Do you find yourself exhausted by the time it hits 3pm? Do you lose focus, experience brain fog, or find you can barely keep your eyes on the screen? There is no question that we should all have bountiful amounts of energy. If you regularly dip into that 3pm slump, chances are you need to further investigate why you aren’t able to stay focused. Here’s a list of health hacks to keep you focused and energised for 2019!
Focus on the right type of energy foods
Entrepreneurs and business people are busy. This hectic lifestyle can lead to poor habits which impact focus and productivity. We don’t often have nutrition spring to mind when we think of optimising workplace performance.
There is a strong link between productivity and nutrition. It is paramount for business professionals to fuel their success and optimise their concentration by building a healthy foundation. The easiest way to do this is to consume a healthful diet that is consistently implemented every day.
We rely on the food we eat to fuel every process in the body. The better the fuel, the better the output. Whether you realise it or not, your lunch time food choice can compromise an entire afternoon’s productivity. How could it possibly do that?
The energy we create is supplied by glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar and an important source of energy. Glucose is released into the bloodstream when we break food down, keeping us energised and alert.
Slow releasing carbohydrates (vegetables, legumes, etc.) throughout the day will balance your glucose levels more steadily, providing you with a more sustained energy release - keeping you focused. Healthy fats also provide us with a more stabilised energy source. Meanwhile, fast releasing carbohydrates (baked goods, pasta, chips, etc.) create a rapid spike in blood sugar followed by a significant dip or crash which can leave you feeling sluggish, tired with a lack of concentration.
What makes a healthy desk diet? Include variety!
Eat more fibre filled plant foods - plentiful amounts of vegetables (think colour and dark leafy greens). Include a serve of protein with each meal (chicken, oily fish, tofu, beans and so on) and don’t be afraid to add healthy fats.
Adding healthful fats such as avocado, coconut oil, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and nuts can boost brain productivity, regulate your energy and support hormonal balance. The key is being organised, planning and staying committed to giving your body the fuel it needs to take your work, your health and your lifestyle to the next level. A good healthy plate visual is 70-80% of your plate vegetables, palm size of protein and 2 fingers worth of fat.
Remember to increase the nutrient density of your diet, adding more cruciferous vegetables, and all types of vegetables/fruits for that matter can be a good start. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain protective sulforaphane - a nice brain boosting addition. Adding mustard powder to these cruciferous foods can further boost their protective factor.
Think outside the snack-box
You might know about the blood sugar roller-coaster that can ensue if we eat junk food all day, or simply don't eat enough healthy food to keep us going. If blood sugar drops too low and you find yourself ‘hangry’, it can also impact your work productivity. Keeping healthy snacks in the office is the best defense. What’s more, your need to snack will diminish if you’re nourishing yourself with healthy main meals that tick the macronutrient boxes.
Although vending machines and cafe quick-snacks seem like the most time-efficient choice, these quick-grabs typically aren’t the healthiest option and they can easily diminish your brain power. Keep light easy snacks on hand - healthy homemade nut bars, trail mixes, a smoothie, bliss balls, leftovers, dip and cut raw vegetables or pre-make mini frittatas to slice up and keep in the office fridge.
Don’t forget, adding heathy fats to your main meals throughout the day can make you less likely to crave and snack through the afternoon and evening.
Drinking enough water is a fundamental component of good health. Poor concentration, low energy, bad moods and constant fatigue can all stem from poor cellular hydration. That is, ensuring water is getting into your cells. You can’t talk about energy and productivity without water - they are inseparable. Dehydration can cause nice plump cells to look like shriveled raisins. Some common symptoms of dehydration include dry skin and headaches!
To maximise your hydration level, the cells need an electrolyte balance of calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. Emphasise nutrient density in your diet to maximise your nutrition and overall hydration status. Fresh fruit and veggies (comprised primarily of water) count toward your daily hydration status too!
Drinking pure water (filtered is best), herbal teas and bone broth all count towards your total hydration. If you find water’s becoming boring, infuse it with fruits and vegetables to keep things interesting (for example: cucumber, lemon, lime, berries and orange to name a few).
An approximate aim for water intake per day is 33 milliliters of fluid per kilogram of body weight (eg. 70kg = around 2.3L). Individual differences and training will affect that recommendation. As a rule, 2-3L is a good aim for adults.
Get up and move
Sitting for extended periods of time takes a toll on the body. When we are seated, we burn less fat and our brain receives less fresh oxygenated blood. As a result, productivity can slump and less energy expenditure can lead to weight gain and poorer health outcomes. One of the most common outcomes of prolonged sitting is shoulder, neck and back pain resulting from a poor posture that can give someone a kyphotic appearance (rounded and forward facing). What can you do to keep focused and refreshed while at the desk?
- Get up every 20 minutes (set a little reminder) to stretch and go for a quick walk. This keeps the energy expenditure up and boosts productivity.
- Position your screen at a height that reduces your head from tilting forward and down.
- Check in with your posture: sit upright with your back straight and shoulders pulled back and down.
- Consider a sit-stand desk. In one study, nearly 75% of people working at stand-desk workstation experienced less body discomfort.
