An Appetite for Productivity

Eating well to manage your energy at work and get more done

Photo credit: Pexels Creative Commons Zero license.

I was opening the refrigerator at work, when a colleague entered the kitchen and asked what I was eating for lunch. “Vegetables and quinoa,” I replied, realizing I had the same response the last three times she asked. She must have noticed the pattern, too, since her next question was “are you a vegetarian?” “No,” I explained, “but this meal keeps me from getting tired in the afternoon.”

When people hear “productivity,” they commonly think of time management and work habits. These definitely matter, but so does your diet. I’m mentally alert and feel good physically after a meal of vegetables and quinoa. By contrast, deep dish pizza zaps every ounce of energy out of me. I feel terrible physically and I’m mentally in a fog. Indeed, I get more quality work done throughout the day when I eat healthily.

I’ve always paid attention to my diet in some capacity. I grew up playing sports and learned how food affects performance. By trial and error I discovered certain foods, like peanut butter, chicken, pasta, and fruit, gave me energy without negative repercussions, like an upset stomach. In the same way, my diet affects my productivity as a writer. The key is anticipating your energy needs and consuming the right kind of fuel, both in sports and in life.

I avoid refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar while working. They leave me feeling physically and mentally sluggish, which negatively affects the quality and quantity of my work. I’m hardly ready to write after a meal of deep dish pizza — I’m ready for a nap! Although drinking caffeine may help keep you awake, consuming too much of it late in the day can give you trouble getting to sleep. And a restless night can lead to a groggy morning. To avoid this cycle, I opt for foods that provide fuel and keep my blood sugar levels steady, like vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains.

It’s not easy to eat healthily at work. Packaged treats and pop are commonly offered for free in office kitchens. Even catered lunches can be nutritional minefields. Jumbo-sized burritos can wreak havoc on your energy, and thus your productivity — sending you right into a food slump.

One of the best ways to foster mindful eating at work is bringing your own food from home. On Sundays, prepare lunches and pack snacks for the week ahead. Then, you’ll have healthy options to choose from when hunger strikes, instead of munching on the cookies from the office kitchen or running to the fast-food joint around the corner.

It’s not to say you should never eat a cookie or hamburger again. However, be smart about your food choices while working, in order to have a much more productive day.

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Programmer and Writer: | | @amymhaddad