A few of you have been asking about what to eat and how to eat whilst working in an office environment (or any sort of work environment really). So here it is.
Sitting down all day can be a tiring feat. I am sure most of you will put up your hands if I ask who feels tired after coming home having worked in the office all day. It doesn’t seem like it but it is tiring.
Add that to the mentally draining tasks in doing your job (whether you love your job or not it can be mentally exhausting). By the end of the day you will feel like you have run a marathon. I’ll let you in on a secret.
Food plays a big part in this. What you eat will affect how you feel throughout the day in the office and also at the end of the day. The majority of the people who complain about being constantly exhausted after a day in the office usually have eaten solely for taste and not function.
Just be mindful that food is not the only factor; your posture, sleep and amount of movement will also play a big role.
The focus of this post is on food only. I’ve written up another post on how to survive one of the top sedentary activities of modern life – sitting in front of a computer. Check it out here to see how you can use posture, food, sleep, and breathing to excel throughout the day.
The techniques apply to any sedentary activity where you pretty much sit down all day and don’t move much.
Food and energy levels
Can food really affect how you feel at work? It sure can.
Remember those times when you went out and had a huge lunch and felt exhausted and sluggish for the rest of the day? What about not being able to function without coffee?
You are what you eat. If you eat garbage, you will feel like garbage. I stand by that.
If you follow these 10 tips on office eating habits, you should be able to not only increase your work productivity throughout the day but still feel energised after work. This will allow you to spend some time on yourself or with your family.
Note: some of the points refer to topics already covered in previous posts. I have linked back to those posts if you haven’t read them or would like a refresher.
Number 10: Don’t skip breakfast
I’m sure you are all sick and tired of hearing “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But it’s TRUE. You have the break the fast of not having eaten whilst you sleep.
Believe it or not your body goes through a heck of a lot whilst you sleep. It’s busy repairing all the damage from during the day. If you exercise a lot this is especially important as your body recovers whilst you sleep. This is when your body releases important hormones such as growth hormone to do just that.
Therefore you have to refill the tank when you wake up or you will be running on empty straight away. This will provide your body with the energy it needs for what is coming ahead.
Perhaps more importantly is that by having breakfast you crank up your metabolism in that your body starts burning energy and pumping blood throughout your body to digest the food.
What you eat for breakfast is also important. If you remember from here whole carbs such as oats and wholemeal bread will be more beneficial than white bread or cereal.
When you eat breakfast is also important. If you wait a few hours, or head to work and then eat you are still going to struggle as it will take some time for your body to digest the food and release the energy. In the meantime it is running on empty.
Eat as soon as you wake up, or sometime before you leave for work. In the worse case scenario, if you really do not have any time, have a glass of fresh fruit juice or a piece of fruit before you leave then have a proper breakfast at work.
Number 9: Skip your breakfast coffee
What most people do is skip breakfast and make up for that by having coffee to get them through the morning. This is just going to make it worse for you later.
What I propose is to instead do the opposite: have breakfast but skip the breakfast coffee.
Coffee provides energy in spikes. You will get more energy yes, but you will come down about 2-3 hours later (could be less depending on your body’s metabolism and tolerance to caffeine) and feel horrible because you haven’t eaten or the food you ate hasn’t digested. Most people would just have more coffee and the cycle continues. So your body has not received sufficient nutrients to run on and is instead being artificially stimulated by the caffeine.
The body also builds up a tolerance to caffeine so you will find yourself having stronger and stronger coffees to get the same kick.
Ideally, have breakfast when you wake up and save your coffee for coffee for about the mid morning about 10:30am. This way your body would have started absorbing some of the nutrients from your food so you will have some energy to run off.
Then the coffee will give you an extra boost.
You could also have your coffee with some food to slow down the digestion of the coffee thus giving you a steadier release rather than a spike and drop.
Number 8: Eat small meals throughout the day
Smaller meals throughout the day provide your body with a sustained release of energy.
If you go by the normal routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner, you leave huge gaps between each meal. Check here for my opinion on breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is all about timing, and eating for your activity.
