From ‘wired and tired’ to energetic and resilient – the startup diet

Angela Steel Written by
Angela Steel

…..Three wellbeing habits for startup founders

It’s no revelation that being a startup founder can be hard on both mental and physical health. A never ending to-do list that always seems to get longer, setbacks, difficult decisions… we’re constantly being put to the test. In the long run, our daily habits can make all the difference between crumpling or thriving under all the pressure. Here are three lifestyle practices to help us thrive:

1. A low Glycaemic Load (GL) diet

Glycaemic load is a measure of the impact food has on blood sugars.

The most common reason why people feel fatigued is blood sugars that are up and down all day. Typically they might drop mid-morning and then again after lunch: the ‘mid-afternoon crash’. Often this pattern also involves feeling very tired first thing in the morning as well. Each of these energy lows drive you towards instant ‘pick me ups’ like coffee and sweet or starchy foods, which inevitably perpetuates the cycle.

Sound familiar? Here a few rules for the low GL diet:

  • Cut out sugar – you can do this gradually, starting with any added sugar in hot drinks, then sweet foods, fruit juice and fruit based smoothies.
  • Replace refined carbohydrates with the ‘whole’ version (e.g. wholemeal bread instead of white) and limit the overall proportion of carbs to no more than a quarter of your meal
  • Eat protein foods, such as fish, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils, with every meal, as protein makes you feel satisfied and prevents cravings for carbohydrate foods. They are very helpful for weaning yourself off sugar.

2. Exercise, just the right amount

Exercise – in the right dose – gives you more energy. I say ‘in the right dose’ because it is possible to have too much of a good thing and ‘over-train’, which depletes your energy levels.

The official guideline is to do at least 2h30 a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity like fast walking or cycling, and two or more sessions of muscle strengthening exercise like weight lifting or yoga. So, how does exercise help?

  • It increases your levels of endorphin, a hormone that helps you to perform mentally and physically and feel ‘on a high’
  • It improves your sleep, helping you feel more refreshed during the day.
  • It increases your oxygen intake helping your cells produce more energy
  • It increases the number and function of the mitochondria (the energy powerhouses in our cells) within skeletal muscle, so your body just has more energy producing capacity.

One study by the University of Georgia found that sedentary people who regularly complain of fatigue can increase their energy levels by 20% and decrease their fatigue by 65% by engaging in regular, low intensity exercise.

Another study revealed that regular exercise can increase mitochondrial numbers in the brain cells, a potential reason for exercise’s beneficial mental effects.

3. Consuming whole foods with energy-critical nutrients

When it comes to energy production, ‘fuel’ alone is not enough. Every single forkful is a chance to top up your nutrient bank account. So what are the key nutrients to target for energy and where can you find them?

  • Iron: the most common deficiency in the world, iron deficiency anaemia means that the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a protein that binds to oxygen, enabling red blood cells to supply oxygenated blood throughout the body. Iron is most bio-available from red meat and poultry but it is also available from vegetarian whole foods such as lentils, beans and leafy vegetables.
  • B vitamins: some of the B vitamins help the process of making energy from the food you eat and others, such as B12 are more important for forming red blood cells. Good sources are proteins such as fish, meat and cheese, but also leafy green vegetables and beans. If you are vegan, it’s worth getting your B12 levels checked regularly and taking a supplement if necessary.
  • Magnesium: this mineral helps with energy production as well as relaxing muscles and nerves, providing ‘calm energy’. Some of the richest sources of magnesium include: almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black beans, avocado and brown rice.

It’s worth buying organic if possible as multiple studies show greater levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than non-organic varieties of the same foods.

Angela Steel is the CEO of SuperWellness, a company that specialises in workplace nutrition and wellbeing. Through Nutrition Discovery Sessions and the SuperWellness Challenge, its mission is to make a measurable difference to the mental and physical health of employees nationwide.

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