Have you noticed your boss getting on your case more than usual lately? Or perhaps you’ve personally disappointed in your performance at work. There could be many reasons why your productivity has been sluggish. Maybe you’re distracted. Maybe you’re tired. But have you considered the possibility that your diet is part of the problem?
When it comes to creating the glucose that provides the brain with energy, not all foods are created equal (source). Some foods are more useful than others when it comes to helping you stay focused on the job. As a result, certain foods are tagged as “brain food,” while others receive the “junk food” label.
A study from 2015 found that lack of proper nourishment can cause a 20% drop in workplace productivity (source). The drop in productivity includes a lack of efficiency at work, as well as employees missing time because of poor health and doctor exams. Part of the problem is that employers don’t encourage their workers to eat healthy, something they probably should for the sake of productivity (source).
There are a number of ways that food can factor into your productivity at work. Here are five of the biggest reasons why your diet may be keeping you from reaching your full potential at work.
Skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do, breakfast in particular (source). Assuming you’ve been asleep all night, you need to eat breakfast to refuel your body and focus your brain because you probably haven’t eaten in over half a day. If you skip breakfast before going to work, you are susceptible to fatigue, irritability, and even dizziness (source).
Even if you have a good breakfast, skipping lunch in the middle of the workday can also be detrimental. It’s difficult to maintain focus and concentration over a full day of work if you don’t eat lunch (source). One idea you can try is making lunch a fixed part of your schedule, so your computer or smartphone will send you a reminder to make sure you don’t miss a meal.
Planning Meals When You’re Hungry
If you go out to lunch while at work, choose what you’re going to eat beforehand. Don’t wait until you’re hungry to decide what you want to eat. The same principle accounts for why you should never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach; you’ll end up with a shopping cart full of junk food.
If you wait until you’re hungry to choose your next meal, studies show that you’ll end up eating something that’s high in fat and calories (source). You’ll be more likely to choose a healthy lunch that contains the kind of nutrients that will keep you focused if you decide right after breakfast or following a mid-morning snack when you’re not hungry.
Not Enough Snack Breaks
It may sound odd, but not stopping to have a snack several times throughout the day can be a hindrance to your productivity. Studies show that your blood sugar constantly going up and down during the day can be counter-productive for your alertness and focus (source). Holding out for one big meal is not the best way to remain productive.
Your best bet may be to eat several small meals throughout the day (source). Several smaller meals will keep your blood sugar at a consistent level. Of course, you also need to eat healthy. Snacks with fruits, vegetables, and nuts are usually best (source). It’s also a good idea to take a multivitamin or supplement each morning to aid in maintaining proper nutrition.
Too Much Sugar
I found some shocking discoveries on the negative effects of sugar in my article that reveal the true price of consuming too much sugar. Many people look to soda, energy drinks, and other types of beverages that are high in sugar to help fuel them during the workday. However, most experts will tell you that sugar does not make you more productive (source). There may be an initial boost in energy, but eventually, sugary drinks will make you crash, causing you to lose focus and leading to a drop in productivity.
In addition to these sugary drinks (including those fancy coffees we all like), so many of the foods we enjoy contain significant amounts of sugar (source). Chips, fruit juice, and even condiments like ketchup (source) are all examples of foods loaded with sugars. All of these added sugars are another reason to eat more fruits, vegetables, and nuts during the workday to help keep your productivity high.
Lack of Portion Control
Eating a big meal right before work or in the middle of a workday can be a big mistake. Your body has to work harder to digest after a big meal, which can slow you down. But you also have to be cognizant of the fact that people who work behind a desk most of the day aren’t that active and don’t need as much food to fuel them. (source).
To reiterate, your meals during the workday should be small and frequent. This is the best way to eat the foods that will help to enhance your productivity. Save your big meals for after work and during the weekend.
Homerun Nievera is the publisher of WorldExecutivesDigest.com. He has interests in several tech and digital businesses as director and chief strategist.