Does What You Eat at Work Really Affect Your Performance?

How does an unhealthy diet affect performance at work and what healthy eating habits can you develop to give your productivity a boost?

Eating the right way has a hugely important part to play in a healthy lifestyle, I think we can all agree on that. But while most people think about what they eat and the impact it has on weight loss, how they look and their health in general, very few connect their eating habits to their performance at work.

The truth is that the food we eat has a proven impact on our performance and productivity at work. A study of nearly 20,000 employees found that those with unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to report a lack of productivity at work when compared to healthy eaters. Further research conducted by Fruitful Office found that eating healthily at work increased employee productivity by more than 10 percent.

How does an unhealthy diet affect performance at work?

Many modern food choices, particularly those we make during a working day, are designed with convenience and speed in mind. But pre-packaged and processed foods often lack the essential nutrients we need for health and longevity and do not provide the necessary nutrients to perform at our best.

Far from making us productive at work, they actually:

  • Cause fatigue
  • Provoke irritability
  • Increase stress
  • Decrease energy levels
  • Reduce our ability to think clearly
  • Reduce our ability to concentrate for long periods
  • Make us less able to think creatively
  • Have an adverse effect on our mental health

Why does unhealthy food affect our performance at work?

Just about everything we eat is converted into glucose by our bodies. That glucose provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. But not all foods can be processed by our bodies at the same rate. Foods like bread, pasta, cereals and soft drinks are processed quickly, which leads to a burst of energy followed by that inevitable mid-afternoon slump.

Other unhealthy food such as fast food – think chips and burgers – provides more sustained energy, but our digestive system has to work harder to break it down. That reduces oxygen levels in the brain and makes it more difficult to concentrate and think clearly.

The trouble is that these unhealthy food options tend to be cheaper and are more readily available than healthy alternatives. They’re also quicker to prepare and eat, which makes them all the more alluring in the middle of a working day. So, what can we do?

Healthy eating habits to boost performance

As well as making better choices when it comes to buying food, there are also a number of behaviours that can help us to perform at our best.

  1. Make eating decisions before you get hungry

If you’re going out for lunch, choose what you’re going to eat in the morning before you get hungry. Studies show that we’re better at resisting calories, fat and salt in the future rather than in the present, so make your decision early and stick to it.

2. Graze throughout the day

Peaks and troughs in your blood sugar are bad for your productivity and cognitive performance. Having small, more frequent, healthy snacks throughout the day will help to keep your glucose levels more constant.

3. Facilitate healthy snacking

Healthy snacking is difficult at work due to a dearth of healthy foods. Think ahead and buy snacks such as nuts, fruit and protein bars so you can make good food choices throughout the working day.

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