We all strive to be our best each day, but it can be a struggle to consistently meet this goal on a regular basis. No matter how you define performance—mental focus, physical fitness, or energy levels—there are specific measures you can take when eating to perform your best.
Nutrient balance is key
Your body needs a healthy balance of nutrients to keep you on your A-game. Keep this in mind when putting together your meals for the day.
Carbs for energy
Carbohydrates are going to be your energy supplier for the day. Aim to choose carbohydrates that will also provide you with vitamins and minerals like fruits and starchy vegetables (white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, winter squash, or pumpkin). The more vitamins and minerals your body has to work with, the better it can perform.
Protein to boost metabolism
Our body has to work extra hard to digest protein, which in turn speeds up our metabolism to meet the demand. It also takes our body a long time to digest protein, keeping us fuller longer.
Fiber to regulate digestion
Fiber has many benefits, the most important of which are helping you have regular bowel movements and making you feel full and satiated. You need both types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) to reap these benefits. Soluble fiber, found in peas, oats, and fruits, helps keep you feeling fuller for longer by taking more time to pass through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, helps to keep your bowel movements regular and prevent constipation. Just make sure you’re drinking enough water to allow the fiber to pass through your system.
Healthy fats for extra brainpower
Fats are another type of food that will help keep you full throughout the day. Aim to choose foods that contain healthy fats like avocados, salmon, anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds. These will also give your brain an extra boost of energy (since our brain is made up of 60% fat).
Water to combat fatigue
The leading cause of fatigue is dehydration. Your blood pressure can drop when you’re dehydrated. This decreases blood flow to the brain, thus leaving you with low energy levels. Hydrating yourself with 16 oz. of cold water or a hot herbal tea is a great way to start your day. Then aim to consume about half your body weight in ounces throughout the day. If you are exercising, make sure to add an extra 16-32 oz. per hour of exercise.
QUICK TIP: Keep on your hydration game with an “ounces goal” by lunch and dinner time. For example, aim to drink two 25 oz. water bottles before lunch and two more before dinner.
Eat a complete breakfast
All of your meals should be carefully planned so you get balanced nutrition throughout your day. Breakfast is seldom thought over and often missed, but it’s the one meal you actually don’t want to make an afterthought. Breakfast is the meal that is going to give you energy for the rest of your day (not your venti coffee). Think about it, you start your day with this meal and it will determine how the rest of your day goes.
Add in veggies at lunch
Veggies often get missed at breakfast, so it’s important to try to include them at lunch and dinner. A good tip is to keep vegetable options in the fridge or freezer at work. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones (if not more) and can be ready in minutes to add to any meal.
Whether you’re starting to feel hungry mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you want to make sure you snack smartly to keep you feeling full until your next meal. Pair a protein with a carbohydrate. This will keep you full, while also providing you with energy to get through the rest of your day. Examples of this could be a bowl of berries with almond butter and cinnamon, or some hummus and carrots.
Eat a balanced dinner
When it comes to dinner, you want to stick to our first rule of balance, while also being mindful of portion size. Typically after dinner, we’re not burning or using the energy consumed, so it’s important not to overeat. Having a balanced and substantial lunch, and mid-afternoon snack, as discussed earlier, can help with this. During dinner, aim to fill at least 1/2 your plate up with vegetables, 1/4 with protein, 1/4 with whole grains (especially if post-workout) and top off with some healthy fats if not already included.
Tackle sweet tooth cravings
Having one of those sweet tooth cravings after lunch or dinner? I suggest making a cup of herbal tea with 1 square of dark chocolate (>70% cocoa). This combo will keep those cravings at bay without consuming sugar and also help keep you hydrated.
Achieve peak performance
Plan your meals carefully and be prepared for any kind of hunger attacks or sweet tooth cravings. Incorporating these tips throughout your day will help keep you mentally and physically in shape to tackle anything that comes your way.