- Encourage a walking group with a colleague at lunch time (this does wonders for a boost in energy throughout the day).
Take care of your gut garden
Did you know that healing your gut can dramatically improve your energy levels? More energy means more focus and productivity, which we all realistically should have ample amounts of! Our gut garden is the key to our overall health and wellness. It impacts how well we can handle stress, our day-to-day mood, can be an underlying factor of fatigue, and can even be a cause of pesky brain-fog.
You may have, by now, heard about the microbiome and the importance of good gut health. Our microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria - both good and bad, that is why it is so important to get this balance right and support the growth of healthful gut bacteria.
Our digestion is intrinsically linked with our immune system. In fact, 80% of our immune system is situated in our digestive system. Taking care of your digestion ultimately means a stronger immune system, and as a result fewer sick days and greater productivity.
An interesting element to the gut picture is that if your gut is in need of healing, you may not be absorbing vitamins and minerals as well as you could be. Nutrients are extremely important for a myriad of processes in the body - from brain chemicals, mood, energy, electrolyte balance, thyroid health and metabolism. Functional testing by a qualified practitioner can help get to the root cause of many digestive issues.
On the topic of gut health and mood, having a healthy gut genuinely makes us happier. Over 90% of serotonin (the feel-good chemical) is located in our gut. As you can see our brain and gut are intrinsically linked. That’s got to do something amazing for our productivity and focus levels!
Sleep is THE most bang for your buck in health hacks.
A poor night’s sleep can do more than just reduce productivity and focus the following day. A lack of sleep can make our hunger hormones a little crazy, blood sugar regulation can be compromised and creativity and concentration plummets. It is recommended that we get 7-8 hours’ sleep each night.
Are you getting restorative sleep? Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the restorative part of our sleep cycle. With busy schedules, Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) exposure from electrical devices, and too much blue light activity before bed, it’s becoming significantly more difficult to have good quality sleep. Improve your sleep-cycle with a few simple hacks:
- Cut screen time out one hour before bed. Emitted blue light from devices can impact sleep quality. Research suggests EMF exposure before bed disrupts melatonin production (a powerful sleep inducer and antioxidant).
- Create a solid sleep-time ritual; essential oils such as lavender can be a great addition.
- Invest in an old-school alarm clock instead of your phone.
- Get enough safe, bright-light exposure throughout the day.
- Chamomile tea is also an underrated sleep inducer.
Focusing on your breath is one of the easiest ways to boost productivity. Mindfulness or simply being more aware of the present moment has been shown to improve three qualities of attention: stability, control and efficiency.
In other words, being more mindful at the desk can reduce a lot of stress, both physically and emotionally. Controlling breath helps regulate the fight-flight response. We’ve all been there, trying to meet deadlines and feeling our breath becomes more shallow and rapid. This shallow breathing reduces oxygen to the brain. We get tense and, as a result, boost stress levels. Focusing your attention on your breath and breathing deeply (or “belly breathing”) can reduce anxiety, stress and help you get your head back in the game.
Throughout the article we’ve discussed several key elements that can contribute to greater focus, performance and productivity. To start implementing these healthier habits, below are two recipes to get you started. The best thing about these recipes is that the ingredients have been put together to improve focus and energy.
The Brain Booster Smoothie contains almond milk which is a great dairy-free addition to provide you with a hydration and a protein hit. The addition of blueberries can help keep the brain active during an afternoon slump. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are added because this particular fat can assist cognitive performance. Apart from adding a delicious flavour, raw cacao contains magnesium and antioxidants to help keep you focused. Spinach is nutrient dense and has a light flavour, so it’s a great starter to adding more greens to your day.
The Healthy Bliss ball recipe will be your go-to healthy sweet treat. It’s full of healthy fats to keep you full. It contains tahini which is a nice source of calcium and a great binder for making bliss balls. The added dates and rice malt syrup will also curb those sweet cravings.
Brain Booster Smoothie
250ml almond, coconut milk or filtered water
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (add a handful of ice if fresh blueberries are used)
1 teaspoon MCT oil or 1 heaped tablespoon avocado
1/2 cup spinach
1 tablespoon of pre-soaked chia seeds
1-2 scoops protein powder or an LSA (Linseeds, Sunflower seeds and Almonds) mix (1 heaped tablespoon)
2 teaspoons raw cacao
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Mix ingredients in a high-speed blender and enjoy
Healthy Bliss Balls
1 cup desiccated coconut (if desired set aside extra for rolling)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (melt)
1 heaped tablespoon raw cacao
3 heaped tablespoons tahini
Pinch of salt
2 dates (chopped)
1-2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
- Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl
- Roll the mix into balls
- Roll into extra desiccated coconut
- Refrigerate overnight
There are so many simple, worthwhile solutions anyone can implement to improve their overall health, increase their productivity at work, and boost their business in turn! To learn more, we certainly recommend booking a session at Merge Health at Waterman's Caribbean Park Centre or Surrey Hills. Get yourself tested, learn what the outcome means for you, then work with a Merge specialist towards your optimal results!