Do you fuel your body as though it is a Formula 1 car or a diesel truck? If you were an athlete, would the food you eat help or hinder your performance? If you were to deliver the most important speech of your life would you be energizing or lethargic? What we put in is what we get out; when it comes to the food we eat and fluids we ingest. Eating a healthy diet full of non-processed food such as fresh grains, seafood, legumes, fruits and vegetables, with a small amount of red meat and dairy products, allows you to sustain your energy levels, enhance your mood, improve your memory, sleep easier and prevent unwanted health problems.
How will you Fuel Your Body For Leadership Performance?
Become the boss of your body. It is made up of more than 100 trillion living cells, approximately 206 bones in the adult body and 78 organ systems of which 5 are considered vital for survival. Every CEO has a good strategy and usually the best strategies are the simple ones. For a CEO to perform at their best, they simply need to move and eat real, simple food. Take up the CEO Challenge to change your lifestyle by adopting a new mentality. Own the food and drink choices you make. Lifestyle change and weight loss is like a waterfall. Start with your mind, and only then can the change flow down the rest of your body.
In the last article we introduced Exercise Your Future, the first of the four basic fundamentals of being a high performing leader. Breaking The CEO Code shows you that the synergy of all four basic fundamentals – exercise, nutrition, mind and recovery – is the key to being a high performing leader, and not just doing one or two successfully on their own.
This article takes a look into how fueling your body with the right food has a positive impact on how you perform as a leader. There is a lot of noise in the marketplace, when it comes to what we should or shouldn’t eat. When it comes down eating for energy, health, vitality and leadership performance, there are a couple of key fundamentals that will set you in the right direction.
OPTIMISE HUMAN PERFORMANCE
Having extra energy when you fuel your body with the right food, will improve productivity and raise the opportunity to increase revenue every day. Being able to calculate the billions of dollars of lost revenue each year due to the effects on business because of low energy CEO’s and employees may be challenging. However, take a moment to consider what happens to productivity and performance when a CEO or employee is too tired to start the day off with a bang, runs out of energy by 3pm or suffers the inevitable energy drain after a heavy lunch time meal or sugar crash after a sugar and salt loaded snack. For many people the thought of creating something new, delivering an important sale or completing a project before they clock off work, becomes both a mental and physical impossibility. If you aren’t replenishing the car with the right fuel it will struggle or seize up. If you don’t put enough full in, it will eventually hit empty and so will your body if you don’t consume the right type and amount of food.
Your body is the next frontier of leadership performance and so it must speak your language. Dieting is a problem of knowledge and efficiency rather than a problem of vanity. We are now optimizing our performance and energy instead of watching our figure as people are more focused on longevity and cognitive performance rather than on dieting. When it comes to food, it is important to note that a diet is temporary, so it must be about making a lifestyle change.
If you really want to become healthier and more focused you have to be in it for the long game. Eat for the brain and the body will follow. Remember the brain is literally what controls all our bodily functions. Many people focus on the body first, which can have a negative effect on the brain. If you focus on the number of calories you eat, because you want to lose weight then you take the risk of eradicating important nutrients that your body and mind requires to function effectively. Eating food that allows brain to perform, focus without stopping every couple of minutes and feel supercharged is the new frontier of nutrition for leadership performance. Let’s turn your attention to focusing on eating for your brain, a healthier gut, and fully functioning cells.
What food and fluids should we ingest to unlock our body’s true potential?
FEED THE BRAIN
Our society is being burdened by a growth in the number of people with cognitive, emotion and mood dysfunctions, which most often occur due to metabolic disorders, such as obesity, and/or poor nutrition habits. The human diet, especially in the Western world, has become cluttered with highly processed food, and foods lacking in important polyphenols, antioxidants and Omega 3’s that are required for health brain and body functions. What we eat and the number of calories we ingest, each day, have large and lasting effects on our cognitive function and our emotions.
Consumption of a high-saturated fat diet has a negative effect on the hippocamapus region of the brain causing memory deficits and cognitive dysfunction. This leads to reduced focused attention and retrieval speed of information. Low levels of Omega-3’s in our diet may contribute to depression and memory loss, whereas high levels of Omega-3 in our diet can reverse the effects of a diet high in saturated fats. We do need a moderate amount of un-saturated and saturated fats in our diet, as long as it is not paired with high levels of simple sugars, as the brain is made up of 60% fat and 25% cholesterol. Cholesterol comes from fat and is required to produce our hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and cortisol, as well as acting as insulators by creating healthy myelin sheaths around brain cells. Healthy cholesterol in your diet is important and the best sources of fat including un-saturated and Omega-3’s are avocado, nuts, salmon, almond milk, olive oil, full fat yoghurt and organic red meat.
