Holy cow! Here’s how food affects our performance at work

Performance at work is not all tied to intelligence, good habits, positive psychology and what have you, but it is also important to consider what you eat. Those after lunch dips are definitely something that you can prevent. Also, not all the food choices we make are beneficial to our health.

Here’s how to get more out of your day and have more energy.

Why you get an after lunch dip

It is a normal process to get tired after having lunch. This is because our bodies actually have to use energy to process the food. When we eat glucose rich food (white bread or cereals for instance), our body gets high on glucose. To process the glucose the pancreas creates insulin to process this. Insulin in a chain reaction creates tryptophan, which then leads to increased levels of serotonin and melatonin which makes us sleepy.

Turkey, chicken and other high protein foods can make us feel drowsy as well, because these foods contain high levels of tryptophan.

To prevent an after lunch dip, follow these tips:

  1. Eat a lot of whole grained food and vegetables. Avoid processed foods (e.g. cereals, juices, processed wheat products etc.) as these contain massive amounts of hidden sugars. Processed foods is also the type of food that makes us fat.
  2. Eat smaller portions during the day.
  3. Don’t skip breakfast, as it sets the energy level for the rest of the day.
  4. Stay hydrated.
  5. Avoid sugars.

But there’s more to feeling healthy the whole day and this is more controversial. If you want to get healthier, we should eat less meat. A lot less…

Why meat can be bad for you

Meat is an important source of protein, vitamins and minerals for many of us. However, there are also important drawbacks of meat, which are an increased risk of a lot of types of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer disease.

This isn’t enough to dissuade a lot of meat eaters. Same goes for me by the way, because I love to eat a big tender steak once in a while. However, there are more adverse effects that affect our day to day functioning.

Research has shown that only two hours after eating meat, our arteries constrict up to 40 % and our blood also gets thicker. This prohibits the blood flow to our muscles and to our brain. This effect lasts up to 7 hours. So if you want to think quickly, it´s not smart to eat a lot of meat.

Spinach, lettuce and carrots on the other hand, lets our veins expand and actually increase our blood flow.

Meat also is closely related to the amount of inflammation in your body. Therefore, if you eat a lot of meat, the recovery time after disease or exercise takes longer.

Myths about proteins busted

Protein for top athletes

If food is important for us “regular people”, it is extra important for top athletes.

On March 6, 2016 Nate Diaz entered the ring in an UFC fight against Conor McGregor. McGregor, prior to the fight, ridiculed Diaz for his fully plant based diet. He mentioned that he proudly ate triple A quality meat every day – as any alpha male is supposed to do.

What happened in the ring though? McGregor got his ass kicked by Diaz, “the vegan guy”. Maybe this gives reason to think that meat isn’t necessarily performance enhancing?

Now surely, Diaz was getting his proteins if he was able to defeat McGregor. Well, there are plenty of proteins in vegetables.

How much protein is  in vegetables?

We need protein. That’s a fact, no getting around this one. Our bodies are made up for 20 percent out of protein. We do not produce all proteins, which is why we need to get our protein from our diet. When someone admits being a vegetarian or vegan, the following question will inadvertently be asked:

“But how do you get your proteins then?”

Well, an average adult needs about 55 grams of proteins per day.

It is very well possible to eat a sufficient amount of proteins on a plant based diet only. From the proteins, we get the 22 amino acids (building blocks) that our body needs. When we eat meat, we get all of those amino acids at once.

However, in case we only eat one kind of vegetable, we will in general not get all amino acids at once. For that, we need to vary our vegetable intake.

Hereby I give you 6 examples of high protein vegetables. In this case, I used the amount of protein which is the equivalent of 130 grams of pork loin (containing around 65 grams of protein):

  1. 250 grams of black beans
  2. 200 grams of lettuce
  3. 250 grams of lima beans
  4. 300 grams of tempeh
  5. 250 grams of soy beans
  6. 200 grams of hemp seed (can be used as a substitute for porridge). Hemp seeds contain all 22 amino acids that we need.

When you vary your vegetable intake, you will get all your amino acids. For instance, when you eat a whole grained sandwich with peanut butter, you already take in all the amino acids you need.

Why do we believe that meat is good, then?

So why do we believe that meat is required to be healthy? The meat industry finances a lot of research done on the topic. For each paper discussing the adverse effects of meat consumption, a paper of the advantages of meat is published. Kind of what the tobacco industry did decades ago, trying to disprove the relationship of cigarettes and their adverse health effects.

The meat industry had a lot of campaigns promoting the fact that we need to eat meat for the protein. This is the reason why so many of us believe that we need to eat meat for the protein, whereas we can also get this through vegetables.

In several documentaries in which the producers are critical about meat consumption, they show that a lot of NGOs and even semi-government agencies are sponsored by the meat industry.

I just Googled, for instance, on the American Cancer society to see who the sponsors are. Several food companies pop up. Among other sponsors Tyson is mentioned, which is the second largest meat processing company in the world!

How in the hell are we going to get good advice from the American Cancer society on what to eat, if they are sponsored by meat processing companies?! The mere possibility of a link between cancer and meat should be enough to decline certain companies as a sponsor, I would say.

And this is likely only the tip of the iceberg, as this example is just hiding in plain sight. What about the sponsors that we do not see on the internet?

Changing your diet?

So should you be changing your diet? Well the body of research of the adverse effects of meat consumption is definitely something to consider. At a minimum, you should stay clear of processed meat, as research is universally saying this is unhealthy and causes cancer.

It is also pretty clear that we should eat less meat. However, when doing some extensive searching on the internet, I’m not sure if I should eating meat altogether. I still eat meat occasionally, but eating less meat definitely has had some advantages for me such as:

  1. I’m sick less often and if so, the symptoms are less severe.
  2. I don’t have as many after lunch- or dinner dips.
  3. My moods have generally improved.

And the tips on eating less per meal but more frequently and adding more vegetables to your diet are of course also beneficial.

So why not try experimenting with a few of these tips throughout the day and experiment how you feel when eating different types of food? It may also identify some intolerances of which you weren’t yet aware.

That’s it for this week. I hope you liked the article. If so, don’t forget to like and share and see you back here next week for another blog post!

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