From the long-distance runner who âcarbs upâ the night before a race, to the protein-shake drinking weightlifter, to the tennis player who downs an energy drink between sets, athletes are known for using food to boost their performance.
But desk-jockeys, too, can use diet and nutrition to increase their energy, focus and mental agility. And that means there are three opportunities a day to be your best self at the office.
Dr. Judith Wurtman, a nutrition expert who wrote the book âManaging Your Mind and Mood Through Foodâ and a regular Huffington Post blogger, has made a career of telling people how to eat to their best advantage. Luckily, her advice falls well within the realm of ânormalâ daily diets â and the offerings of most office cafeterias. Even luckier still, she has good news for the java junkies among us.
âThere are two components of food that have a proven effect on mental performance: protein, and caffeine,â says Wurtman. âFor any situation where you need mental alertness â say youâre a lawyer arguing a case, or a negotiator sitting down with opposing parties to find a solution â you need protein,â she says. As for the java jolt, âof all foods, caffeine has been shown to be the most potent stimulant of mental acuity, alertness, and reaction time for problem solving.â
In other words, people who are used to starting their day with a strong cup of joe should keep at it. And drinkers of caffeinated cola or tea, which has a substance similar to caffeine, can relax in the knowledge that their stimulant of choice is delivering the goods, as well.
So, letâs say that, like an athlete, youâre watching your diet. Youâre eating proteins at breakfast and lunch, and carbs at night. Youâre drinking water all day long (and no alcohol at lunchtime), and youâre avoiding fat-laden snacks. Youâre good to go, right? Focus, energy, and attention, here we come?
Almost. There is one more factor we need to keep in mind, and itâs the most important of all, Wurtman says. In fact, it could mean the difference between winning the race, and not crossing the finish line at all.
Get your shuteye
âA lack of sleep has an incredibly powerful effect of decreasing cognitive ability,â Wurtman says. âYou canât eat your way out of it.â
Seven hours of sleep at night is considered a miniumum, and sleep is especially important for the modern global executive, who may be on-the-job nearly round the clock, working in many time zones at once.
âYou wouldnât want an airline pilot to fly you if hadnât had sufficient sleep, would you,â Wurtman asks. âWell I wouldnât someone in that condition to pilot my financial situation either.â