6.5 Nutrition Habits For Peak Performance
During my early years as a student at the University of Central Florida I had hit a brick-wall. I had a severe challenge with my health and professional peak performance. I felt sluggish and tired during the day, could not concentrate in class or in the work-office, and had little physical motivation to go to the gym. This experience wasn't too different from most university students and young professionals in the workforce. You are about to find out how I overcame my struggle with low energy, counterproductive health habits, and inadequate nutrition.
Back in 2007 I started reading all of the books I could find on peak performance nutrition, mental fitness, effective exercise, and nutritional psychology. It did not take long to realize that optimal nutrition plays an essential part in ensuring mental fitness and peak performance at work, school, and at play. Recent research from Queens University has indicated that you can enhance your focus by being selective about what you eat, the time you eat, and how you eat your food, leading to improved energy levels all day long, improved time management, and increased concentration.
Now I care passionately about sharing anything that has personally benefitted my life. If you are ready to learn how you can better align your body and mind for peak professional performance then keep reading for the 6.5 Nutritional Habits that you will need to implement in your life.
-Eat a balanced diet
Harvard Nutritional Research has found a clear link between the foods you eat and your productivity levels - your mental alertness comes from the glucose that is contained in the foods you eat. It is hard to be productive on an empty stomach since the brain becomes starved and preoccupied when glucose levels fluctuate. Therefore, it is essential that you eat a balanced diet to ensure peak performance at work. Your body requires both the macro and micronutrients to function optimally.
In many cases we tend to choose the quick and easy option (the sugary snack, the salty chips, or savory pie). These food options that do not contain a balanced blend of nutrition should be avoided during moments when peak mental aptitude is required.
- Be honest with yourself, before you choose the unhealthy option ask yourself "is this really the best option that I could choose?"
- If you decide to choose the unhealthy option, then balance it out with a healthy option; eat the healthy option FIRST and if you are still hungry let the other option be your reward.
-Eat in moderation
Overeating, just like being hungry, can also affect your performance at work. Because it has been found that food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance a poor decision at lunchtime can completely derail an entire afternoon. Starting yourself before lunch then overeating at lunchtime may cause your digestive system to work harder where breathing also becomes harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and leading to feelings of grogginess.
"The best defense is a good offense."
You have awareness, now here’s your action plan – make your eating decisions before you get hungry and instead of starving yourself until lunch time, you will perform better by snacking throughout the day.
Because spikes and drops in blood sugar levels are bad for your performance and brain it is much better to have smaller and frequent meals throughout the day to maintain your glucose at consistent levels.
- Plan ahead before you get too hungry.
- Make healthy snacking easier to achieve by having a container of healthy nuts, fruit, snack vegetables, and protein options.
3. DRINK WATER
-Drink plenty of water
Water is vital for the peak performance of your brain and physical ability. Your body requires water to enhance the process of digestion, thus, ensuring a steady supply of nutrients to the brain. The human body is 60% water and that is why doctors and nutritionists insist that we should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day. What you ought to know is that when you hydrate properly, you will reach and maintain peak performance.
When you drink filtered water, it helps to improve blood circulation in your body. As a result, your muscles will be nourished with nutrients which means improved temperature control, improved motivation levels, decreased levels of fatigue and improved mental alertness. In addition, it helps to reduce the oxidative stress common during high-intensity exercises.
Researchers have discovered that the human brain is influenced by hydration. If you dehydrate 1 to 3% of your body weight, your brain functions will be impaired. Due to this, your mental performance will be affected. Not only will you be unable to concentrate but you will experience frequent headaches, anxiety, fatigue and be in a bad mood.
- Learn to love water.
- As soon as you wake up in the morning, don't do anything until you drink a full glass of water. Make if the 1st thing that you do in the morning.
- Aim for 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.
