In my opinion, there are many nutrition and lifestyle tools that are overlooked in the workplace that can provide so much value with mental clarity, energy, and stress resilience. The reality is, whether or not we feel we have control over these areas can make or break your workplace experience. If you feel empowered with your health and energy, you will most likely feel more empowered with your job- simple as that. Here are a few focus areas that would be helpful to look at/ adjust to make your work day more in flow and give you more energy.
That Morning “Cup of Joe”
There are so many ways to go about this conversation, and it could take some time to figure out what is right for you. First of all, coffee does have many benefits, but the common pitfall is relying on coffee for a false source of energy throughout the day, depriving your body of real energy and leading to many slumps throughout the day. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, and once the caffeine wears off the body can be flooded with adenosine, causing that dreaded energy crash. One alternative that helps give more of a steady, sustainable energy, without the crash (and conveniently helps reduce inflammation and boost cognition) is matcha. Many of my clients have seen major changes in how they manage their energy with this seemingly minor shift. I like Picque for this! Another newly popular addition is mushroom coffee, an adaptogenic functional drink. Four Sigmatic is one of the most commonly known brands, but it would be helpful to look into other local brands in your area as well. Lion’s mane and chaga mushroom can really give some love to your brain and boost cognition. Black teas and green teas are also great options for more sustainable energy without the crash, keeping in mind that black tea does have more caffeine than green tea. Consuming these around meal time is important for cortisol balance, thus blood sugar balance and steady energy.
If you aren’t hydrating, you are missing the boat on energy and cognition. Also, did you know that if you are thirsty, you are actually clinically dehydrated? It is recommended that we consume a minimum of ½ our body weight in ounces, and I would encourage more if you are active or during the summer months. During our workday, it can get tricky to remember to drink enough and minimize bathroom visits (we’re busy!). I’d start by easing your way into it and pacing yourself throughout the day, keeping a water bottle with ounces on it right by your side. Also, electrolytes are important when it comes to hydration, so I would encourage you to add in lemon juice and sea salt to at least one of your glasses of water, consider electrolyte supplements like LMNT (will do a whole post on this in the future) and always incorporate electrolyte rich fruits and veggies throughout the day. Your brain will thank you and you will have so much more mental power to go throughout your workday.
If you’re out the door early, you might be pinched on time. This does not mean skimp on breakfast, but rather think ahead and have quick alternatives on hand. This is the meal that sets the stage for our entire workday, thus influencing how we feel cognitively, energetically, and metabolically. One easy breakfast that you could do every morning is a balanced breakfast shake. This includes a base of water or a milk alternative, veggies (spinach works well), fruit of your choice (fresh or frozen), fat (could be a nut butter, chia or flax seeds), and protein powder. Greek yogurt could be added for extra protein or a greens powder for an extra vitamin, mineral and antioxidant boost (I love Athletic Greens). Another easy grab and go breakfast could be 2 hard boiled eggs, Mush overnight oats, and a piece of fruit.
Covering Your Nutrient Bases
In addition to quality foods, there are many different supplements that could help you feel and function optimally each day depending on your physiology, but I’d start with a multivitamin. When purchasing, ensure that it is medical grade and third party certified for safety and quality. This helps fill in gaps WHILE you are fueling yourself with whole foods for your work day. My go to brands are generally Thorne or Designs for Health for a good quality multivitamin. As mentioned above, I also do love Athletic Greens to fill the gaps as well, and in a recent Fast Company article, it describes how it is filling a need for a new generation that takes pride in taking ownership of their health. This blend can help with gut health, stress resilience, cognition, and energy, all of which can undoubtedly help you with your work day.
This is always a tough one with a busy work day. Yes, I do somewhat care about WHAT you are eating, but oftentimes the biggest problem I find is that clients struggle with setting a boundary to actually eat, especially at a consistent time and in a relaxed, undistracted state. When looking at blood sugar (a nutrition foundation that certainly impacts energy), timing does matter and I’d like your lunch timing to at least regularly be within a 1-2 hour window every day, which leaves some room for fluctuation. The most common issue I see is that clients are eating when they’re stressed. It makes sense, especially if you have a lot of “in the moment” stressors thrown at you during your workday. Unfortunately, we find that digestion shuts down if we’re in a stressed out state. Your body has adapted to signal that digestion is not a priority during times of stress, which makes sense. I would suggest a 5 minute walk outside with fresh air before your meal or 5 deep belly breaths right before your meal to help get into that “rest and digest” state. I could do a whole separate article on lunch ideas, but generally I recommend “macro bowl” options with a high fiber carbohydrate, protein sources, 2-3 different veggies, and quality fats such as avocado or an olive oil based dressing. You can find these also at many fast casual restaurants (more to come on this!).
Putting It All Together
I’d encourage you to go through this and take little notes on tweaks that you can make to your work day. These changes, especially if gradual, will make a world of difference. As always, a Registered Dietitian can help with the gradual implementation and counseling. Remember, taking ownership of your health leads to taking ownership of your life.