Being productive and generally awesome at your job requires a lot of energy and focus. Both of which are very dependent on how much attention you pay to nutrition and how well you know what works for your body.
It’s hard to be stuck at a desk all day, mostly because it’s draining and just plain bad for your health.
I think how we manage our body is critical to our energy levels. It just makes sense to start on the foundation. The oldest parts of you from an evolutionary standpoint are parts of your brain and nervous system. Knowing this, a good starting point is looking at what we share with other animals, such as the need for sleep.
Animals like it. Everybody needs it.
We really need REM cycles, in this state our brain is theorized as compartmentalizing and breaking down experiences, the hard data of your life is being defragged. Cycles typically last for about 90 minutes at a time. Waking up mid REM cycle will leave you feeling groggy. Devices exist that will monitor your brain waves to catalog when and how long you entered these states.
Hopefully you get a few REM cycles within 6-8 hours of deep sleep, you shouldn’t actually need coffee to get through the day, in fact try napping on the weekend instead of having more stimulants, and this will recharge you for the week ahead. You should only need more sleep if your body is physically repairing and needs to build new tissue.
Try to stay on the circadian rhythm, this is a system that is built into the very cells that make up your body, it is the “wireless sync” with the sun cycle. It’s the internal clock that tell us to fall asleep when it’s dark, and wakes us up at sunrise. A typically ideal sleep cycle is 11pm to 7am.
There are all kinds of tips and tricks to falling asleep and having a good night’s rest but I found Onnit product New Mood to be particularly effective.
We often hear of a need for vitamins, but minerals are just as important if not more so because they can be harder to come by in our food supply.
The acid/alkaline balance of your body is “buffered” by trace elements, the more acidy foods you consume, the more your body uses up its elements to balance it out.
Your body tries to maintain a blood ph level that is slightly basic (alkaline) of 7.4. To put things in perspective, Tomato juice is about 4, beer is about 5.5, coffee is about 6, the ph scale is logarithmic meaning each number is 10 times more or less strong.
Himalayan or black salts, added to water will help buffer your system with trace minerals (small amounts of different elements ) over time, all you need is a pinch into a glass of water (shouldn’t taste salty).
Himalayan salts can be found locally at the Market on Yates, Lifestyles and tons of other grocery stores, look for the pink crystals. Online it can be found here
3. Hydration and Elimination
We’ve all heard how we should drink eight glasses of water a day.
I would dispute this, if I was to drink 8+ glasses of water after a tea or coffee (diuretics), I’m would start to deplete my minerals and electrolytes and as a consequence probably feel tired later. This could be because without adequate salts, I may lower the blood pressure resulting in feeling weak or light-headed.
A glass of water with a pinch of Himalayan salt crystals and a squeezed lemon wedge first thing in the morning can also help kick-start hydration in your body and primes your system for digestion and elimination before having coffee or tea. Really can’t stress the importance of a proper elimination to really put some spring in your step.
4. Body Mechanics & Mind Connection
“Starting the day with a measure of optimism and a clear intention of what you want to accomplish can give your day a boost.”
Most people feel like their body is extra heavy in the morning, like gravity got a whole lot stronger overnight. If you aren’t a jump out of bed by 5am be at the gym by 5:45am person, doing some breathing and gentle stretching is a great way to start. I personally like this bio-energetic warm up routine from Elliot Hulse [youtube=http://youtu.be/zD-3j2g9w9U]
Doing some deep breathing oxygenates your system and gets blood moving which is good for bringing your brain online. I find it difficult to make it to a gym in the mornings because I’m simply not a morning person, but riding my bike to work in the summer is a great way to get blood moving. If that’s not possible, clearing some space to do some breathing, stretching, yoga or meditating is a great way to start the day.
All you really need is 5-15 minutes to feel a difference and add some clarity to your mornings.
Nothing beats local soil, open air, sun grown food. – Carolyn Herriot
(see her awesome ted x talk video here) http://youtu.be/9yFN8V7pWZs
Compost and grow some of your own food, even if all you can do is a parsley plant on a window sill, just do it.
The benefits of live food, especially brightly colored fruit and vegetables are filled with swimming chlorophyll and phytonutrients that are the essence of life itself. In lieu of eating like that all the time for lack of time. I have decided, after getting frustrated at the litany of vitamins in my cabinet for the following reasons to switch to whole food powdered vitamins (greens style) because;
1) Whole food vitamins take up less space and are kept refrigerated allowing for probiotics
2) My body recognizes the vitamins because they are derived from real food not synthetically derived in a lab
3) Allows me to hydrate while absorbing vitamins
6. To Juice or to Blend
Homemade fresh juice can be great unlike canned or bottled juices which are far too sugary, acidic and pasteurized beyond the body’s ability to recognize nutritional value.
