My wife: "What did you have for lunch today?"
Me: "Lunch? Umm."
My wife: "You didn't eat anything all day, did you?"
Me: "Eat? Umm."
This is pretty much par for the course at my house, which I'm confident resonates with many entrepreneurs and professionals alike. You started working, you kept focused and zoomed through the day only to realize it's already 4 in the afternoon and consumed only 300 calories. This probably doesn't come as much of a shock, but that's really not good for you.
Our days are filled with work and often require excessive amounts of focus and concentration, leaving food outside the realm of thought. The problem here is that our bodies require a certain level of nutrition to function at maximum capacity, or really in any capacity.
Being that I’m guilty of this very issue, I’ve enlisted the help of an expert. Enter Lori Zanini, a Los Angeles-based leading dietitian and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. So yes, she knows what she’s talking about.
During our discussion about my lack of dietary structure, there were a number of hugely important points made by Zanini that resonated with me. Here are just a few:
1. Timing is key.
I have long been guilty of getting up early, grabbing a cup of coffee and just getting to work. I’ve historically missed breakfast, despite the fact that I have indeed heard the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” adage since I could talk.
Well, apparently it’s not a joke.
“You should aim to eat breakfast soon after waking up in order to jump-start your metabolism for the day," Zanini says. "Rather than depriving your body of food, look at breakfast as a way to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs. Breakfast has been shown to help curb cravings later in the day and improve both your memory and concentration.”
Do yourself a favor and take an extra 17 seconds to grab a banana and a handful of almonds to scarf down as you’re getting your day started, then work to consume some real food every three to four hours throughout the day, which will help increase energy and focus.
2. Tone down the coffee and drink more water.
I, like many of you, thoroughly enjoy coffee and have found myself regularly consuming cup after cup. Now, there are ample studies that show that a couple of cups are good for you, but there’s big difference between a couple and seven.
What isn’t mentioned in the studies is what you’re adding to the coffee.
Zanini says that “adding sugar and cream to your multiple cups of coffee doesn’t do your body any favors. Instead, try flavoring coffee with skim milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract or better yet, drink your coffee black!”
According to Zanini, previous studies have shown that an estimated 75% of American adults are chronically dehydrated, which plays a significant role in loss of focus and increased fatigue, among other issues.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that being dehydrated caused “headache symptoms, loss of focus, a sense of fatigue and low mood both at rest and during exercise.” As an entrepreneur or professional, these issues are bad for business.
So “drink enough water to ensure that your urine remains very light in color throughout the day,” Zanini says.
3. What you eat matters.
This may not come as a surprise, but fast food is really bad for you. It’s chock full of saturated fats—which are the bad kind—and types of carbohydrates that cause a dramatic insulin spike. A high level of insulin, which happens in response to the consumption of carbs, drives a false feeling of hunger. Yes, sugar is a carbohydrate.
Zanini suggests that you “consume meals that are largely built around protein and high-fiber carbohydrates. This combination of nutrients will keep you full longer, help you focus and even prevent mood swings related to blood sugar fluctuations. Easy-to-make examples of this combo include an apple with natural peanut butter or sliced vegetables with a few tablespoons of hummus.”
There’s no question that finding time to eat throughout the day can be really difficult. Whether you’re facing down potential investors or battling a deadline, it doesn’t typically sit at the forefront of thought.
But if you don’t follow some of these steps or work to change your habits, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice by not providing your body and brain with the proper nutrients and nutrition required to function at the high levels that being an entrepreneur demands.