Whether you need to be more alert in a business meeting, or you want to calm down when stressed; food plays an important role. What do you eat when you want to be alert? Just before an exam or a presentation, you want to be at your sharpest.
You want to be alert and focused not tense, blank and edgy. Eat at least two hours before you have to perform. Don’t drink alcohol at least a day before the D-day.
Breakfast should be low in fat, which takes longer to digest and slows you down mentally. Eat good quality protein before your performance as it helps in keeping you full for a longer duration.
Protein also helps tyrosine (an amino acid) reach your brain with the help of which alertness chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine are produced. When the brain produces these chemicals you think more clearly, react positively, are more energetic and motivated.
So a good breakfast choice before the time you have to perform would be:
1) A bowl of partially cooked sprouted moong mixed with a salad and 1 cup lowfat curd. You can have your tea or coffee as usual. Do not make any changes in that pattern as your body is used to that level of stimulation.
2) A glass of tomato + carrot + beetroot juice along with 10-15 almonds and a fruit like apple or pear.
3) A glass of fruit juice (orange and sweet lime or apple with orange) along with 2 egg whites and a toast (whole wheat bread).
4) A bowl of channa or rajma left over from last night’s dinner and a fruit.
Eating up to 3/4th of your capacity prevents you from feeling sleepy and less alert. This is because the heavier the meal the longer it takes to digest.
More blood flows to the stomach (for digestion) making less blood available for your brain to function to its optimum capacity.
On the flip side don’t keep yourself hungry before your performance, as hunger pangs will distract you and in terfere with concentration. So eat a light, low fat, protein-based meal two hours before you have to perform so as to attain peak performance. You could also take B-complex along with a vitamin C supplement on that morning.
(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre. You may direct your questions to
- Optimum performance Dr. Anjali Mukerjee