How does what you eat and drink affect your creativity?

Posted on: December 2nd, 2010

Welcome to guest writer, Griselda Halling, who provides some useful diet and nutrition tips to help us perform at our best right throughout our freelance day.

As a nutritionist advising on school food, I spend a lot of my time writing and telling people about how nutrition affects children’s concentration, learning behaviour, sleep, mood and immune function, not to mention their long term health. I explain that there is now a body of scientific evidence showing that hydration levels, food additives, blood sugar levels and food sensitivities all influence children’s all-round performance.

As freelancers, we want mental clarity and lots of creative energy, don’t we? Schools can certainly see the principles for helping pupils do better through diet, but do we apply the same logic as adults?

Obviously you could write a book on this subject, but here are a couple of starting points where diet and nutrition can affect your performance:

1.     Keep your blood sugar levels balanced

One of the simplest strategies to help you perform at your best, whether a school child, student or freelance adult,  is to ensure that your blood sugar levels remain balanced throughout the day, which in turn keeps energy levels stable. Peaks and troughs in blood glucose can lead to fatigue and irritability and poor concentration and ‘fuzzy headedness’. All very undesirable for freelancers.

How to avoid this? It’s all about ‘satiety’ – the lovely word for the feeling of fullness – and the aim is to eat foods that make you feel full for longer (ie which are digested slowly). This involves making sure your all meals and snacks have a lower ‘glycaemic load’, starting with breakfast. Different food groups have different effects on blood sugar.

To put it very simply: refined carbohydrates (like white bread, pasta, rice, confectionary, sugary drinks etc) are converted to glucose most quickly, so they are high on the Glycaemic Index, whereas proteins, fats and fibre slow the process down, lowering the Glycaemic load of the whole meal of snack.

If you want to make keep it really simple, the message is: eat some protein at every meal and snack! Good sources of protein include: eggs, fish, meat, pulses and cheese.

2.      Drink plenty of water

This is a no-brainer! Very small reductions in hydration levels lead to significant reductions in concentration, mental function and cognitive performance. However lots of people lose their natural thirst mechanism as they get older.

So just remember this: have a large glass of water when you wake up to counteract the night’s dehydration. (We tell children to drink enough water when they get up till their urine is light yellow).

During the rest of the day keep on drinking water, and, depending on activity levels, drink 1.5 to 2 litres.

3.      Look at how your food consumption affects you.

With children, we advise concerned parents to keep a food diary to check if certain artificial food colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners are associated with behavioural changes. But a food diary can be a really good idea for adults too, to jog your memory, if you suspect those headaches or sudden energy drops are connected to your diet!

Common offenders (which vary for individuals, as we are each genetically unique), are caffeine, monosodium glutamate, and wheat products. My personal revelation has been alcohol. My husband can have a glass or two of wine in the evening and perform well the next day; I most certainly can’t!

How does your daily diet affect your creative performance?

And what are your personal food and drink tips to ensure you perform at your best?

Griselda Halling is a partner at Independent Nutrition, helping independent day and boarding schools with nutrition for health, learning and performance. 07767 215 175 griselda@independentnutrition.co.uk

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