Do you know that drained feeling you get where you can’t slide off a couch or chair for longer than five minutes? When it’s hard to stay awake, and you’re always on the lookout for micro sleeping opportunities, and the house tasks seem like a chore that requires a Herculean effort? Maybe you might find it hard to concentrate at work, your attention span shortening each hour like the days in winter. You skip the gym afterward because you only have sufficient energy to crawl into bed, or if you’re someone who goes in the morning, to brush your teeth and shower before going to work.
If any of this sounds familiar, then the likelihood is it could be one of three things: a lack of exercise, sleep or an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Of course, if you experience any of the symptoms above, even though they are common, you should still talk to your doctor to rule out any other medical issues. But in the meantime, trying to improve the above problems won’t hurt by tackling any stress you may have in your life.
Cause and Effect
Think of the three problems mentioned as being like a triangle or cause and effect. An unhealthy diet leads to a lack of sleep. A lack of sleep leads to a lack of energy to exercise. Likewise, a poor diet during the day will also lead to a loss of energy and poor concentration. It has also been proven that sparse exercise can exacerbate problems like insomnia.
All these undesirable problems create a vicious cycle and often go hand in hand. What’s more, you can tackle each of these problems separately, but most experts recommend addressing your diet first and foremost. Here’s why: Improving your diet will boost your concentration and energy levels as well as help you burn calories naturally.
Form Good Daily Habits
To boost your concentration and attention span, a balanced diet is key. Make sure that each week you are getting a sufficient amount of fruits, vegetables, lean meat and fiber. Start with porridge in the morning. Why? Because in addition to being rich in fiber, it is also a slow burning carbohydrate that will give you a steady release of energy throughout the day, improving both concentration and energy levels.
While you’re at it, try adding some blueberries. In addition to containing anthocyanins, which help lower blood pressure, they also help to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, keeping you alert and sharp.
If you aren’t a porridge person, a tasty alternative start to the day could be avocado on toast. Like blueberries, avocados also enhance blood flow, particularly to the brain. Also, like porridge, they are packed with fiber to ensure a slow and steady release of energy up until lunchtime.
Avoid going for a carb overload at lunchtime as this will lead to drowsiness, and the extra carbs that aren’t burned for energy will be converted by the body into fat. Instead, ensure that you get plenty of leafy greens, which are also an essential part of any balanced diet. Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens and broccoli are all rich in carotenoids and antioxidants are known to boost brain power as well as containing plenty of vitamin B, which helps stimulate the mind and cut through the mental fog.
Getting plenty of water throughout the day is a no-brainer — staying hydrated is a necessity considering that your brain is 85 percent water. If you allow yourself to become thirsty or dehydrated during the day, your mood will suffer as well as your thinking capacity as a result due to a poor exchange of nutrients and toxins.
While you’re at work, you might also have a temptation to reach for a cup of coffee, especially during the dreaded midday slump. While a cup of joe can boost mental acuity for a brief period, it causes a crash, which acts like a reversal of that boost leading to what’s called a caffeine crash. If you must get your caffeine fix during the day, however, green tea makes an excellent alternative. It also contains caffeine, but also, another key ingredient called L-Theanine, which slows down the caffeine release, effectively avoiding a crash.
Another great idea to keep yourself from turning into a zombie at work is to keep some snacks at your desk, but they must be healthy. What you put into your body will affect your concentration, and therefore, performance at work. Unsurprisingly, this is true even for activities outside of work like chess or poker, which require sustained concentration and a balanced diet to succeed.
You can try snacking on a trail mix or a combination of flax seeds and nuts that are rich in amino acids and essential oils. Dark chocolate with over 70 percent cocoa also makes a great accompaniment as it contains magnesium, a known stress reliever. It can also be combined with Greek yogurt for a burst of protein, which can help the muscles recover from any stress incurred during the week or workouts.
Complement Your Workouts
Hitting the gym regularly does help concentration as well and improves the quality of your sleep. But if you want to see quick results, perhaps the most important advice is to start with your diet first. As the saying goes, “abs are made in the kitchen”; you can set a new world record for sit-ups, but you won’t get rid of excess fat tissue without fine-tuning your diet.
In the evening, before hitting the gym, try some low glycemic carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, leafy greens or bulgur pasta and brown rice, to give you some energy. After your workout try a low-carb, protein-rich meal with vegetables, chicken or fatty fish rich in omega 3. Omega-3 is crucial for boosting concentration, but fish is also rich in protein that will help build and repair muscle quickly and burn fat — the more muscle fiber you have, the more calories you will burn while resting.
The right post-workout smoothie will also play a significant role in your muscle recovery and help to replace all the nutrients that are lost during exercise. When you think about it, there are so many wholesome ingredients that you can consume in a quick and refreshing drink once they’re juiced. Add some citrus fruit to stay sharp and replace any potassium and water that you may have lost through sweating. It also provides essential vitamin C that is required by your immune system, which is slightly lowered for a while after exercise. Healthy ingredients like ginger and papaya will help with any inflammation, and chia seeds and natural hemp or flax is a great way to get an extra protein boost.
Improve Your Life
After a day of eating healthy at work and burning calories in the gym, you should be well on your way to getting a good night’s rest. These factors are essential to get the most out of your life, your work and your hobbies, even your relationships — of course, we are more likely to get along with people if we are in a good mood. It is also a no-brainer that by making these changes, you will also be adding years on to your life.
Author: Joseph Downs