How does Santa keep it up for 24 hours non stop on Christmas day? We reckon he loves his oats for breakfast to help him keep going! He’s old, and overweight, but maybe he’s eating right and has got his nutrition spot on for his big day.
Most people reading this, like Father Christmas, are endurance athletes! You have to perform in a sustained way for a prolonged period of time. There’s some very practical recent research that’s useful if you’re interested in more than sprinting. Many are confused, ill informed and in bad habits when it comes to performance nutrition. Many others are worse than that!
Whether you’re an athlete, an office worker or Santa you need energy to perform at your best and food is a major source of energy, obviously. The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of food’s effect on your blood sugar level. The index represents the rise in blood sugar level following consumption of food. Some foods, like chocolate for example, are sweet and naturally tempting but release their energy into the blood pretty quickly. Others, like porridge or wholemeal pasta, release their energy comparatively sloooowwwwly. Just what Santa needs for a long day.
We’d encourage you think about how eating the right things will help you to perform even better. There’s lots of evidence that as well as promoting health and well-being it can positively impact your performance at work too. If Santa’s concentration drops, the wrong house will get the wrong present. If his blood sugar drops too low he might get moody and that will never do!
Some common sense and a working knowledge of glycaemic index can help you do a little planning to make sure you’re eating ahead of when you need energy. Essential for Father Christmas to keep going from New Zealand to New England. It will help you avoid running out of energy and keep your energy levels fairly constant. Eating breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks in between is a pretty good way to manage this.
What’s the latest research?
The latest bit of clever research has highlighted individual differences in the way our bodies turn food into sugar in our blood to provide energy for thinking and doing things. The average GI figures are still valid but it seems different people process different foods in slightly different ways.
The key message
We would always encourage you to listen to research but to look carefully at who’s carried it out and why. Our message here is to find out what works for you. Which foods fill you up and keep you energised for longest? Which snacks do you find healthy, convenient and affordable? Where are the long gaps for you between eating meals and what can you do to break these gaps? How good can you get at planning ahead so that when you’ve an important day or meeting you can make sure you’re well fuelled beforehand? Just like a footballer might eat a pasta meal three hours before kick off you can plan your food intake following the same principles.
The performance challenge
The challenge here, like many performance challenges, is to see how good you can be. Make fuelling yourself and eating right a professional competence, like getting to work on time and knowing how to use your computer. Experiment, be disciplined and find what works for you to make sure that this particular performance factor is never a handicap and more often a strength.
Why not give yourself a present this Christmas and get in some good performance habits. Nothing extreme, but giving yourself the best chance of a happy new performance year!