Being able to focus at the precise time when you need to, is a priceless quality not just in business, but in any area of your life.
There are countless ways of teaching people the physical act of getting focused.
But very seldom does anyone actually talk about the connection between your nutrition and your ability to focus.
In fact, I've been a part of a few heated arguments where people actually dismiss the that nutrition can have any effect on your focus at all.
My question to those people has always been – "Why is it that we still tend to separate our bodies from our minds, when the two have clearly been created in the same package?"
The simple scientific truth is that everything that passes your lips has an effect on how you feel, what you think of, and how well you cope intellectually throughout the day.
In fact the moment you truly realize the vastness of what I just said you will gain a unique and powerful perspective (and control if you choose to act) on your own mental states.
And who knows – the end result may just be a much healthier you…
The connection can be quite obvious, but in the same time it could be quite easy to forget or miss.
The bottom line is – if you want to make sure that you're able to easily find your focus – you must make sure you give your mind the best of foundations.
Here are the main 5 nutritional factors to consider that have huge influence on your focus.
Sure – those are not the only 5 in play, but they are the most important 5. Think of this checklist as your support system for maximizing focus through the foods you eat.
Yes I know most health and diet advice starts at this one, that's because it really is important to keep hydrated.
Our bodies are made of large amount of water, and pretty much all our organs and the functions they perform depend on it being there. So it should not be surprising that lack of water can mean severe loss of focus and mental function.
Our brain cells rely on being able to send electric currents between each other in order to function. And whilst there are a few other conditions that have to be present for the connectivity to be at optimum, water is one of the most important and one you have control over.
Start by drinking 1.5 ltrs a day and adjust that depending on the foods you eat and how much water you consume through the day through any other liquids. A good measure to use for the 'just right' amount is to see that you don't go for #1 more than once an hour :o)
2. The Right Quantity of Food
It's no secret to anyone that you need food in order to create the energy your body needs to do its job.
But not many people know how much food is enough or indeed necessary for proper function of their body and their brain as an individual.
As a result it's highly likely that you're eating too little or too much at any or all of your daily meals.
Overdo it – and you end up bloated, sluggish, sleepy and with a foggy mind.
Under eat – and you end up hungry in nanoseconds. Your brain struggling to stay in one spot – because frankly, it has more important things to take care of. Like panicking about where to scrap the extra energy from – the energy needed to breathe, blink, heat itself and so on…
Eat the right amount of food for your metabolism, lifestyle age and sex. (no kidding, Anita :o)
The figure you're looking for is called TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), and it takes into account the calories you need to sustain life and the calories you need to do the daily activities you do depending on how active your lifestyle is.
Now – there are a few formulas out there that you can use – but to keep this as simple as possible and still accurate, here's what you need to do:
Take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 13, 14 or 15 – depending on your activity level. Use 13 if you don't get to move or exercise much. 14 if you do moderate exercise 3 – 4 times a week. Use 15 if you exercise vigorously more than 4 times a week.
For example – I weigh 117 lbs and I exercise 6 times a week, so my baseline calorie intake per day is:
TDEE = 117 (weight in lbs) x 15 (activity level factor)= 1,755 calories (per day)
Take that total number and spread over 5-6 smaller meals (3 main meals and 2-3 snacks) throughout the day – and you should be on the mark.
NOTE: This figure is if you are maintaining your weight. For weight loss the general rule is to cut your maintenance figure by 20% (but staying above 1,200 calories) – just FYI.
The question: So are you eating enough?
You can use a site like CalorieKing.com to discover the calorie value of your food intake in a day. Now I know this may seem a little too intricate if you're not trying to lose weight – all you want it good focus abilities right?
Well like I said – it takes a little bit of effort on your part, but the payoffs are totally worth it.
Just as an example – on average (after going through the same exercise above) my clients discover that they are overeating by 30 to 50% daily! That is up to half of their total calories more than they should be eating…
3. The Right Quality of Food
Quality is always important – especially when food is concerned. One calorie is NOT equal to another!
