I am not sure about the rest of you, but lunches are incredibly important for a fulfilling day of work. As you would know (and have practiced diligently everyday for the longest time you can remember), food is essential for survival. While food is a basic requirement to maintain our bodies, it also has an impact on our bodies (but you already know that). So how else does lunch affect us at work, besides inflating our waistlines?
In this 3-part series, we will look at the ways a poor lunch can affect our work.
Have you ever felt so sleepy after lunch that you fell asleep during an important meeting (or worst yet, presenting during the meeting)? This is definitely no sign of laziness nor is it a severe medical problem to be checked out immediately. It is actually biological and definitely more common than you think. Look around you during the next meeting that is scheduled right after lunch. You will realize that the post-lunch sleepiness becomes an epidemic! Just try not to succumb to it…
What can we do then, to combat this terrible Post-Lunch Z Monster?
Know your enemy
Well, in its most basic sense, as your stomach is filled with that amazing chicken chop, served by the hot chick from the Western food stall (see what I did there), your brain redirects blood flow and energy into digesting the food. For the medically or biologically inclined, you should already know the terms: ‘insulin’, ‘serotonin’ and ‘melatonin’, and how it affects our brain. It turns out that the latter two are associated with drowsiness. To understand about these in-depth, you ought to speak to a person who is more qualified, perhaps a doctor, a nutritionist or a chemist (and not a starfish, although it is more than happy to provide consultations).
Like us humans, not all food are created equal, thus we will need to know which foods make us the sleepiest! The following list of food shows the sleepiness offenders:
- Foods with high Glycemic Index (GI) – GI is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate foods and their impact on our blood sugar. These foods spike blood sugars quickly, resulting in huge releases of insulin and subsequently a blood sugar crash depleting your energy quicker than you realize it… and that’s when you doze off. (Examples include: White rice, potatoes, bread, cookies)
- Foods with high Fat Content (FC – but no one uses this acronym EVER) – These foods can trigger hormonal and nervous system responses that will eventually summon the Z monster. (Examples include: Fried Chicken, Fried Fries, Fried Mars Bar, you get the idea… oh yeah and Potato chips! I’m sorry guys.)
- Caffeine – As much as caffeine can provide the massive energy boost, it actually makes you sleepier in the long run. But that shouldn’t stop you from having your morning espresso or affogato right? However, do note that studies have shown that there is an optimal period to consume coffee, again for biological reasons. Learn more about the effects of caffeine and cortisol from this amazing video! (Examples include: Energy Drinks, Coffee, C8H10N4O2)
Knowing is half the battle won. Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you would know to avoid these foods for lunch.
In order to avoid encountering the post-lunch Z monster, we will need to avoid hormonal responses as well as to regulate the release of sugar in our blood, which is essentially to prevent random spikes from occurring (if only we can control our body on a cellular level.. oh one can only wish). You know that story about the rabbit, the tortoise and the ridiculous notion that they were on a race? The phrase ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ holds true, even to our digestive system!
The best types of food are those that provide our body with a steady energy burn, such as whole grains. Combine them with lean meat and vegetables and you will have a lunch that not only destroys the Z monster, but would also be more nutritious to your body, which is great because these health effects last longer than you know it.
But Patrick, in our Asian society, white rice is our staple food! How can I live without white rice!?!
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to white rice… such as (wait for it…) brown rice! Although brown rice is not exactly as tasty as white rice (which is subjective really), the additional hull and bran contained in the brown rice helps to reduce insulin spikes (due to the slow release of sugar), which will in turn reduce the chances of summoning the post-lunch Z monster, which will in turn reduce the chances of your boss stumbling upon your unconscious self slumped over at your desk!
It is important to choose the right type of food for lunch, especially during working days (unlike rest days where you can just snooze after a lavish lunch in the movie theater while an irate partner smacks you after about 30 seconds). With the right combination of food for lunch, not only will you defeat the Z monster, but you can even increase your energy levels, which in turns provide the essential boost to your productivity, resulting in being one step closer to that promotion you have been yearning for!
In the next post, we will look at the other effects of a poor lunch. Eat healthy and be awake for the next one!