12 Food Habits to Help You Get More Done in a Day

Man going for a late-night snack | iStock.com

Man goes for a late-night snack | iStock.com

If you are what you eat, then a robust diet should be enough to transform you into who you want to become.

You already know the foods that fuel our brains and the ones that cause a slump in productivity. But isn’t the devil in the details? For instance, eating an apple is better than drinking a can of apple juice.

It’s not just what you eat, but when and how you do. If you’re banking on food habits to give you energy to be sharp and productive — and there is enough evidence saying you should — you might want to work on building a daily regime, rather than being a diet stickler. We’ve got 12 tips for you to get started.

1. Rock a routine

diet plan checklist

Stick to a meal routine to save mental energy | iStock.com

If you want to get more done in a day, excitement is the price you’ll have to pay. Studies show boring is better for productivity, so you should stick to a routine. Planning the next day’s meals or having the same breakfast every day means you spend less time using energy thinking about what to eat.

Experts say mundane choices can deplete mental energy by forcing your brain to make a decision. And if running mornings on “autopilot” works for Barack Obama, why wouldn’t it work for you, too?

2. Make vitamin C your alarm clock

lemon on steel lemon juicer

Lemon juice will brighten up your day | iStock.com/gzorgz

Mornings need a zing. And the vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants present in lemons do the job better than caffeine. A glass of warm lemon water consumed on an empty stomach can get you ready for the day by boosting energy levels through fat metabolism,  flushing out toxins, aiding digestion, and improving immunity.

3. Avoid cereals for breakfast

cereal boxes

The brain doesn’t react well to too much — or too little — glucose | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Our brain consumes roughly 20 percent of our daily calories and needs a steady dose of glucose found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A low glucose supply hinders focus and attention. And consuming foods that are high in glucose can cause an eventual slump, as well, despite the initial energy boost. Our brain does not react well to surges and slumps in glucose levels.

4. Grab a banana

Bananas on wooden background

Bananas are brain food | iStock.com

Bananas are packed with vitamins, minerals, and compounds. Those compounds include catechin, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and tyrosine, which manufactures dopamine, an important neurotransmitter that plays a role in cognitive function.

5. Snack on carrots

chopped carrots on a plate

Carrots have a low glycemic index | iStock.com

It’s not just mules that are excited by dangling carrots for a reward. It turns out our brain uses a compound found in carrots called luteolin, which reduces inflammatory molecules that cause age-related memory deficits.

Carrots also rank low on the glycemic index, taking longer to break down into glucose, satiating hunger better, and providing a steady supply of energy to the brain. Other snacks on the low glycemic-index list include low-fat yogurt, almonds, walnuts, apricots, and soybeans.

6. Avoid foods rich in tryptophan

Eggs in a basket

Eating foods rich in tryptophan can cause drowsiness | iStock.com

Tryptophan, an amino acid that gets a bad rap for its sedative qualities, isn’t just found in turkey. It’s also present in dairy, eggs, spinach, mushrooms, oat bran, chia seeds, and soy protein. Eating foods rich in tryptophan on an empty stomach (without other amino acids and protein) might cause drowsiness.

7. Curb caffeine

cup of Starbucks coffee and beans

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world | iStock.com/monticelllo

The morning cup of joe is a cup of joy for the majority of American adults who consume coffee daily. Caffeine, the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, makes you alert and awake by interfering with adenosine, a chemical that signals the brain to sleep. After the effects wear off, you’re back to square one, feeling tired, moody, and reaching for another cup. Yes, caffeine crashes are a real thing.

8. Don’t schedule important meetings after lunch

People standing and eating

Studies show the brain reacts to excess sugar as it would to a virus | iStock.com

If your boss takes you out for an extravagant lunch, don’t try to compensate by committing to an important task right after. Your brain will not cooperate. Studies show the brain reacts to excess sugar as it would to a virus. Challenging your mental capacity after a giant piece of cheesecake might releases a high level of cortisol, a stress hormone known to impair memory.

9. Pick the darkest chocolate

chocolate pieces on a dark wooden

Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain | iStock.com/kobeza

If you are craving a post-lunch pick-me-up, treat yourself to dark chocolate. Not only does it make you happy by releasing endorphins, it also is rich in flavanols. They increase blood flow to the brain, boost memory, and improve concentration. Coupling the cocoa goodness with green tea will help fight the rise in blood pressure chocolate causes.

10. Know your supplements

man pouring out pills from a supplement container with more pill bottles in the background

Supplements come with the risk of side effects | iStock.com

It’s tempting to believe that a capsule can be effective brain food, but be sure to look into its side effects before you pop any pill. Dietary supplements for the brain might not always be true to their claims. Vitamin supplements can have risky side effects if the dosage is not regulated. For instance, vitamin E and fish oil supplements can obstruct blood clotting.

11. Water your brain regularly

Glass of water

Sweat for 90 minutes straight, and your brain will shrink | iStock.com

Here is the confirmation you need about hydration and health. Because the brain is 75% water, it takes dehydration by just 2 percent to impair your ability to pay attention, retain memory, and perform cognitive tasks. What’s worse: Sweat for 90 minutes straight, and your brain will shrink on you.

12. Do not eat at your desk

man stretches at his desk

Your body could use a little moving around at work | iStock.com

Ditch your desk lunch for a stroll with a co-worker. Your body could use a little moving around to work those fat-burning enzymes. Plus, idle chatter at the workplace can actually lead to more productivity. And a lunch trip to the water cooler can save you from caving to calories.