It starts as a busy day, then a busy week – before becoming a busy year where we barely come up for air. We get into the cycle of permanently trying to catch up, meaning that we’re rushed, frustrated and stressed. Stress and exhaustion are amongst the most common afflictions I hear about as a performance coach.
Our body responds to these stresses – producing additional hormones to simulate the “fight or flight” signals being sent out by our stressed and panicked brain. We owe it to ourselves to make sure that we’re getting the vital amount of necessary nutrients to adequately support our bodies to cope with short bursts of stress, recover from exhaustion and to appropriately deal with the extensive demands of our daily lives.
With so many tempting, convenient and fast options available, it’s easy to get into the cycle of grabbing what’s in front of us rather than what we actually want or need. Ironically this is going to hamper your concentration, laden your system with nutrition-free calories, make you tired right down to a cellular level and will cause you to be hungry sooner than you’d like.
The secret is to plan ahead as much as possible. It makes sense that the quality of the fuel we use is directly linked to the quality of the performance. You’ll not only feel better and more in control but the world will seem like a more achievable and bearable place.
Nutritional tips during times of exhaustion & stress:
1- Consume energy rich & nutrition dense foods whenever possible
When you’re pushed for time it’s important to make everything that you eat count nutritionally. Natural, fresh and raw “convenience” foods that are no fuss to prepare and that you can easily carry in your bag or eat on the go during the day are great – like fruit, nuts, chopped raw vegetables such as carrot pieces etc or even raw food bars.
What you eat impacts your mood substantially and these light, nutritious snacks are great for the time poor as they’re packed with energy, fibre and vitamins – perfect for avoiding the energy slumps and post-lunch coma.
2- Avoid processed foods
As tempting as that drive-thru, boxed meal or home delivery may be, it’s typically packed full of chemical compounds, preservatives and sodium. These can all contribute to sugar crashes, bloating and poor digestion if consumed regularly.
Processed foods are typically low in fibre, nutritional value and commonly high in saturated fat. They also commonly offer poor satiation with the inconvenience of needing to eat again soon after – contributing to weight gain and a whole bunch of other weight related issues.
3- Eat as fresh as possible
The more fresh your food, the more nutrition it will contain. Try and eat in-season fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Bulk up on proteins in the form of beans and fresh high quality grass-fed protein meats rich in iron and omega -3 fatty acids… great for muscle tissue, brain and heart health.
4- Cut back on the coffee and tea and make sure you’re adequately hydrated
Coffee in particular is renowned for being “productivity liquid fuel”, filling you with energy and wakefulness to be able to get on with things.
Ironically, coffee can actually make you tired. Excessive caffeine puts pressure on your adrenals which may also result in anxiety and restlessness. Definitely a good idea to cut back on those late afternoon and evening cups in particular if you’re having difficulty falling asleep at night.
Caffeine is a diuretic, making it important to also drink enough water each day. The recommended amount is 6-8 glasses spread evenly throughout the day. Adequate water intake is also necessary for clear thought, keeping the blood oxygenated and energy levels up.
If you’re concerned that you aren’t getting what you need from your food, there’s also the option of taking daily supplements or vitamins to get an extra boost.
You should always consult a doctor, naturopath or nutritionist if you think something isn’t right or you need some extra help. Often this can get bumped down the to-do list but don’t hesitate to seek assistance, your performance and Uppyness depends on your health!