part I) – You need to make those afternoons where lunch gets delayed and delayed to the point where it becomes dinner a thing of the past. The easiest way to do this is to plan ahead. Check tomorrow’s calendar before you leave the office each day, if you notice you have consecutive meetings from 11am till 2pm then buy your lunch in the morning on the way in or prepare it the night before and take it with you. Stock up on those snacks you like so that there is always one to hand in your drawer when you need one. This is my drawer – I think I got this one covered…!
5. Create a positive eating habits routine – Block time out and set reminders in your calendar to make sure you get a break to actually eat. Don’t be afraid to decline a meeting if it counts towards your work/life balance.
6. Take part in a challenge. The Whole life challenge. One of the 7 pillars of this short eight week ‘game of life’ is nutrition. It encourages you to stick to a diet plan of foods you can eat as much as you like and those you should try and avoid. You gain and loose points depending on how well you do, which count towards your final score, but aside from the game you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your eating habits along the way too. (The next challenge starts on May 2nd – if you are interested let me know and I’ll join with you and set up a team so we can support each other).
7. Make conscious choices – have a plan in mind and then stick to it. Before you cook, buy, order or eat any food, be aware of whether it fits with the plan or not. It doesn’t have to (we all need a cheat day every now and then) but make it a conscious choice.
8. Plan ahead (Part II) – Team lunches don’t have to be unhealthy. The best way to mitigate making bad choices is to go online and view the menu before you get there and make a choice about what you’re going to have (and what you are not going to have). Most places have healthier options. Nando’s have the butterfly chicken and sweet potato mash.What about Wagamama? Enjoy one of their fresh juices instead of a fizzy drink. Nothing wrong with enjoying a nice big GBK once in a while, but go easy on the fries and milkshakes. Remember – small changes add up over time to make a big difference.
9. Put a lid on it. Here’s an experiment that Google did recently. The M&Ms in their New York office used to be in baskets. So instead they put them in bowls with lids. The lid doesn’t require a lot of effort to lift but it reduced the number of M&Ms consumed in their New York office by 3 million a month…
10. Put physical distance between you and temptation. How? If someone puts sweets at the end of you row of desks, pick it up and move it (although wait for them to finish first). Psychologist Brian Wansink (who specialises in nutrition and food research) found that:
People ate half as much if we simply moved the candy dish off their desk and placed it six feet away.
P.S. Did you know one sweet from a box of Celebrations is almost 50 calories!!! Also, eat one and you’re just restarting the perpetual cycle created by sugar consumption.
11. Don’t feed the beast. You will probably have cause to celebrate something one day whilst you’re at work. A birthday, a project release, whatever it is this is an opportunity to show a positive example and buy something other than doughnuts. Whenever people have bought fruit and/ or nuts in as the ‘treat’ they get eaten just as quick (if not a bit quicker) than the artificial sludge that is more commonplace. Don’t feel the need to conform.
I hope these tips help you to understand how to improve your diet at work. To help and encourage you to become better than yesterday.
If you want to educate yourself better about nutrition then check out http://authoritynutrition.com this guy has millions of followers, knows his stuff and writes in a really casual easy to read manner.
Have a great week – and don’t forget to let me know if you want to join the team for the whole life challenge.