-Supplement, but do not replace food with nutritional supplements
Nutritional supplements are a powerful way to supercharge your daily diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements are designed to supplement important trace elements that have become limited in our ordinary foods. Decades of food processing, agriculture, and environmental changes have altered the nutrients in our food supply. This is where the supplement industry picks up.
CAUTION: This tip does not mean that you should take supplements instead of food. Whole foods MUST be your primary source of diet and nutrition while using vitamin and mineral supplements sparingly and as a part of a healthy nutritional diet.
Now there is a ton of crap in the markets; many with wild claims and expensive fillers that do not provide a health benefit, and many that can harm your health. Here is a rule of thumb that my family and I stick to (check with your doctor, medical, or healthcare professional to find out what works for you):
- We stick with naturopathic-grade supplements where possible
- Get a ‘green drink’ I found one that provides us with a wide blend of macronutrients and vitamins
- Keep the essentials stocked (CoQ10, Vitamin C, a probiotic, magnesium, and zinc)
- Food first, nutritional supplement second.
- Check with your medical professional to find out if there are supplements that you should not take.
- Stick with quality naturopathic grade supplements, cheap supplements will just waste your money.
-Switch to organic foods
Organic and unprocessed foods are rich in essential minerals required for sustained energy for peak performance. These days you can find organic and local foods that are readily available in the markets across the developed and developing world.
Boost your mental performance at work by carrying packed lunch prepared by you instead of buying processed foods. Harvard Health research has found that diets rich in refined sugars are harmful to the brain since they promote oxidative stress and inflammation which impairs brain function. When you prepare your food from organic whole foods, you are certain about the ingredients used in the preparation, and you can tailor the recipe to your preferences.
In general, the case for choosing organic foods relate to its higher nutritional quality with limited or no use of genetically-modified (GM) ingredients and processing methods. There is significant contention about GM and non-GM foods that exceeds the scope of this article, so do your own research to determine if you and your family would like to stick with GM foods or integrate more local and organic whole foods into your diet.
A key rule of thumb that my family likes to stick to is if there are more than 5 ingredients and you can’t pronounce some of the ingredients, than it’s better left outside of your body.
- Whole, organic, and unprocessed foods are ideal for mental and peak performance.
-Do not miss your breakfast
Always eat a breakfast in the morning, this will kick-start your metabolism, help burn excess calories throughout the day, and energize you for the day’s activities.
Unfortunately, many people still believe the myth that missing breakfast is somehow beneficial to their weight loss goals. In fact, eating breakfast has been linked to some health benefits including better memory, concentration, and weight loss.
Your breakfast does not have to be a big platter of bacon, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, and hash browns. Something as minimal as toast, smoked salmon, and avocado slices can do the trick if you are pressed for time in the mornings. The key here is to have something that engages your body’s metabolism for the day.
- Have breakfast daily.
- Plan ahead (the night before) if you must.
6.5 MENTAL NUTRITION
-Take time daily to recharge your mind
It’s my belief that peak performance and development as a human is not limited to the physical realm. Proper diet and exercise can get you closer to your goals but they will only take you so far. The 3rd part of the triangle involves mental nutrition, neglecting mental nutrition will leave you starved, unfulfilled and miles-short of your true potential.
Provide your mind with the nutrition it needs to perform at its peak by practicing meditation, reciting positive affirmations, and practicing positive visualization.
Meditation as a practice has been used across the millennia to calm the mind. Famous TV personalities like Opera and even finance professionals like Ray Dallio practice meditation daily and have attributed their success to habits of daily meditation.
Positive self-affirmations can be a powerful tool for personal growth and development. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that affirmations can improve willpower and self-control by providing you with an extra boost in motivation.
Whether you develop a meditation routine, an affirmation routine, or positive visualization habits the key here is to develop and work on feeding your mind with valuable nutrition.
Mental Nutrition Tips
- Take some time every day to find your center (5-minutes of quiet time for your mind).
- If you get stuck on this, find a coach who can help guide you toward options that work with your daily schedule.
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