As a Millennial, your focus tends to be on your career. After all, with competition being so tight nowadays, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and attention to the office. This doesn’t mean you can neglect your personal life, though. Having the best of both is something Millennials continually strive for. This is the first generation that understands their health and well-being is the basis for productivity and advancement in professional life.
That being said, proper exercising and dieting need to be constant parts of your life. Your body is like a machine, and if you don’t fuel and maintain it properly, it’s going to break down pretty soon. Having a busy schedule, though, often means that proper nutrition needs to take a backseat. Yet, when you’re hungry, you can’t focus, your cognitive function is much lower, and you’re going to be much slower and less productive.
Good and constant fuel is necessary for your body to function the way it’s supposed to function. Once you make nutrition your priority, you’ll notice how much easier it is to get your work done, and how much more you’re actually getting done. Being productive and eating well aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, they depend on each other.
1. Blood Sugar and Willpower
We all have differing levels of willpower and differing levels of self-control. This may come from our upbringing, our habits, and from the rules we set for ourselves. However, a big part of it also boils down to just how hungry you are. Or, the fancy way of saying it – your blood sugar (glucose) levels. Have you ever been hangry? You know, the anger and frustration of being hungry, feeling cranky due to skipping breakfast? Well, you can expect your willpower to focus and be dedicated to fighting this “hangriness” instead of investing it in the right avenues.
For example, let’s say you are in a meeting, and you skipped breakfast and lunch. Instead of focusing completely on the task at hand, your mind will wander towards food. Your mood will also plummet, and you won’t really care about the meeting, no matter how important it is, until you get your lunch. Counting down the seconds until it’s over could have been better spent on impressing everybody there.
The reason behind this issue is that glucose is needed to provide our brains with energy. And you should know that one of the most complex brain activities out there are the ones that handle self-control and willpower. It will be very hard to resist a seemingly tempting offer placed by a competitor when your willpower reserves are already spent. Instead of thinking about the short term, you may have used a second to retreat, gather your bearings, and think whether that deal is a good idea or not.
Even on a regular, every-day level, your productivity will plummet. Its gonna be hard to focus on that excel spreadsheet when all you think about is food. So, we advise that you, at the very least, have a snack from time to time, and if possible, not to skip a meal ever.
2. Food Comas and Insulin
Completely opposite to the previous point, we want to take a minute to take to you about carbs. Now, we won’t get into how good or bad carbohydrates are for you. They are a vital part of your diet (unless you want to try out Keto), but how big of a part do they have to play, and in what form? Namely, carbs can be one of the main reasons you get food comas.
The dreaded food coma is the feeling of just being stuffed, and being drowsy and sleepy from food. And while it is most often caused by an excess of food, the primary culprit are carbs, simple carbs to be exact. Without going into too much detail, simple carbs will give you a huge spike in your insulin levels after you consume them. So, things like raw sugar, corn syrup, soda, cookies, as well as pasta and bread made from refined grains. Now, insulin will in turn flood your body and brain with serotonin and tryptophan (i.e. sleep hormones). This will then lead to an obvious drop in motivation and productivity.
Sticking with our meeting example, imagine you had a huge bowl of simple pasta before drafting an important deal with another company. You will spend the entire meeting yawning, drowsy, and unable to focus at all.
In order to avoid this, we advise you to get a couple of small meals at work. Snacking throughout the day can help you maintain your energy levels as constant from when work starts, up until you’re out of the door and on your way home. Instead of having a huge bowl of whatever you see in front of you, we advise you get some almond and peanuts, maybe a nice smoothie as well. Bring your protein shaker bottle with you to work, and keep your diet high in protein and fats, and low in simple carbs and processed sugars. Get a protein bar instead of a packet of chocolate covered peanuts. Carry some fruit with you always, and avoid any kind of candy.
3. General Fitness
An indirect link that connects workplace productivity with your diet is your general fitness and health levels. Namely, the healthier you are, the more productive you are. Above, you can see some tips and advice on how to eat at the workplace, but sometimes what you do at home can be just as important, if not more so. People who are in shape, who exercise regularly, are much more productive – they think faster, have better circulation, and handle stress better. Exercising regularly will improve your life in basically every avenue, your work being just one of them. You will feel more confident and just feel better in general. However, all this is useless without a good diet.
A quality, nutritious diet is vital for your general fitness levels. You can’t really run marathons fueled exclusively by cheeseburgers and candy. Lifting weights, losing a pound or two, yoga, hiking, biking, all of this will be very unpleasant if done on a poor and low-quality diet. You need to eat vegetables, fruit, nuts, get a lot of protein and healthy fats in you. Fast food burgers and fries are delicious, but they are full of saturated fats and just insane amounts of sodium.
However, an interesting side effect of exercising on a regular basis is that you won’t really crave all this nasty food once you’re active all the time. Your body will crave proper nutrition, and it will actually be easy to stick to a healthy diet both at home, and at the office.
4. Your Sleep
Finally, understand that one of the biggest factors for your productivity is sleep. Without enough sleep, you won’t have the energy or the wish to basically do anything at the workplace. And you should understand that your dietary habits influence the quality of your sleep and your sleep cycles.
Now, our bodies are governed and controlled by the so-called circadian rhythms. These govern when we are tired, sleepy, and when we are the most focused and alert throughout the days. Our circadian rhythm is, just to give you an example, one of the reasons why we suffer from jet lag.
Now, every person’s circadian rhythm is unique, but there are some similarities and general rules you should stick to. Now that if your diet is in line with your circadian rhythm, you can expect a higher sleep quality level and less drowsiness and grogginess in the mornings.
General, ubiquitous rules for people’s circadian rhythms are very similar. You don’t want to eat too much in the evenings, because this sends the wrong signal to your brain. If you eat a lot, you get a lot of fuel. Your body understands this as a sign that you are getting ready for some serious activity or lots of hard work. Have the biggest meal in the day be in the mornings, since that will give you some energy to push through the workday. Try to eat at the same time as much as you can. Even if you’re going to have like 5 snacks throughout the day, keep them fixed. And while that may be too much to ask, do try to stick to a big breakfast, and a small dinner.
There are many ways your diet can influence the way you think and feel. Food is one of the most powerful weapons we can use to achieve the effects we want with our bodies. Be sure to have a colorful diet that includes all the nutrients your body needs. The Millennial dream is to have the best out of all aspects of life. Now that you’ve cracked the code and know how to unleash unlimited power that you hold within, it’s time to dominate the professional world with your skill, energy, determination, and high efficiency.
Mia Johnson, Fitness Expert & DIY Junkie can be found on Twitter.