I have a juicer but don’t use it as much as I would like due to the mess it creates, as well as the drawbacks such as lack of fibre in the juice which is a huge benefit of having vegetables. I know I need a good better blender usually a vitamix or blendtec to liquefy the cellulose and get that fibre.
Stay away from most fruits, they spike your blood sugar and lead you to a crash later, dark leafy green veges like kale, parsley and celery will give you an incredible boost and help keep you system in the alkaline for most of the day. You can try adding a small piece of ginger and a slice of pear or apple or beet to make it more palatable.
Figure out what works for you, try different combinations of food, note how you feel, specifically how clear your mind is and how easy it is to focus on your tasks. In my opinion, nothing beats the long lasting energy boost of a homemade green shake.
Check out Joe Rogan making a huge green shake: http://youtu.be/gmmPSBRu6wg
7. The First meal of the day
You will still want to eat some solid foods, for a lot of people we skip breakfast or think a muffin and a coffee will get us through the morning, and it usually will but it isn’t preferable.
A better breakfast includes high amount of protein/choline for brain function (eggs , the higher quality the better, yolks should be bright orange), animals fats from local and naturally cured meats like the bacon you can pick up at (cook st ) help digest sugars slower leaving us less likely to crash, even if we go for a cup of coffee with this meal we will probably feel a lot sharper and happier as dopamine is released into the system from a pleasurable meal while the animal fats and salts buffer your body from a spike in blood sugar or caffeine.
Have some carbs for energy if you are biking to work in the form of some quinoa with nuts (unroasted raw, unpasteurized if possible). I’m not fully against breads but I have definitely cut back. Squash and even yams have become more prevalent in my diet as I keep shifting further into the spectrum of the Paleo diet.
As far as I know most Fruits aren’t great for you, unless they’re local and in season which has immune system benefits. If you have weight loss goals I hear good things about grapefruits in the morning. Kiwis are great if you want your vitamin c with less acidity and papaya has beneficial enzymes for digestion.
Here’s a video of Robb Wolf, one of the Paleo diets key advocates http://youtu.be/7HkqBxpPBeI
And here’s a food guide for you based on the Paleo Diet: http://www.bulletproofexec.com/the-complete-illustrated-one-page-bulletproof-diet/
I usually start my day with a tea, I haven’t kicked the caffeine habit yet but I do take breaks from it from time to time. I might also want a coffee by mid-day, it’s easier on the body to ramp up caffeine slowly and spread it out over time to avoid a crash, if you eat a meal with protein and animal fats (or coconut oil), and you may also notice a cognitive advantage.
If you need an extra edge to focus and help you feel like your neural system is more jacked in then a character from a William Gibson novel, allow me to introduce you to the world of Nootropics.
Now I’m not for the stimulant variety, but as with the theme of this article, I’m all about the supplements and making sure your body has what it needs. As it turns out the brains needs are very specific.
Products like Onnit’s ‘Alpha Brain’ are engineered to provide the brain with everything it needs to fire up neurons at full capacity. If you feel like picking and choosing supplements one at time, ginkgo biloba is a great vaso dilator which means it can help increase blood flow to the brain and ginseng is an adaptogen which means it plugs holes in your body’s endocrine and immune system.
To learn more about Onnit products click this link.
9. Avoid too much Caffeine
“Nothing is for free, even the boost you get from coffee”
Unlike vitamins, minerals which generally replenish and allows your system to function at full tilt, stimulants and depressants burn up the body’s vital reserves.
I happen to really like coffee, especially a good locally roasted blend, usually from Café Fantastico, 2% Jazz or Discovery here in Victoria. Coffee that is locally roasted is dated this is good for a number of reasons which I will get into in a follow-up post.
The effect of coffee or caffeine that increase your productive capacity and mental focus come from a complex bio-chemical reaction happening in the body. Notably adrenal glands (endocrine system) ramps up your nervous system which trigger an elevate heart rate and can put you on the edge of fight or flight. On the upper end of the spectrum, usually this is experienced as anxiety and can actually cause productive to decline.
On the opposite spectrum, to reduce anxiety, Tulsi Tea (holy basil) or lemon balm can relax the body and nervous system which is awesome for feeling calm, clear and rested.
10. Keeping it all in Balance
Management of your energy levels is an integral part of self-management. Knowing what works for you can set you up for a more productive day.
Remember all of this is just advice, there is no ONE SIZE fits all approach, find what works for you and do it!
Stay tuned for the midday recharge tips and more about coffee