Professional work environments are high-energy places! Many business professionals wake up early in the morning to a schedule packed with meetings, catch-ups, and projects to complete. Science Daily published findings from the University of Surrey that suggests high energy in the workplace leads to higher workplace retention, reducing employee turnover. So having a busy day is great! Except when you’ve worked through your lunch hour and now you’re looking up at the clock realizing all you’ve had to eat today was a banana, some peanuts you found at the bottom of your bag, and about ten cups of coffee. That’s when high-energy turns to no energy very fast.
Let’s take a look at three foods that may be affecting your energy during the workday:
You knew it was coming. Coffee. The nectar of the gods. A cup of Joe. Get Up and Go Juice. Flavoured, with or without milk, or in the form of a fluffy, sugary, whipped-cream-topped drink; Coffee tastes great because it’s so versatile, is cheap enough that it’s available in almost every office, and it contains caffeine. As many already know, caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the average cup of coffee contains 80-100 milligrams of caffeine! The caffeine in coffee is a reliable source of the stimulant, which drives your energy up. However, Medical News Today says, “The body rapidly absorbs caffeine, so people may feel its effects within minutes. In fact, the body absorbs 99% of caffeine within 45 minutes of consuming it. Once the body fully metabolizes the caffeine, its effects will wear off.” That caffeine buzz that gets you to power through a tough meeting can’t last, and, like any other stimulant, that means the body will slow down until it can find some more. In the same article Medical News Today reports that coffee has some other downsides that affect energy—like the fact that the body builds a tolerance towards caffeine so over time you’ll need more and more of it to maintain your energy, and too much caffeine can make it difficult for the body to recognize the chemicals that help us sleep when we are ready to wind down at night, which leads to insomnia, which leads to less energy in the long run as sleepless nights turn into restless days.
Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee, try matcha tea or a matcha latte. Research findings show that though matcha has almost the same amount of caffeine as coffee, the chemical composition of matcha means it releases that caffeine slower, giving the drinker a more mellow, consistent boost of energy that doesn’t interfere so much with the body’s natural regulation of alertness.
2. Sugary Treats
Similar to caffeine, sugary snacks give a temporary buzz of energy (known colloquially as a sugar-high) with a disappointing drop in energy once the body metabolizes the snack. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Well it’s not like I’m having a donut for breakfast, so I’m probably okay.” Healthline has some information that might surprise you: “most breakfast cereals contain very little fiber yet significant amounts of added sugars. In fact, sugars make up as much as 50% of the total carbs found in many popular breakfast cereals.” And they go on to say that the way the body processes sugar means that when your sugar high from your cereal wears off, the chemical process of metabolization makes you crave more sugar (similar to how coffee stimulates the body to look for more caffeine). So maybe you’re not eating that donut now, but the sugar metabolizing inside of you could make it more difficult for you to resist a donut later.
Instead of reaching for a breakfast or snack pumped full of added sugars, look instead for fiber! Specifically, foods with at least “at least 4–5 grams of fiber per serving.” A study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found “The metabolizable energy content is very often considerably lower than the commonly used level of 8 kJ per g fiber, and some fibers may reduce energy intake indirectly through satiety-inducing effects.” This means that fiber takes longer to metabolize and therefore releases energy slower and more naturally, and also has the added benefit of keeping you feeling full longer so it reduces the biological need in the body to search for more energy throughout the day! With more fiber in your diet you’ll be full, energized, and more able to focus on the work you have to do in your busy day.
3. Fried Fast Foods
Fast food is exactly what it sounds like. Fast! Therein lies a lot of its appeal. High in salts and fats, and incredibly quick to make, fast food is often the lunch (or sometimes breakfast, lunch, and dinner) of choice for those squeezing a food break in their busy schedules. In fact, research data shows “42.0% of higher-income (greater than 350% of FPL) adults consumed fast food on a given day.” In terms of energy, highly processed, high-fat fast foods “tend to be low in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. Nutrient-rich foods help boost and maintain your energy levels but eating fried and fast foods too frequently can displace these from your diet,” slowing down your digestion and making it harder for your body to process energy, therefore making you feel sluggish. Furthermore, The Washington Post reports, “Eating a poor quality diet high in junk food is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death.” Meaning that in both the short-term and long-term, fried fast foods hinder your overall health.
So instead of reaching for a greasy cheeseburger at lunch, try packing a healthier option, like a salad or a delicious wrap. Still fast and ready to go when you need a lunch break, but with the added benefit of being good for you and improving your energy levels overall.
You’ve got a lot to do every single day! Don’t let your food choices zap your energy, making everything more difficult. Making a few changes today can have a great impact on your physical and work performance in the future.