We’d all like to be able to get our work done faster, earn more money, and move up the career ladder. But it turns out that our diet can hamper progress.
You’ve heard the expression, “you are what you eat.” And it turns out that there might be a degree of truth in that, not just in a practical sense, but also concerning what you do for a living.
Diet plays a more prominent role than most people imagine. It’s not just a case of calories in, calories out. Food determines much more than that, especially over the long term. For years, nutrition was viewed by leading researchers in a reductionist way. Many scientists would adamantly assert that once a glucose molecule was in the bloodstream, it was identical to any other, and so the type of food that we eat doesn’t really matter. Everything is converted to glucose, and that’s the end of the story.
But as science has progressed, more nuanced views have come to the fore. It’s now known, for instance, that the phytochemicals in plants can reduce insulin spikes, keeping us healthier for longer. It’s also known that other nutrients in food, besides glucose, can have a positive effect on our gut flora which in turn can reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life.
Today we’re interested in how your diet can affect your work, and not always for the better. Here’s what you need to know.
Diet Affects Your Sleep Cycle
You might think that the time you go to bed and wake up is independent of your diet, but a quick look at the nutrition literature quickly puts that myth to rest. It turns out that what and when you eat makes a big difference to how well you sleep. And, of course, the quality of your sleep determines your productive potential at work.
Eating a salty diet can impair sleep. The reason for this is that higher blood pressure in the blood vessels around the brain forces brain cells into a more active state, making restful sleep more difficult. Salty diets can also lead to waking up in the night to go to the toilet because of the need to excrete it. Interrupted sleep is rarely as restful as sleeping right the way through.
The timing of your meals can make a difference too. People who eat right before bedtime actually have poorer sleep than those who eat a few hours before. The reasons for this are not well understood, but it’s believed that eating late signals to the body that it needs to prepare for more physical activity.
Diet Can Impair Self Control
People put a lot of effort into their careers, spending hours every day working hard to make the money they need to live. They’ll go to great lengths to get the job that they want, spending lots of time in education, training for the right position and spend hours going through their own CV, even using a diploma maker to ensure that they have everything a future employer could want.
But overall, far less attention is paid to that other pillar of a successful life: health. It’s one of those enduring mysteries to people in the nutrition coaching business. Bad diets and bad careers often go hand in hand.
For many people at work, the main issue is poor glucose control. The western diet – a diet high in sugar, animal products, and processed junk food – is not the diet we evolved eating. It leads to huge spikes in blood glucose levels, followed by extreme insulin response which tends to overcompensate, leaving us with low blood sugar and feeling lethargic.
Low blood sugar levels are dangerous for your career. The reason is that they can impair self-control — something every worker needs to do their job well.
Low blood sugar is particularly damaging for people who do cognitive work. Writers, scientists, accountants, managers, and creatives can all suffer when their brain doesn’t have the sugar it needs to function. In many ways, the brain is unique. It’s the only organ in the body that requires sugar to function. All other cells can live off ketones, a type of energy metabolism derived from fat. When blood sugar is low, the body must create new sugar for the brain from fat, an energy-intensive and inefficient process which can leave you feeling tired and drained.
The solution to low blood sugar levels is to improve the quality of your diet. You want to avoid anything that could cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Your aim should be to eat in a way that keeps blood sugar levels constant.
Science shows that oatmeal is an excellent breakfast for weekday mornings because of the unique properties of oat fiber. Oat fiber creates a gel-like substance when it hits the stomach and small intestine, keeping you feeling full and slowing the rate at which sugars get absorbed into the bloodstream.
Combining oats with flax and berries slows down gastric emptying even more while providing a steady influx of sugar to keep your brain active and healthy.
For lunch, you want to avoid sandwiches and other foods containing refined carbohydrates (like donuts, cakes, croissants, baked goods, sausage rolls, and fizzy drinks). Instead, choose beans, vegetables, and whole, intact grains, like brown rice, quinoa, and spelt.
Diet Can Make You Sleepy At Work
Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, the hormone in our brains that tells us to sleep. Foods that spike insulin are problematic because insulin upregulates the body’s production of tryptophan which then causes the release of more serotonin. The last thing you want at work is an uncontrollable urge to nap, so it’s best to avoid any foods that spike insulin.
Although carbohydrates do spike insulin, they’re not the only foods that do so. In fact, a piece of steak causes insulin to rise more than a bowl of oats. And when you eat animal foods in combination with refined carbohydrates, studies show that insulin levels go through the roof.
The solution? Eat whole foods whenever possible.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life