The lowering of oxidative stress and inflammation as a result of consuming fruits and vegetables high in polyphenols micronutrients can prevent and even reverse age-related cognitive deficits. Free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules in our body, are thought to damage DNA, decrease organ function and speed up the ageing process. Free radicals create havoc in the brain, lead to less energy and poor mental focus. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body, and neutralize nerve growth factor leading to faster learning and memory. They also fight inflammation in the bloodstream and brain. Great sources of Polyphenols, which provide exceedingly powerful antioxidants in our body, include blueberries, grapes, red cabbage, organic coffee, cloves and dark chocolate with at least 85% cocoa. They are fat soluble so require some fat to assist with absorption.
REDUCE MEDICAL EXPENSES
More than one third of adults are obese or overweight and it is totally preventable. Obesity costs Billions of dollars each year and is killing us. In 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that the worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. There are more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, considered overweight, with over 650 million obese. It’s time to make the healthy steps to take control of your body.
Physical inactivity has increased in the workplace due to automation, manual labour shifting to predominately inactive tasks, the arrival of desktop computers, and Work Health and Safety guidelines reducing manual labour activities. With less physical activity there is a greater need for exercise and nutritional incentives to be introduced into the workplace.
The workplace is a perfect environment to begin a positive trend towards employees making positive changes in the physical activity, health and nutrition. Employees spend a significant amount of time in the workplace. As a CEO you have the powerful opportunity to utilize peer groups and employee incentives to encourage healthy behavioral habits, when it comes to the food that people eat. Improving the eating habits of your employees can lead to decreased absenteeism, presenteeism and sick leave. As a result productivity and performance is likely to be increased.
You can provide a positive influence over attitudinal changes to diet and activity. Favorable physical and social environments as well as supportive organizational culture to encourage positive behavior change through providing knowledge, providing healthier food options in the staff café, substituting lollies and cakes for fruit, nuts and vegetables options during meetings, and increasing healthy options in vending mentions, at a reduced price. Encourage your employees to bring a water bottle to work and having filtered water stations, which are easily accessible.
PREVENT BURNOUT & EXTEND LONGEVITY
Is there a food-mood connection? Studies have shown mixed results when looking at the correlation between an unhealthy diet and the effects on emotional wellbeing, depression and other mental health issues. Foods that include nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, Omega-3, B vitamins, folic acid and tryptophan are associated with supporting your emotional wellbeing. These can all be found in foods that are part of a health diet.
The World Health Organization recommends the following for a healthy diet:
- Caloric intake should balance with energy expenditure;
- Sustainably produced, consumed and where possible cooked at home;
- Wide variety from different food groups, with an emphasis on plant-based;
- Eat un-refined carbohydrates rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains;
- Include a minimum of 2-3 portions of fruit and 2-3 portions of vegetables per day;
- Consume moderate amounts of high quality lean protein that has amino acids which are easily digested, such as fish, seafood, turkey, pork and chicken;
- Incorporate moderate levels of dairy products and milk;
- Have starches such as banana, potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, brown rice and taro;
- Add legumes and nuts including dried beans, nuts, peas and lentils;
- Restrict the amount of red meat, processed meats, simple sugars, sodium, saturated fat and fruit juices;
- Reduce the amount of food that comes from a bag, box, bottle, jar or can.
- Avoid processed foods with trans fats (crackers, cookies, pies, pizza, fast food, and dough products)
Live healthier, happier, stronger, smarter and longer. Improvements in diet are associated with lengthening of lifespan and decreases in the risk of most chronic diseases. It is important to think of your life in regards to healthspan, the number of healthy years of life, rather than lifespan, the number of years you are alive.
“It’s much better to live long and die fast rather than life fast and die long.” CRAIG JOHNS
DIET or NOT to DIET?
