Boost Productivity by Upgrading Your Food Options

Looking to boost productivity in the office? Employees with unhealthy diets are 66% more likely to report low productivity than healthy eaters. Here’s why.

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good nutrition can boost productivity

Food is an awesome resource. It provides fuel for your day. It brings friends and family together. Many historians have argued that food, or the lack of it, has started and ended wars.

But what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. You’ve probably known this for a long time. Your partner has been after you to eat more fruits and vegetables. You’ve heard that lean proteins and whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, and stroke, and a low sugar diet can lower your diabetes risk too. Scientists are even saying that our food choices can affect climate change and the environment.

Now you have one more reason to eat healthy: it might boost productivity at work.

A study by scientists at Brigham Young University found that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to report low productivity than healthy eaters. What’s more, employees who didn’t exercise during the day were 96% more likely than active employees to lose productivity. Conversely, fruits, vegetables, and other low-fat snacks provided a big productivity boost. And employees who didn’t eat these healthy foods at work were a whopping 93% more likely to lose productivity than those who did eat them.

Now you have one more reason to eat healthy: it might boost productivity at work.

When we think about factors that contribute to work performance, how many companies consider diet and exercise? Probably not many. It’s time to change that. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind the relationship between food and productivity. Then we’ll give you some recommendations for snacks that will boost productivity in your workplace.

How energy levels are tied to food consumption

Every part of your body–muscles, brain, and vital organs–needs energy to work. Not surprisingly, this energy (largely) comes from the food you consume.

A study found that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to report low productivity than healthy eaters.

Your body digests food in the stomach, then breaks it down into macronutrients. These are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The carbs break down even further into a type of sugar called glucose.

After your stomach digests the glucose, it releases it into your bloodstream where your body can access it immediately for energy. You’ve probably heard of insulin. It’s a hormone produced in your pancreas, and your body needs it to use or store the glucose. Your pancreas actually checks the glucose levels in your blood every few seconds. If your blood glucose (or blood sugar) is high, like after you eat high carb foods, your pancreas makes more insulin. The insulin literally tells your body’s other cells to open their doors to let the glucose in. That’s how your body uses that glucose for energy.

Once the glucose is used up, your pancreas stops producing and releasing so much insulin. At the same time, your cells absorb less glucose because insulin levels are dropping off. This rise and fall of insulin and blood sugar happens over and over again, all day long. And it is totally dependant upon how much you eat, and how often. A balanced level of blood sugar and insulin is the only way your body can maintain the energy it needs to work, play and function properly.

If your blood glucose is higher than what you need at the moment for energy, the insulin converts it into another sugar, called glycogen, and stores it in your liver and muscles. It also stores extra fat and protein in your other cells.

But if you consistently overeat, your organs have to work overtime producing insulin and other hormones to break down all that food. Your body might develop insulin resistance, which makes it harder for your cells to access glucose for energy. On the other hand, if you frequently eat too little food, your body might go into starvation mode. Your organs start to think that food is scarce, so they implement changes that reduce your need for calories. Your metabolism slows down, your body doesn’t produce the hormones it needs to break down food and access glucose for energy, and you feel tired.

As you might have guessed, feeling tired isn’t the best way to boost productivity. Let’s take a look at a few tips for improving your diet and boosting productivity at work.

Some ideas on how to improve your snacks (and productivity)

  • Energy boosting foods are those that are rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. This particular combination of macronutrients will turn your snack into a time-release capsule of energy, keeping your fueled and productive for hours.
  • Reach for nuts, plain yogurt, and whole grains to keep your productivity boosting snacks low in calories and high in satisfying fuel.
  • Combine complex carbohydrates with proteins for a snack that is immediately satisfying but long lasting in energy. Try apples and peanut butter, whole grain crackers with low fat cheese, or carrot and celery sticks with hummus.
  • Dairy foods, unprocessed meats, Omega-3 rich fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate have all been shown to boost dopamine production. Dopamine is a neurochemical produced in your brain that can help improve concentration.

With all of these delicious and healthy snacks to choose from, you should have no shortage of high energy options to boost productivity at work! Start keeping some of these healthy options in your break room.

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