Someone recently told me about the ‘brain fog’. It is that time when you are at work, looking at your laptop screen struggling to read to the end of the sentence with focus or make sense of that spreadsheet in front of you? Does anyone else know exactly what I am talking about?
Turns out, it is entirely down to what you are putting into your body that causes this. It is easy to not prepare meals and think about their balance. Working evenings and long hours on the weekends I often find myself excusing my bad habits of an extra bit of caffeine or sugar because my body thinks that is what it needs.
How wrong I was.I sat down with Adam Shaw, creator and founder of Future You – a health, fitness and wellbeing membership that brings balance to your life. He gives out nutritional advice to his clients and explains the importance of eating for functionality and prioritising balance.
Professional footballer Luke O’Nien joined us to also share his thoughts and what works for him.
What are the best fruit and veg we can eat to stimulate brain function?
“For brain function, leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce are useful as generally, they have a higher content of magnesium which helps dilate the blood vessels and boosts blood flow to the brain and every else around the body,” said Shaw.
Good foods for brain function recommended by Future You:
- Asparagus – Which is more energy based, allows the brain to perform at a higher level for longer and also combats depression.
- Oranges – Your body cannot naturally produce vitamin C. You can gain it from food so topping it up is always useful as it will help with your eyesight and boosts the health of individual brain cells. It is also good for cognitive development such as thought processes, it helps to put on part of a thought process with another.
- Avocado – Very high in natural healthy fats avocado is good for blood pressure and blood flow.
- Peas and green beans – Very good for helping digestion, breaks down food and provides digestive compounds.
How can we tailor our eating for our lifestyles?“Prep. Prep, Prep. Try to incorporate a bit of everything into your diet, planning ahead is very important. Don’t over think things and be too hard a critic on yourself,” explains Shaw.
“If you are on the go from eight in the morning till eight at night and have an energy low and at the time all you can get your hands on is a chocolate bar – then that’s fine – it isn’t about trying to cut that completely out, your body will need it.
“Ideally, you can prep your food in advance and have a healthier energy boost options such as fruit – which contains natural sugars which can give you that boost you need.”
Shaw explains you cannot have two or three take away meals in a row because your body plays catch up in repairing rather than preparing the body for the future. “Have one meal prepped and ready for the day and then increase this if you can. Do what you can control and what is within your time constraints. Obviously, your time constraints are all dependant on your job, if you have kids, or even finances. If you have money to spend on lunch every day, there are always places you can find healthy foods, you aren’t as tied down.”
O’Nien adds to this by explains how he creates marginal improvements that add up: “Cheaper foods are generally more unhealthy so you, therefore, need to take this into consideration and planning for that. It is all about being realistic when prepping meals. As a professional footballer, most days, I have the luxury of planning my meals every day and ensuring I have enough time to cook them.
“But if you are busy then making time to prep meals in bulk or for the next few days can be very effective and time efficient. Even I sometimes cook for four, allow myself a portion (or two!) and then freeze the rest for another day. My advice if you are craving sugar is to prep some fruit instead of the sweets and use this a marginal improvement in the diet.”
What are the impacts of eating for your body in terms of calorie deficit and overeating?
“This is the topic that normally people over complicate when it is very simple. Energy out versus energy in. if your energy out is more than your energy in you are going to lose weight,” Shaw says.
“If it is the same you will maintain weight and if your energy out is less than your energy in you are going to gain weight. It is literally as simple as that. It is about understanding our calorie expenditure and matching that if you want to maintain weight – or changing it if you want to gain weight or lose it.”
The balance of what makes us happy: eating lots of sugar is bad, but to what extent can people have ‘treats’ too?O’Nien argues “I think that eating sweet foods and giving into cravings make people unhappy. It has a knock on effect when they get a metabolism spike, and then they feel hungry quicker and they have different mood swings and maybe feel depressed or tired, and they feel unhappy.
“I used to crave sugar as a youngster coming home from football training but I’d end up really grumpy an hour later. My mum encouraged me to have nuts instead and I’ve never looked back. Equally, I still have a bit of a sweet tooth on occasions. So, it is all about balancing out what foods are going to give you the most stable plateau in terms of mood and energy levels.”
Shaw says: “Treats is the wrong word to look at it for one. I think you have to be a very strong person to have a ‘treat day’. If your treat day is to have a take away on a Sunday, then there will be some leftover on Monday. I don’t believe the ‘treat day’ or the ‘cheat day’ as social media like to call it, is sustainable. I believe you have to allow yourself a little every day and then you won’t feel the need to overindulge.”
Shaw continues: “From day to day you have to incorporate life events. So if it is someone’s birthday on a Wednesday and you go out for a meal and you want a dessert to celebrate, then why not. There’s no point in killing yourself and putting yourself through mental torture, just for the sake that it isn’t your treat day. That is ridiculous. People need to understand that these foods are part of life, and not to be seen as I can have this at a certain time period, as life isn’t like that. If you are training for a sport or competing, that is another thing.”
“I rarely say no to a bit of cake,” says O’Nien, “I can consume it within moderation. I like to think that I balance myself with the tasty, but unhealthy foods I have. I agree with Adam, what I have over the course of the week varies, as life events play a part and eating habits peak and flow.”
Shaw and O’Nien have made their recommendations now its up to you, to get prepping and create some good easting habits. Shaw believes its all about creating balance and committing to a lifestyle change his advice is: “Do not forget to treat yourself too!”. From all of us here at Artefact, that is advice we can definitely listen to!
- Cook your own meals and stay away from process foods as much as possible.
- Protein and veg on every meal you eat
- Don’t over complicate things. Don’t narrow them down into two shorter goals. Looking at it day by day isn’t going to make a difference. Look at in a weeks perspective.
- Don’t overcomplicate it again – Calories in v energy out – it is as simple as that.
- Hydration. Try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. Water helps to regulate the hormones that make you feel hungry or tired, to which people act on, which people then eat or eat again. So hydration is a big point!
- Plan! Know what your day is going to look like a head, most people will have an idea of how their next 12 hours will roughly plan out, be prepared.
- Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If you are hungry and you grab a mars bar, it isn’t going to kill you or make a big difference in the larger picture. Be kind to yourself and don’t stress out over the little things.
Feature image by Adifansnet via Flickr CC.