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GUEST BLOG BY JEANNETTE JACKSON

Guest Blog by Jeannette Jackson, Nutritional Biochemist and Sports Performance Scientist.


THE RESILIENT AGILE WORKER - WELLBEING AT HOME


During these unprecedented times, it’s never been more important to help keep your staff physically and emotionally strong.

Nutrition and resilience training is a powerful way to enhance cognition and wellbeing to help staff deal with the rapidly changing landscape and the inevitable pressures associated with this, without succumbing to stress and low mood.

Stress depletes some of the essential vitamins and minerals that help to make the body resilient.

A healthy balanced diet can help restore, repair and replenish the body and the brain.

The clarity, speed and focus with which we think, make decisions and react can be determined, in part, by the food we put in our mouths.

The human brain is a composite of white and grey matter made from neurons, interconnected via synapses that help transmit electrical and chemical messages so that we can think our way through life.

Fats

Essentially the food we eat helps to form our brain cells.

As an example fats in walnuts have been shown ‘to speed up our thinking’ (Pribis, P et al 2012 Effects of Walnuts on Cognitive Performance in Young Adults) showed they helped with building memories to navigate future decisions.

Our brain is very fatty!

It’s made up of proteins and fatty acids called ‘phospholipids’ which are a class of lipids (fats), vital to the health of both cell membranes and neurotransmitter form and function.

Two particular: phosphatidylserine (PS) and phosphatidylcholine (PC), with PC accounting for a larger percentage.

Foods rich in these essential brain fats include soya, egg yolks, chicken, liver, oily fish and nuts.

Fluids

A prolonged state of reduced water intake can shrink the brain and negatively impact on executive brain function such as planning and visuospatial planning (a VERY crucial skill as a manager working under pressure!). Mention MJ et al (2011) Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents.

Dehydration impairs both mental and physical performance; there is no doubt that dehydration precipitates reduced mental clarity and cognition ie reduced focus and concentration and prone to ‘brain fog’ or ‘zoning out’.

The average recommend volume for fluid intake daily is eight 8-ounce glasses, which equates to about 2 litres. This should be drank steadily throughout the day so the body gets a regular intake of fluids.

Hydrating via high fluid foods is also a good way to hydrate the muscles as many of these foods are rich in salts and fibre too: melon, pineapple, cucumber, oranges, celery, broccoli. So offering a super green juice made of these (plus some ginger) when the players come off the pitch would be a good idea.

Proteins

Protein foods can positively impact our mental wellbeing. Research shows that mood and metal health can be affected if we do not eat the correct amount (and the right combination) of protein foods, including a mixture of essential and non-essential amino acids.

In particular low levels of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) leucine, isoleucine, and valine have been shown to initiate depression and low mood (A Baranyi, P Hlade et al 2016 Brach Cain Amino Acids as a Biomarker of Major Depression).

Amino acids (building blocks of protein foods) help to manufacture neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain. These can be either stimulate the brain (great for focus and concentration during the day), or calm it down (required in the evening to help calm a busy brain and prep the body for sleep). Proteins rich in a mixture of essential and non-essential amino acids include Turkey, Chicken, Steak, Seabass, Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Tuna, Cottage cheese, beans, legumes, eggs

Carbs

Each organ has its own metabolic profile and for the brain, the primary fuel is glucose (Biochemistry, 5th edition, section 30)

We get glucose from the carbohydrate foods we eat (our bodies turn 100% of the carbs we eat into glucose). Glucose is essential for brain function, cognition, and memory. Once we’ve eaten carbs we store this energy for future use. In a well-fed state, we can store 100g of sugar in liver, 400g in muscle and 5g in blood (very useful as you need lots of energy on match days!).

Nature provides us with a whole range of different sugars and some of these sugars offer a quick release of energy, whilst others provide us with longer, more sustained energy. Our diet needs a mixture of all these sugars.

Carbohydrates are classified into three different groups: mono, di or polysaccharides;

Monosaccharides offer a very quick release of energy, these include foods such as grapes, dried apricots, honey, fruit drinks, beetroot, kiwi fruit, plums, cakes, confectionery, chocolate, sports drinks, milk, yoghurt

Whereas disaccharides take slightly longer to be digested as they are made from two monosaccharides bound together (and this bond needs to be broken down before the sugars can be stored in liver and muscle). Examples of disaccharides include dairy products, grains, malt, fruits, vegetables, plant foods

Polysaccharides are made from many thousands of monosaccharides so their digestion takes a lot longer. These are often known as ‘complex carbs’ their digestion helps blood sugar levels stay stable for longer. The complex carbs include things like wholemeal/bread, wholewheat pasta, jacket potatoes etc.. and the sugars in these foods take time to be broken down because ALL the links (….the bonds that connect them) have to be broken down into single sugar units again before the body can store these sugars. and this takes time ……. so there are less ‘spikes’ in blood sugar levels. When we eat sugars our pancreas releases insulin to help stabilise the amount of sugar in blood, so when we eat slow-releasing swag foods there’s less impact on pancreas and lower insulin levels too.

Sugar overload of any kind is not good for the body, the pancreas or the waistline. You have to ‘earn’ your carbs so make sure you are eating a good combination of protein, fats, and carbs to help assist you in maintaining optimum peak performance.


In general good ratio to aim towards is;

Protein: 1.2g per kg/body weight

Fats: 1g per kg/body

Carbs: 4g per kg body weight (match your carbs to your activity level - on a down day eat less, on a more active day eat more)

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