People are often looking for the quick fix, when it comes to food. Many people jump on the bandwagon of the thousands of fad-style, celebrity endorsed and marketing designed diets, which have no research into the long-term effects on the body, mind and soul. Science compared every diet and the winner is real food. The only diet that has been implemented and remains over a long period of time is that established 10,000’s of years ago. It is a predominantly plant-based diet with no processed foods and only included the occasional meat when they were quick enough to catch it. Those living by the sea would catch fish and seafood. Why would you incorporate the middle-person in the diet, so to speak, when you can go straight to the source an eat it. What do I mean by this? Land animals generally eat plant-based diets including fruit, vegetables and grains, which are the stable of all nutritious diets. So why do we need to eat red meat, when it is just the by-product of the plant based foods we need anyway?
If you are looking at weight loss or maintenance then it is important to include foods that are high on the satiety scale in every meal. What does that mean? Satiety provides a feeling of fullness, reducing the likelihood of over-eating. Foods high in satiety are high in protein, fiber, volume (water and air) and low in energy density. They consist of foods such as potatoes, eggs, oatmeal, fish, Greek yoghurt, vegetables, legumes, apples, oranges, quinoa, nuts, and watermelon.
There is a lot of over the counter dietary supplements out there in the market place. It’s a $30 Billion a year business in the USA alone. Are they helping your nutrition intake and health or just a waste of money? A majority of supplements have no health benefits and aren’t regulated. They are never a substitute for a balanced and healthy diet, and can often be a distraction from healthy lifestyle choices, which provide much greater benefits. They can play a role for some high risk-groups such as adults with osteoporosis (Vitamin D & Calcium), Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, people with vitamin D efficiency, or people who don’t have easy access to plant-based foods produced in nutrient rich soil. You are far better to save the money you would spend on supplements and use it to buy higher quality fruits, vegetables and other foods high in quality nutrients.
CEO’s and employees who are well hydrated are smarter, can think faster concentrate longer and stay alert. Drinking fluids are the most underrated components of keeping your body and mind healthy, especially when you take into consideration that the body is made up of 60% water. They are crucial for maintaining the function of every system in our body including your brain, heart and muscles. Fluids carry important nutrients to cells, support a healthy gut and prevent the dreaded constipation. Dehydration affects your mood, reduces cognitive function, decreases your memory capability, increases pain sensitivity and impairs motor skills. Many people make the mistake of being reactive when it comes to hydration, waiting until they feel thirsty.
Drinking a minimum of 1-1.5L over a period of a day is advisable if you are relatively sedentary in a mild climate. The warmer the climate and the greater the exercise you do, the more fluid you require. A great way to test whether you are drinking enough water and suitable fluids such as juices, is to check the colour of you’re your urine. Pale or clear urine means fully hydrated. A dark yellow colour indicates that you are dehydrated. An easy way to boost your hydration levels is to ingest foods such as watermelon, salads and other fruits that are high in water content.
Boost mental acuity, skin quality, toxicity in the body, boost immune function and regulate body temperature by developing a daily hydration strategy. An inadequate intake of fluids can impair performance, leading to tiredness and headaches. Your main hydration strategy should incorporate water, milk, fresh fruit juices, caffeine free teas, coconut water and sports drinks, only if you are doing moderate-high intensity exercise or struggling to hydrate in hot and humid environments. Limit the intake of, alcohol, soda drinks, coffee, flavored milk, smoothies and energy drinks as they can have adverse effects on hydration and health.
Fuel your body with the energy to perform. It all comes down to common sense and keeping it simple. If you feel you need to make a big change in your eating habits or your are unsure how to make the right changes, then it is advised that you seek help from a certified dietitian or nutritionist. A variety of fresh, plant-based and lean food and hydration options will help you maintain a healthy body and mind to perform at your optimum every day. Remember, good things take time, so it is important to make a small change each week so it isn’t too much of a shock to the body and over-time eating healthy for performance will become a normal part of your day.
So how do you recharge the batteries, refuel the tank, switch off and find time for yourself, so that when you are “on” as a CEO or Leader, you are fully present?
Over the next two articles we will talk about freeing your mind and recover with purpose, and why it is important to maintain a synergistic approach with exercising daily and fueling your body with the right food, if you want to be a high performing leader. They make up the four basic fundamentals of the FOUNDATION phase of Breaking The CEO CODE, the future of leadership performance.
In the meantime, please take the time to read the Breaking The CEO Code whitepaper. Click the download button:
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World Health Organization – Obesity & Overweight Link
World Health Organization – Healthy Diet Link
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