The topic of what's good and what's bad for you is a bit too complex to dissect here, but if you stick to the basic rules you can't go much wrong.
- Eat as many fresh foods as you can.
- Avoid pre-made, processed foods of pretty much any kind.
- Eat lean meats and fish that's not been poisoned.
- Fresh fruits and veg of any kind.
- Ease up on simple carbs and get a good set of supplements for support.
The bottom line here is that if you put low grade fuel in your 'engine' – just like your car – you'll get jerky, unstable performance out of it.
Take some time to learn the basics about good food, and then make an effort to feed your brain long lasting slow release energy. The result = great focus.
4. The Right Frequency
Now, a lot of the people I speak to about nutrition have a hard time believing they should aim to eat every 3 to 4 hours – or 5 to 6 times a day.
They usually fall into three camps: The first is afraid they'll get fat. The second has the excuse that they can't find the time. The third claims to not be able to stomach that much food (they only eat once a day).
All are legit.
But my answer to all three is the same: If you take time to calculate the amount of food you need specifically for your body and lifestyle activity levels, and you split that number into 3 main meals and 2 to 3 small snacks – give it a week, and your body will start to ask for it's fuel like a clockwork…
Make good nutrition (i.e. looking after your focusing machinery) a priority and all those objections will fall away – I guarantee you this.
It's not easy at fist as it requires conscious effort and some preparation. But the payoff is:
- no bloating, and discomfort
- no gas (because there's an adequate amount of food to digest – so your body can comfortably work through it, without some of it putrefying in your gut).
- sustained even energy levels throughout the day
- no foggy and sluggish mind
- no distracting hunger
- no scattered thoughts and restless mind
- crisp clear thought process
- and a lot more that I'll let you discover on your own.
Eating smaller and more frequent meals will also reduce the physical size of your stomach. It will increase the efficiency with which your body digests food to make energy out of it.
And, I know you might not be interested in this, but it will tighten all sorts of areas on your body ;o)
All of the above = greater ability to focus on demand, because you remove lower survival-level obstructions, leaving your mind to do its job.
5. The Right Environment
Finally – we get to the environment in which you eat. This is hugely important and very under-popularized factor in establishing a healthy gut, and therefore healthy focus.
What I mean by "the right environment" is a stress-free environment.
Stress, you may have heard, is one of the most offensive enemies for the human species. It attacks body, mind and soul, and it takes no prisoners. Stress kills in very sneaky ways.
One of it's most susceptible victims is your gut.
When your stress levels are high, your body diverts attention to other functions that it sees as more important. Like danger aversion, i.e saving your butt from that roaring tiger in the wilderness…
So digestion gets shut off to save energy. Some of the resulting effects being reduction in absorption of nutrients. Food purification due to digestion delay. Hormone release into bloodstream to deal with the 'fight or flight' demands imposed by the stress alert.
This is another topic that will take ages to digest (pun intended). So let's just say that stress reaches pretty much every molecule of your body, and then it creates all sorts of ailments from little chronic headaches to scary cancers, and heart conditions.
- Make eating in peace a priority. Seriously – take control and guard that sacred time.
- Take the time to chew properly (25-35 chews should do it).
- Pay attention to your food – taste, texture, quantity, smell, colours.
- Enjoy what you eat – eat what you enjoy.
All this helps you relax and focus on the task at hand – digestion. As a result you get much needed energy to your cells so that you can – function properly and focus on demand.
The Final Word
I hope I managed to simplify what is one of the most important and complex processes we have in our bodies.
I wanted to give you enough detail to help you understand it and take it more seriously – because it can change the way you work and focus in business. But I also wanted to keep it simple enough so as not to become a burden.
The way you should think of it in one sentence: Digestion must be important if it is the single most calorie-consuming process our body has after sex.
So – go on – take your gut seriously and it will seriously improve your ability to do focused work.