Working in a fast-paced office may not be physically taxing but it’s certainly hungry work. If you’ve ever been trapped in a four-hour meeting without any lunch, you’ll know just how difficult it is to maintain your professionalism while battling a rumbling tummy.

My good friend Debbie and I suffered a lot in client meetings back in the 1990s. If we were left too long without any food, I would get a bit light-headed and spacey (not too helpful if you’re a consultant) while Debbie, alarmingly, would actually start to shake.

We certainly ate for England while at work. There was our toast and butter phase; our malt loaf and butter phase; our crumpet phase; and our cup of Horlicks at 11am stage (rock ‘n roll!)

[As an aside, I was once on my way to make a cup of tea for a client when I stuck my head back round the door and heard myself enquire cheerfully: “Oh, by the way Alan, do you fancy a bit of crumpet?” Cue much beetroot-faced mortification on my part and embarrassed silence from Alan.]

Looking back, I can see that Debbie and I were both feeling the effects of blood sugar crashes. We were filling up on lots of white stodge which was only compounding the problem. At the time, we were completely unaware of the effects of refined carbohydrates on our blood sugar. Neither did we realise that the brain is the most energy-hungry of all our organs (it only weighs around three pounds but uses a whopping 20 – 30% of our energy intake). No wonder we struggled to concentrate.

Now I’m a health coach, I’ve finally learned how to keep my blood sugar stable. Last week, while doing a workshop on eating for energy at work, I listened to participants sharing what happens to them when their energy sags. Some explained how, when they’re hungry, the screen in front of them “goes fuzzy” and they get brain-freeze; others get a headache or feel short-tempered if they haven’t eaten properly. Most said that, by the time they get to this stage, they just grab whatever is most available to just get some energy down them: so a trip to the shop for a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps.

With a bit of organisation and tweaking to your schedule, you won’t need to resort to raiding the office biscuit tin to avoid passing out. Here are five easy ways to ensure you’re buzzing with energy throughout the day:

  • However rushed you are in the morning, make time to have a proper breakfast that includes a high quality protein and some good fats. Organic eggs are very quick to cook and provide a fantastic start to your day. For me, switching to eggs in the mornings was the single most important factor in being able to concentrate all morning. Or try porridge with a dollop of almond butter and chia seeds for that all-important injection of protein and Omega-3s.
  • Keep a bag of nuts, such as walnuts, in your bag. They’re a great source of protein and those brain-friendly good fats. (Our brain is 60% fat and needs them to function properly.)
  • Many people, and women especially, make the mistake of having too light a lunch, such as a salad without any protein, or a mug of coloured, additive-laden water (cup-a-soup anyone?). Don’t fall into the trap of just having a plain veggie salad for lunch – top it with last night’s chicken or salmon etc and throw in some avocado and pumpkin seeds for extra punch.
  • Keep hydrated. It’s all too easy to get through five cups of tea/coffee a day when there’s constantly someone offering to make a brew. Although this might seem to be giving you an energy boost, it’s really just sapping you of nutrients and energy. Keep a glass of water on your desk and make sure you drain it several times a day.
  • Have healthy snacks at the ready for the 4pm danger zone! Deliciously Ella has some fantastic recipes for sweet snacks that will give you a slow release of energy, like her yummy date and oat bars. Maybe you could start up a “healthy snack pool”. Or maybe there’s a helpful soul at the office who’s up for making them for everyone?

What’s your go-to snack at work? And how does it affect your mood and concentration?

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