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15 Eating Habits to Make You Stay Productive at Work

15 Eating Habits to Make You Stay Productive at Work

Everyone knows it: staying energetic at work can be a real drag. Only a few hours into your Monday and your eyes are blurry, your back is sore, and you are longing for the weekend once again. While getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy exercise routine both play important parts in daytime productivity, eating habits are crucial as well. By simply avoiding foods that will slow you down, and building eating habits that move you forward, everyone can stay more productive at work. While this may seem like a daunting task, some of the most effective ways to boost your productivity at work are actually incredibly simple changes to make.

Don’t eat junk food

Whether you have a sweet tooth or just have a lot of free snacks around the office, eating junk food is a quick way to lose your alertness at work. Foods that are high in trans and saturated fats will make you feel sluggish, while foods high in sugar will give you a quick energy high, followed by a crash. Despite the fact that sugary and fatty snacks tend to be easy to transport and consume on the go, you are better off eating nutritious foods if you want to stay sharp at work.

Be careful with caffeine

When you start to feel your productivity at work slide, it’s all too easy to reach for a triple espresso, or a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans. Even though it seems counterintuitive, consuming sizable amounts of caffeine can actually make your productivity at work suffer. Much like unhealthy snacks, consuming too much caffeine at once will give you a quick spike in energy, but guarantees a productivity-harming crash. To stay productive all day, it’s better to consume small amounts of caffeine, like the amount in a cup of green tea.

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Eat breakfast every morning

Another foolproof way to keep your energy up at work is to make sure you eat breakfast. Even if you are not someone who is generally hungry in the morning, eating breakfast ensures your body moves out of its sleep-friendly energy-conserving state and into its wakeful daytime state. Even a glass of juice, protein shake, or piece of fruit in the morning is better for your productivity than nothing.

Eat the right foods for breakfast

Now that you are comfortable eating breakfast, make sure you eat the right snacks in the morning. Much like gaining steady energy by eating complex carbohydrates, foods known as low glycemic foods are digested slowly by your body. To fuel up effectively for the rest of your day, eat low glycemic foods for breakfast. In doing so, your body gains a steady source of energy to get you through until lunch.

Eat small, frequent meals

Similarly, eating small, frequent meals is a good way to keep your blood glucose levels constant, which helps you have energy. If you eat infrequently, your body’s blood sugar levels dip excessively low in between meals. When you finally eat, you are more likely to overeat, causing your blood sugar levels to go higher than normal. This yo-yo cycle in your blood sugar makes your energy levels unpredictable. Having low energy at inopportune times will cause a serious dip in your productivity. By eating smaller and more frequent meals, you space out your body’s fuel supply more evenly. By spacing out your meals equally, your energy levels fluctuate less dramatically, so your body stays energized.

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Keep lunch moderate

On a related note, staying productive at work is easier when you eat smaller portion sizes. For example, though many people believe that turkey is to blame for feeling sleepy on Thanksgiving, many scientists agree that it is actually overindulging in our portion sizes that causes the dip. This means that eating a giant lunch, especially while you’re at work, will have a similar effect. If you want to stay productive at work all day, make sure the amount you eat at lunch is moderate.

Don’t eat tryptophan on an empty stomach

Tryptophan is the ingredient in turkey and other poultry responsible for that pesky rumor that Thanksgiving foods, and not their portion sizes, is what causes drowsiness on the holiday. In reality, tryptophan only causes sleepiness when ingested on an empty stomach. For this reason, foods high in tryptophan should be avoided when you haven’t had anything to eat in a while. Foods high in tryptophan include turkey and other poultry, milk and cheese, as well as some fish.

Do eat fruit on an empty stomach

Fruit is uniquely situated to give you long-lasting productivity during your day at work. Fruit contains fiber and complex sugars, which breakdown slower then simple sugars (like those found in candy and junk food). Fruit is also easily digested by the body, which lets you skip the fatigue associated with hard to digest snacks or large portion sizes. When you haven’t had anything to eat in a while, it’s best to reach for a bit of fruit instead of dairy or poultry so your body gets off to the right start.

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Eat whole grains

When you eat carbohydrates that your stomach breaks down quickly, your blood sugar levels will spike, which is always followed by a bottoming out of your energy levels. Multigrain and whole grain carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest, which means the energy you gain from them is spread out over a particularly lengthy amount of time. This steady gain in energy will help you stay productive at work for greater periods of time.

Skip the steak

While you don’t have to cut meat out of your diet entirely, eating less meat for breakfast and lunch can help you be more productive at work. Meat is usually high fat, and is always high-protein, which makes it more strenuous to digest than other foods. It’s perfectly healthy to love meat, but indulging in large portions of meat before and during work could hamper your productivity.

Eat extra omega 3s

Omega 3s are an essential fatty acid found in many nuts, oils, and fatty fishes. These critical ingredients help keep your brain cells thriving, as well as help your body store carbohydrates as energy, rather than fat. Making a special effort to ensure you have enough omega 3s in your diet can help you stay alert at work.

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Hydrate

Not only does drinking enough water help your body to stay healthy, keeping hydrated aids the transport of energy-providing nutrients throughout the body. Not only that, as you grow dehydrated your blood thickens, which forces your heart to pump with difficulty, which makes you feel drained more quickly.

Eat enough fiber

Much like complex carbohydrates, eating enough fiber helps your body to digest food slowly and steadily. This means your energy levels stay uniform, letting you be more productive, more alert, and better prepared for your day.

Avoid drinking to help you sleep

While having a glass of wine before bed might help you nod off initially, alcohol may actually make your sleep less restful. Alcohol affects the way your body metabolizes food, plus it depresses your body’s energy levels. Although this makes it easier to fall asleep, when the alcohol wears off in the middle of the night you might be more prone to waking up. Staying productive at work is tied to getting enough rest, so avoiding alcohol before bed the day prior to work will help you get more efficient sleep.

Fight the afternoon blahs intelligently

Much like eating quick and healthy meals, fighting your afternoon slump without caffeine will help you be more productive at work. As mentioned, too much caffeine will cause your energy levels to crash, severely affecting your productivity. However, another way caffeine makes you less productive is by messing with your sleep. Consuming too much caffeine in the afternoon can negatively impact your sleep later that night, which will give you an even less productive tomorrow. Instead of reaching for caffeine-heavy beverages when you grow groggy in the afternoon, which are often heavy in sugar as well, try one of the other energy boosting methods on this list. A quick snack that is high in omega-3s or fiber, or simply drinking a glass of water, can be a better way to boost your energy and skip the crash.

Featured photo credit: Wall_Food_10051/Michael Stern via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 17, 2018

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

We live in a time of productivity overload.

Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

    Is this you?

    Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

    When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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    Take a deep breath/change your body posture

    When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

    Focus on right now

    Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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    Take Action

    Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

    Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

    Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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      Relax and enjoy the moment

      Stop feeling guilty

      Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

      Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

      Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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