Meals that keep you energized for your startup

Prologue

As it has been said, fitness is the first step to greatness, and so, recently, I have begun an experiment with modifications to my dietary habits to enhance my cognitive abilities during work hours. To give some background, I categorize myself as a light sleeper, and I often feel tired during the day, and now that I am almost 1 year into this start-up life, the startup marathon is becoming increasingly demanding to the body as well as the mind. And so, I thought that it is time to make some changes.

Last month, I joined a free 2 months trial membership at a nearby gym, and I run for at least 20–30 mins, 3–4 times a week. That is pretty good. But, as a Hong Kong’er, having oily Chinese meals is very common, and the after lunch drowsiness gets to me everyday. Without a doubt, this is one of the first things that needs to be tackled. And this is how I started to research on dietary habits that could help me feel more energized throughout the day.

Here are a few things that I have summarized from online resources that I would like to share, and I will be updating my plans as I continue.

Have breakfast

  • You will feel better both mentally and physically.
  • A bowl of breakfast cereal every morning is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Dont eat sugary breakfast, e.g. pancakes, white toast, muffins
  • Suggestions: soluble fiber (found in oatmeal, barley and nuts). It dissolves in the intestinal tract and creates a filter that slows the absorption of sugars and fats. cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber a serving and whole-grain breads with 2g per slice. The extended period of sugar absorption helps smooths the blood sugar level throughout the day, and helps you stay focused.

Eat every a smallish meal every 2 to 3 hours

  • Every time you go more than 2 hours or so without eating, your blood sugar drops — and that’s bad news for your energy.
  • Food supplies the body with glucose, which is used to produce the body’s prime energy transporter. Every cell in your body needs it.
  • When blood sugar drops, your cells don’t have the raw materials to make energy transporter. And everything starts to slow down.
  • Having 3 smallish meals and 2 snacks throughout the day can keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable all day long. Supersized meals demand more of your energy to digest, which can leave you feeling lethargic.
  • At each mini-meal, get a mix of carbohydrates (which the body uses for energy), protein (which helps sustain energy if needed), and healthy fats like those found in fish, nuts, and olives — these fats and protein contribute to meal satisfaction, so you don’t go hunting for sweets an hour later and wind up with a short-lived sugar high and subsequent crash.
  • A few meal ideas: a low-fat yogurt parfait with berries and a couple of tablespoons of whole-grain granola; salmon over mixed greens with whole-grain crackers; and beef tenderloin with a baked sweet potato and asparagus.

Iron

You need iron in your meals. Iron deficiency causes less oxygen to reach your tissues, so your body is deprived of the energy it needs. If you’re deficient, you could eat the best diet and still be exhausted. Beef is the best source of heme iron, the form most easily used by the body. You can get nonheme iron from plant sources, like kidney beans (5mg in 1 cup) and spinach (3mg in ½ cup cooked). To help your body absorb nonheme iron, eat vitamin C-rich foods (orange juice, berries, tomatoes) and avoid coffee and tea an hour after eating as tannic acids can block iron absorption.

Other good sources of iron include:

  • liver
  • meat
  • beans
  • nuts
  • dried fruit — such as dried apricots
  • wholegrains — such as brown rice
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • soybean flour
  • most dark-green leafy vegetables — such as watercress and curly kale

Carbs

Carbs help your body burn fat without depleting muscle stores for energy. It has been given a bad rep in recent years, but studies have shown that carbs-restricted diets can worsen performance on memory-based tasks, and when a group of low-carb intake study subjects was introduced back into their normal diet, their cognitive skills leveled out.

The ideal diet is 50–55% complex carbohydrates, 20–25% protein and 25% fat. Complex carbs provide energy as they’re digested, while protein and fat, along with fiber, slow the digestion process so the boost lasts a good long time. Where possible, go for slow-burning wholegrain or wholemeal varieties, as they release energy gradually.

Protein
Fats and carbohydrates may supply the body with energy, but protein helps regulate the release of that power. Muscles and many hormones are, in fact, made up of protein. You need proteins for your immune system.

Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products. When you eat these types of foods, your body breaks down the protein that they contain into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Some amino acids are essential, which means that you need to get them from your diet, and others are nonessential, which means that your body can make them.

Drink A lot of water

Drink 8 cups of water a day!

Caffeine

Psychology tests have shown a combination of caffeine and sugar can improve alertness and performance. “But then it wears off, and then you get a little bit of a slump afterward,” says Camire. The high-low effect of caffeine, she says, is not as pronounced as it is in sugar, but it is significant enough that frequent users often experience headaches without the substance.

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