While bursts of productivity may be easy for most of us, staying productive is another question entirely. This is where your diet can make a big difference. The food you eat can have more of a bearing on your performance than you might think.

So, whether you are a business owner who’s keen to get the most out of their team or a professional looking to optimise their workday – here are some of the foods that can help make you more productive and why they’re so effective.

What role does food play in productivity?

Simply put, food is energy – and choosing the right kind of food is essential when it comes to making the most of your workday. These units are ‘calories’, the fuel that helps keep your organs working, mind sharp, and concentration clear.

Once you have eaten a meal, three key elements known as macronutrients are extracted – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Once in your digestive system, these are broken down in different ways. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugars and added to the bloodstream, providing the quick burst on energy that you get after eating a sandwich or a bowl of pasta.

Fats are used for long-term energy consumption and stored within the body whenever they are needed – think of it like topping up your battery. Proteins take longer to break down and a provide a longer-lasting source of energy for your body. This is used to help the long-term healing of wounds
and allows you to deal with intensive projects over a longer period of time.

Finding the right balance between all three elements allows you and your teams to work more efficiently and have the focus to be productive without risking burnout or frustration.

Why are some foods not helpful?

One of the most desirable states for working is ‘flow’ – this sees you achieve full immersion in your project and work without disruption at peak efficiency. Achieving this state is a popular professional goal, but the route some people can take can cause more problems than they solve.

Sugars: Walk into any software developer’s office and the chances are you’ll be met by heaps of sugary products! Energy drinks, sweets, and more can provide an instant energy ‘spike’ when eaten – something that can be helpful to break through a roadblock of mental fatigue or giving you the
energy to finish off a project.

However, with a spike comes a crash and before long – your energy levels are lower than before, producing a familiar ‘drained’ feeling. These can also have a negative long-term effect on your health, resulting in tooth decay, skin damage, and even risk of heart damage.

Caffeine: Another cardinal sin for many, starting your working day with a takeaway coffee or a big mug from the communal filter can give the kick necessary to dig into your workload. However, our body can become used to caffeine and require a greater concentration and larger amounts to get the same ‘hit’.

Your energy can quickly tilt into anxiety or irritation, as well as regular trips to the bathroom that break up your day. This can lead to a lack of concentration, stomach pains and more until you start to scale back. Scaling back from coffee to drinks like green tea can help you get the same amount of stimulation with the addition of antioxidants and risk of the jitters.

Convenience Foods: A temptation for many, choosing a takeaway or delivery for lunch can save time.

This isn’t limited to hot counter foods, but includes muffins, salami, cereal bars – all foods that are deceptively high in fat.

If eaten to quickly, this can lead to bloating and even the temptation to fall asleep after your meal, making demanding projects or long-term tasks even more difficult to complete. Foods high in carbs and proteins can produce tryptophan, leading to the production of serotonin that can cause sleep –
something that can prove especially ‘dangerous’ on long, intensive conference calls.

What should I pick out?

If you’re keen to work in a sustainable way, there are a number of healthier foods that can be taken to bolster your productivity without bringing risk and actually provide care for your long term health.

These include –

Nuts: These are a fantastic treat to pack into your desk drawer -nuts are a source of natural proteins and fats, can be eaten quickly, and provide the long term energy release that your body needs throughout the day.
Adding these to breakfast or as a light snack throughout the day can help provide focus and concentration – though it is important to remember that they are high in fat and should ideally be a complement for full regular meals or added to meals throughout the day.

Water: Steadily drinking water throughout the day can have a significant positive effect on your concentration. Dehydration can result in a significant drop off in productivity, in some cases as high as 25%.

The brain is 75% water but unable to store fluids, making it essential to provide your brain with the water it needs to complete its work. This allows neural pathways to stay at peak performance and ensure that your hormones and mood are regulated correctly. This enables you to get back into ‘the zone’ when distracted and continue your flow state for longer.

Natural grains: These are ‘slow release’ foods that take longer to release their energy and do so over an extended period of time. Adding items like wheats, oats, rice, or barley to your diet can help provide a ‘full’ feeling that prevents additional snacking or seeking out sugary foods.

These can also come loaded with fibres, minerals, and vitamins that can supplement your diet – easily brought about by choosing the right breakfast foods or sparingly eating cereal bars throughout the day.

Fruits: Fruits are a great source of natural sugars like fructose and glycose. They also comes loaded with water and fibre, letting you benefit from having the odd apple or banana throughout the day.

These are great to add as part of your breakfast or brunch, with grapefruits, pineapples, and blueberries providing helpful antioxidants. Pairing this with a thick yoghurt can also allow your body to access helpful natural proteins, letting you work without overextending yourself and helping to
vary your diet.

Omega 3: Found in fish, Omega 3 fatty acids have continuously proven helpful for concentration, brain health, and a range of long-term benefits. Having two servings a week for lunch or evening meal can help increase your concentration, while also providing a lowered risk of dementia or stroke in the future.

Omega 3 can also be found in fish oil supplements that can be taken during the day and also help combat issues such as RSI or arthritis, with fish oils helping to reduce inflammation – something that many desk workers suffer from on a daily basis.

What other options are available?

If you are keen to improve your productivity, there are a number of other choices available to help your teams improve their overall productivity, including-

Plan and Pace: If you are reluctant to change your eating habits, consider when in the day that you are eating and the amount you intend to consume. Starting the day with a meal that provides a steady energy release throughout the day can help carry you through to lunch time. With the body using 25% of your daily energy it is important that you do not overindulge and waiting to feel ‘full’ after a meal can help overeating and the downturn in effectiveness that accompanies it.

Training: Of course, some solutions may not require the use of food at all. Taking part in time management training or understanding business best practice can allow you to think strategically about your work. This can be as simple as tackling the most difficult task at the start of the day,
understanding and deploying timeboxing techniques, or identifying what time of the day you are most productive and eliminating distractions during that period.

Technology: If you’re still struggling, consulting with a professional provider can help streamline your existing working practice. This can be as simple as dealing with pain points in your existing processes, providing technical and hardware solutions, or working with you to understand your infrastructure and provide support in areas that truly need it most.

What next?

If you want to learn more about improving productivity within your business, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to deliver a bespoke solution that suits your unique professional needs – letting you tackle problems facing your business and ensure that your teams are ready to face the future, no matter what they’ve had for lunch!

If you want to learn more, you can view our list of products and services in full from here. Or If you have specific questions or queries that you would like to address, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need to optimise your daily working practice.