Written by: Lisa Middleton – Advanced Sports Dietitian
How nutrition can make a stressful day better.
It’s a common scenario for many men working long and demanding hours – super busy days lead to snacks on the run and barely any time to sit down for lunch. Add in a few stressful moments and your day’s nutrition can end up consisting of sweet biscuits, coffee, and if you get a moment, a quick take-away lunch. Some days just work out this way, but if this sounds like your normal day, everyday, in the office, there are steps you can take to make your nutrition work for you and help you feel and perform at your best.
For some men, feeling overwhelmed by workplace demands can result in a quick grab for high-sugar, high-fat, low-nutrient foods. You might even crave these foods when you are feeling stressed as quick and easy temporary boost. Eating in response to how we are feeling rather than how hungry we are is often referred to as ‘emotional eating’. In the office, there are often sweet biscuits and lollies floating around, so these can provide quick fixes that in the end don’t really make our day better. We get a quick rush of blood sugar, but this soon passes and can leave us feeling flat, tired and lacking focus. The key is to have some nutritious alternatives on hand that can actually help to stabilise blood sugar levels and help us think more clearly and be more productive for the rest of the day.
Top nutrition tips for high-stress work days:
- Keep nutritious snacks at work – low glycemic index foods such as fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, air-popped popcorn and wholegrain crackers can work well.
- Take your own lunch – then you always have a meal ready to go, like a soup, salad, leftovers or a sandwich/wrap. Saves money too!
- Stay hydrated – water and tea are great options, coffee ok too as long as you are drinking plenty of water, eating well and not adding stacks of sugar.
- Drink tea – tea contains theanine, a compound which can have a direct impact on the brain to keep you alert but relaxed at the same time. Evidence suggests that tea may even be able to reduce stress levels.
- Light lunches – Aim for vegetables at lunch with some lean protein rather than heavy, rich meals that can leave you feeling sluggish. If you can sneak some fish into your lunch even better, for some omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for normal brain function (try salmon or sardines).
Lisa’s book Super Food For Performance, in Work Sport and Life is out now, for more info on high performance eating and practical snack and meal ideas.