Replacing cereal or toast with natural fats for breakfast can improve workplace productivity, writes neuroscience and mental health practitioner Matt Janes
If you've ever mistakenly put petrol into your diesel car, or vice versa, you'll know that using the wrong kind of fuel doesn't get you very far. Even if you haven't, whilst you're clearly paying sufficient attention to the fuel you're pumping into your car, can you say the same for how you're fuelling your body?
Despite our love for the great British fry-up, cereal remains the nation's most common choice of breakfast, followed by a slice of toast or a bagel. Whilst they're a convenient choice for when you're rushing out of the door to work, they're also a very poor one, for your productivity as well as your mental health.
Relight my fire
When you eat cereal or toast, your body rapidly turns these carbohydrates into glucose, to fuel the start to your day. If this sounds like you, I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself getting peckish around mid-morning, perhaps for a coffee or a quick snack. Glucose burns brightly, but it quickly burns out. Like throwing twigs on to a fire, the flames rise immediately, but soon die down, requiring you to add more.
This resembles the blood sugar destabilisation you experience a couple of hours after your carbohydrate-laden breakfast. Following your early blood sugar spike, your body has now used up all of your morning fuel to power your client meeting or giant Excel spreadsheet. Your blood sugar crashes, so your nervous system sends you hunger signals, in the knowledge that it's insufficiently fuelled. To keep you going until lunchtime, you reach for that 10:30am biscuit or flat white. Not only does this way of eating provide you with insufficient fuel to be productive, it also puts your body on high alert, which can create feelings of anxiety.
Fat boy slim
Fuelling your body with a breakfast of cereal or toast keeps your nervous system in what's known as sympathetic overdrive. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to get you out of danger, fast, so when you experience blood spiking like in the manner I've just described, your body interprets this unsustainable way of fuelling your body as a threat to its survival.
So what does it do in response? It slows your metabolism, to preserve energy. So you feel sluggish, yawning through that meeting with your new client, as you reach for another biscuit to perk yourself up.
When your body feels like it's under stress, from insufficient fuelling or a large workload, it opts for the most readily available form of energy. It can choose only between glucose and fat, so it chooses glucose. This explains why lots of people with stressful jobs gain weight, then find it hard to lose it. They're not burning fat to fuel them through their day.
So what should you eat instead? Natural fats. You heard it here, fat doesn't make you fat.
Natural fat sets up your stress response system for the day, creating a state of homeostasis, rather than placing it on high alert. Remember that your brain is the fattiest organ in your body, consisting of 60% fat. This delivery of natural fat at the beginning of the day sends a message of abundance to your brain and hormonal system, so that you feel steady and calm. Think of it like replacing those twigs with a large log on the fire. It'll burn slow and long, providing you with sufficient fuelling to keep you productive for hours.
Although it can sometimes take time to heal reactive blood sugar cycling, when I work with my clients, I often find that they feel a positive benefit within three days of switching to a natural fat-based breakfast. Calmer, yet with more energy and higher productivity. If you're ready to stop being held hostage to your addictive blood sugar cycle, put yourself back in control by throwing out those boxes of cereal and loaves of bread. Replace them with this super fuel breakfast, designed by psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, which will power your body and mind long into the afternoon.
As well as writing for COVER magazine, Matt Janes helps companies to transform the health of their employees through nutrition and neuroscience. His new book, Saving Dad is being published later this year
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