Commentary - Having Energy To Lead

by Jeff Haltrecht

It’s 1:55pm and you have 5 minutes before a meeting with a key employee / client / supplier. It’s Thursday afternoon, a long week – and month – is coming to an end. You’re tired because of the late nights and many projects on the go. The business is doing well, but for some reason for every two steps forward it feels like one goes backward. Now you’re feeling sluggish - right when you need to be energized.

Most of us have experienced this feeling and it’s not fun. Recently a colleague and I were joking about how we ‘rent’ energy from the foods and drinks we consume to get us through the critical moment. Think about it: - coffee, cola, energy bars, chocolate, etc…

With over 25% of Canadians and 35% of Americans obese, we have either forgotten how to have a lifestyle that gives us the energy we need to perform at our best or we choose to ignore it because the alternatives are too convenient. We need a sensible, sustainable solution.

Here are 5 food and supplement choices you can make right now. Combine these with an exercise program and adequate levels of sleep, and you will be on your way to that energetic feeling.

1. Switch your choice of beverage
Coffee to peppermint tea – Coffee can dehydrate the body while peppermint tea can nourish it; plus peppermint tea has been known to help with digestion.
Soft drinks to water – The caffeine gives a short-term burst of energy, but it’s the sugar and calories that will lead to long-term sluggishness. Water hydrates the body and helps us stay focussed.
Beer to wine - There are more documented health benefits of drinking red wine, derived from the polyphenols and antioxidants. Cheers!

2. Reduce your intake of foods high in sugar and sodium.
Sugar gives you a short term energy boost followed by a quick and deep energy fall-off; excess consumption can lead to diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay. High sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure.

3. Eat whole foods, not processed foods.
Whole foods are eaten as close to the source as possible, thus limiting the amount of processing and refinement. In doing so, we reduce the intake of sugars, sodium, and incremental fats, while increasing the intake of healthy proteins, fibres, and vitamin nutrients. For example, a pork chop is considered a whole food, while a hot dog is processed. Look for meat, breads, vegetables, and dairy that have not been altered through a manufacturing process

4. Change when you eat
Eat 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks per day – It provides for a sustained fullness and will keep us from snacking on chips, while giving constant energy to the body.
Limit excess carbohydrate intake after 2pm. – Because our body burns carbohydrates before it burns fat, it will leave the latter to be stored in the stomach, which in turn leads to obesity and sluggishness

5. Supplement with vitamins
Vitamins provide important nutrients that our body is lacking, partially driven by our North American lifestyle. When taken in conjunction with the right food and exercise program, they help contribute to a healthier and more energetic body. Here are 4 daily vitamins & supplements to ask your health care professional about.

  1. Multi-Vitamin with 50mg/mcg of all "B” vitamins. B vitamins help metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They are needed for proper functioning of the cell and it’s energy metabolism
  2. Omega-3 500mg helps keep the heart strong and provides for mental clarity
  3. Vitamin C up to 1000mg helps with bones, cartilage, teeth, and gums
  4. Vitamin D up to 1000mg can help prevent certain cancers

Maximizing our personal performance is more than having an engaging leadership style. It’s also taking care of ourselves through the foods we eat. Making a few key changes in our diets can help our bodies remain energized and have the mental clarity needed to remain focused all day, whether it’s sitting at our desk or meeting with a key person at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon.