Mastering Your Mindset Volume 1: Can your lunch really effect your performance?

Before you delve deep into this blog, this certainly is not another lambasting article on carbohydrates. I am a big fan of carbohydrates, I don’t advise massively limiting them unless you want to and I believe fat loss can occur just as quickly as someone who is on a low carbohydrate diet. When I say believe, I mean it’s a fact, I know it can. Adversely, I completely appreciate how going ‘low carb’ for a weight/fat loss goal can be a quick and easy fix. Removing a macronutrient that is often anywhere from 30 to 55% of most people’s diet will inevitably incur weight-loss. It’s not rocket science. Achieving fat loss/weight loss (I use the term weight loss loosely) on a balanced nutritional diet is the ultimate long term goal. Up on the next blog i’m going to look at how to manipulate energy balance (energy in/energy out) if your goal is to lose weight.

Anyway, let’s look at what a carbohydrate is, then following on from that how our bodies react when you eat it and whether this reaction can have a direct impact on concentration and performance at work.

Carbohydrates are sugars that are broken down inside our bodies to create glucose. This is then transported around our bodies and used as a primary source of energy, as well as our muscles and other essential cells utilising it. To regulate the glucose within our blood, insulin and glucagon are produced from the pancreas. When a carbohydrate is consumed blood sugar levels increase which is when insulin is secreted in order to manage this.

Your typical carb can range from potato, rice, wheat, bread to vegetables and to the slightly more addictive foods such a chocolate and sugary sweets. Unfortunately its the best tasting food, for me anyway.

So, is there a link to this decrease in blood sugar after eating a heavy carb lunch some hours after to that afternoon slump that I know so many people struggle with? Possibly. Individually we are all so different and I’m sure many can have a heavy carbohydrate lunch and feel fine throughout the entire afternoon as much as I am sure some would struggle and not be able to identify why. Couple this with a sedentary job an 8 – 12-hour work day and it might be worth addressing if you do find yourself going into the office kitchen a couple of times during the afternoon.

A couple of factors to consider. Firstly digesting your food. The food you eat for lunch diverts blood away from the brain to help with the digestion process. Also feeling particularly full isn’t massively conducive for a working environment. Your body will also release melatonin which is a hormone that aids sleep.

To avoid such extreme high lows, opt for a higher protein & fat based diet. Carbs don’t need to be completely avoided but might be worth trialling. Some additional steps I would take;

  • Eat Breakfast and look at how nutrient dense your breakfast is
  • Reduce caffeine consumption
  • Drink water (mild forms of dehydration can trick the body to thinking its hungry)
  • Get a good nights sleep aim for minimum 7 hours sleep
  • Look at what you’re eating the evening before

Below two very popular eateries within 100m from where I work. Itsu and Wasabi both offering not to dissimilar types of foods. Here I have compared two dishes from Itsu and a very popular lunch option from Wasabi. Il also add it was quite difficult finding nutritional information on Wasabi and was very surprised to find out the Katsu Curry potentially surpasses 1000 kcals of which I am very sure Mr Smith who east it a couple of times a week has no idea of.

Low Carb – Itsu

Mixed Sashimi

385 kcal / Pro 43.5g / Carbs 4.3 / Fat 3.9g

Veggie Threesome

109kcal / Pro 1.9g / Carbs 16.9g / Fat 3.5g

Total: 494 kcal / Pro 45.4 / Carbs 21.2 / Fat 7.4

High Carb – Wasabi

Chicken Katsu Curry

1142 kcal / Pro 41g / Carbs 165 / Fat 35g

Total: 1142 kcal / Pro 41g / Carbs 165 / Fat 35g