Entrepreneurs and stress go together like spaghetti and meatballs; the likelihood of this marriage is such a given that it is quite unusual to find either one on its own!
What we eat matters and while we, meaty entrepreneurs, are made of tough stuff; there is no need for us to drown helplessly in stress-spaghetti when we could be nourishing ourselves to perform at our peak. What you eat can stabilise blood sugar levels and may actually decrease cortisol and support sleep.
It’s tempting to run on sugar and caffeine, but fuelling in this way is like burning kindling with no firewood; you’ll get a big spike of energy followed by an inevitable crash. Try limiting caffeine consumption to before midday. Whilst caffeine metabolism is quite genetically individual, it can have a half-life in your system of up to 6 hours and then your body needs to unwind after that to prepare itself for deep, restful sleep.
Instead, keep yourself going all day by consuming lots of lean proteins and healthy fats. Turkey, chicken and salmon can be simply prepared for dinners in double-quantities so you can pack leftovers for lunch. Trytophan found in turkey regulates hunger and has a calming effect. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that may help counteract the negative effects of stress hormones. Serve with piles of folate-rich spinach, which produces dopamine to help to keep you calm.
For breakfast, choose a high protein Greek yoghurt and pair it with blueberries. Consuming probiotics found in yoghurt can lead to reduced brain activity in areas that control emotion including stress and the antioxidants found in blueberries support immunity and fight stress-related free radicals. For increased energy demands, oats can be added. Fear not carb-phobics; the complex carbohydrates in oats won’t contribute to a spike in glucose after an overnight fast and will power you through until lunch (or until your caffeine curfew!). Give your breakfast bowl a superfood boost (post-worthy!) by adding ground flaxseed, chia seeds, toasted coconut flakes, goji berries, nut and seed butters or a touch of raw honey.
For snacks; reach for pistachios, cashews and seeds. These are packed with fibre, magnesium and zinc, which support mental and physical performance and can help to reduce anxiety. Prepare ¼ cup portions in snap-lock bags ahead of time if you are being mindful of caloric balance.
Avocado and boiled eggs also make excellent snacks. Either option mashed onto natural flaxseed or quinoa crackers with a healthy seasoning of freshly cracked salt and pepper will sustain and satisfy. That avo loves a good squeeze of lemon or lime too!
Dark chocolate is an excellent treat to reward yourself after a demanding day. The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Choose varieties that contain at least 70% cocoa. You might want to wash it down with a little more resveratrol in the form of Marlborough Pinot, but go easy! One glass of wine consumed with food in the evening is apt to have a calming effect without disrupting sleep, but any more can interrupt the quality of deep sleep. Aim to have several alcohol-free nights per week to give your liver a break and reset its fat-burning priority (which is obliterated with alcohol consumption, FYI!).
To say entrepreneurs are time-poor is the understatement of the century but you only have one body and it’s the one you have to live in for life. Simple tweaks and a small amount of planning can make all the difference to your happiness, performance and long-term health. Out-sourcing your healthy meal preparation is also a great option.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”- Anonymous
Integrative Health Coach, Director of The Real Meal Company Limited