Having huge meals such as a big pasta lunch not only provides your body with mainly carbs but it is a lot for your body to digest. This diverts a lot of blood to your digestive system (which uses a lot of energy) and leaves you feeling drained.
Not only that, pasta is usually just simple carbs which will cause and energy spike and drop, which will make you feel even more tired and sleepy.
Number 7: Stay away from sugar
Sugary foods such as chocolate, biscuits, sugar in your tea or coffee and also simple carbs like white bread will be digested quickly by your body.
This will mean that the energy will also be released quickly and you will get a “sugar high” but then a very drastic sugar drop when you will feel horrible and lethargic. This will probably move you towards grabbing some more sugar and it’s a downward spiral.
If you do want a biscuit as a treat have it with something that will also be digested slowly like a fruit or some nuts. This will lessen the effect of the “sugar high”.
Fruits are high in fructose (or fruit sugar) but they are loaded with fibre so your body will digest it slowly.
Number 6: Skip the fast food lunch
Fast foods such as burgers, pizza, even kebabs and Thai takeaways are usually unbalanced in their nutrient content.
They will have lots of sugar and simple carbs and also a lot of fat. Check back here or a quick breakdown on the types of nutrients your body uses.
Number 5: Limit the intake of energy drinks
In the same way we talked about coffee and sugar before, energy drinks have both high amounts of caffeine and sugar.
Whilst they will give you a boost it will be temporary and you will crash, and feel exhausted when it wears off.
Use them sparingly and stick to only 1 or 2 max within one day. Eat properly instead to get your energy rather than relying on energy drinks.
If you do have energy drinks, drink PLENTY of water as they will dehydrate you. And stay away from the huge cans or the ones with “extra effectiveness” as they simply contain more caffeine and will only be a short term boost.
Energy drinks or caffeine is great if you have a deadline or something to get done, but they come at a price as you will be exhausted when the effects wear off.
Number 4: Have balanced meals
Each meal should contain proteins, carbs and maybe fats. Each plays an important role in your bodily functions. Having each meal that contains each of these elements will ensure that all of your needs are met.
This article here will explain what each do in case you’re not too sure.
This is pretty hard to do if you buy your lunch as most of the food you can buy is usually just carbs and bad fats as that allows for a better profit margin.
Buying ready made good, functional food is expensive so it will be cheaper to make your own.
Number 3: Don’t eat at your desk
This is not really food related but it is important. Go outside and eat your food in the sun.
Getting some fresh air, some sunlight and some movement to get the blood flowing will re-invigorate you. Having food in your stomach does a good job of getting the blood flowing, but going out for a walk is even better.
The break also clears your mind and will allow you to focus better on your work when you get back to it and you will also be energised for the rest of the day.
Number 2: Pack your meals the night before
The best way to ensure that you eat proper food instead of giving in to temptation is by pre-preparing your food.
Having something ready for you to eat will prevent you from getting tempted to buying an unhealthy lunch as you have already committed some time and effort into eating well. This and a little bit of will power will be enough to ensure you eat a proper, functional meal.
Failing to plan is like planning to fail.
Number 1: Drink a whole lot of water
This is the most important factor to getting the out of your day in the office. Dehydration is one of the major causes of fatigue and headaches.
Fill a big bottle and keep drinking it throughout the day. You will be amazed at how great you feel.
This is especially important if you have caffeine (tea, coffee, energy drinks) as they are all diuretics and will make dehydrate you faster.
Soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea etc do not count. Nothing replaces water. Even by following this one tip, ensuring you stay properly hydrated you will have higher energy levels throughout the day.
As a bonus you won’t suffocate your colleagues at meetings with your horrible breath, as dehydration is one of the causes of bad breath.
I hope this helps you get more out of your day. Food plays a big part in how we feel. By eating food that is going to do us good and have function, we will feel great as a result.
It takes 21 days for your body to adjust and make an activity into a habit. It is during these first 21 days when it will be the hardest to adjust. You don’t have to implement all of these tips, try one at a time and see if it works for you.
If you only take one thing away from here and only implement 1 of these tips, number 1 will have the most effect.
Have you tried any of these? Did they work for you? Let me know. Please share this with your office mates too and spread the word on how to get more out of your day by manipulating how you eat.