Your waistline isn’t the only problem when it comes to poor eating and exercise habits. Research has proven that bad habits like these can also lead to a sharp decrease in productivity.
Your brain, the productivity supercenter, is a hungry organ. The brain’s cells require double the amount of energy than any other cells in the body. Its energy levels must be kept high enough to work efficiently all day long – anything less can cause mental stress and exhaustion.
A study conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), Brigham Young University and the Center for Health Research at Healthways found that workers who ate healthy and exercised regularly were absent less frequently and showed better performance in the workplace.
Let’s move past all the clichés about exercise and nutrition. How exactly does what we eat contribute to productivity? Allow the beauty of science to explain:
How Healthy Eating Boosts Brain Power
Gasoline is the fuel that powers a car. What’s our fuel? It’s glucose!
Most of what we eat gets turned into glucose, which in turn powers our brains. The ingredients of food get broken down and enter our bloodstream. Some of these elements make it up to the brain, and it’s important to know which ones will help us gain or lose focus. Why?
Our diet controls how much glucose flows to our brain. Certain foods can either release glucose quickly or slowly, and this correlates with amounts of productivity. A donut, for example, causes glucose to be released quickly, but that gives you only about 20 minutes of alertness. After that, you’ll be unfocused again because you burned through all your fuel.
On the contrary, a bowl of oats will cause glucose to be released slowly, and you guessed it – you’ll have a longer span and higher level of productivity.
So now that you’ve had a speedy crash course on how food affects productivity, here’s a surprising fact: the context of your eating habits can also affect your productivity.
When and where you’re hungry, as well as who you’re with, can change how you eat. Consider these three situations:
- When: If you skip breakfast, chances are you’re ruining your productivity. Think about when you were a cranky kid without your morning snack.
- Where: Ever pass by several fast food places while you’re hungry and caved in? You probably have at least once.
- Who: Eric Barker, a popular productivity blogger, says if you eat with overweight people, or are presented with a wide variety of food, you’ll eat more.
How Exercise Boosts Brain Power
Hold up! Food isn’t the only way we can become more productive. As the HERO organization showed earlier, regular exercise can also be another power source for our brains.
To prove this, University of Minnesota professor Avner Ben-Ner conducted a study among 400 employees who set out to answer the question: What would happen if the employees worked while walking on treadmills?
Not only did work performance increase, but walking and working had a positive effect on physical activity. Ben-Ner stated that on average, participants burned 63 more calories than usual from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 21 more calories than usual from 5 to 11 p.m.
Now, does this mean all workplaces are going to install treadmills and force you to exercise? Of course not. But this study does show that exercise does in fact increase productivity.
LIVESTRONG rounds out this idea, saying exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which can sharpen your awareness. Exercise also gives you more energy, so you feel more awake at work.
Now you know the benefits of both food and exercise when it comes to productivity. So what can you take away from all this?
Train Yourself to Graze
And no, we don’t mean eat grass. The brain needs specific portions of food to be at its best. How can you come up with the correct portions? Make your three daily meals smaller and then add healthy snacks between meals. You’ll fuel your brain while changing your eating habits.
Keep Watch for Power Foods
What foods will make you a productive powerhouse? Try these (in moderation, of course):
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
- Raw carrots
Establish a Regular Workout Routine
Whether it’s just a few minutes of free weights, or an hour or two at the gym, anything helps.
You’re now armed with knowledge and advice – get out there and get productive!