Improve Your Motivation through Nutrition
October 28, 2021
We could all use more energy and motivation sometimes. Working smarter, rather than harder, just makes sense… whether you’re trying to improve your performance in yoga class or squeeze more productivity out of a busy workday. But you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You can’t increase motivation or efficiency if you’re not providing your body with the nutrients it needs for maximum productivity. Of course, when you’re busy, your mind is focused on getting things done. Food and nutrition often get put on the back burner. What if we told you that making a few simple changes to your diet and nutrition could have huge effects on your motivation and productivity, both on and off the mat? What you need is an actionable plan that fits into your busy lifestyle.
How Nutrition Affects Your Motivation
Think back to the days you have had the best motivation and productivity lately. Did you eat a good breakfast that day? What did you have for lunch? We often think about lack of sleep or overwork as key obstacles to motivation, but we rarely give much thought to food. Most of us eat whatever is convenient when we’re busy. But nutrition affects us more than we realize, and not all foods are created equal. Poor nutrition equates to filling your car up with the cheapest gasoline just because it’s closer and cheaper, even if it only lets you go 35 miles an hour.
Spending a little more time and money on high-quality fuel that allows your car to travel at optimum speed and efficiency makes a lot more sense. Why wouldn’t you take the same care with the fuel you provide for your body? According to the music teachers at Music to Your Home NYC, “We see it all the time. Students who skip lunch or come to their lessons hungry simply don’t perform on the same level. They aren’t nearly as focused or motivated to learn new concepts, and it really shows in how quickly they progress.”
It’s much the same with learning basic yoga poses or attending a more advanced class. You’ll be more motivated to learn and perform well if you provide your body with the right fuel first. But why does this happen? Most everything we eat is converted into glucose, which is the fuel our body uses to stay focused and alert. It’s harder to get motivated or concentrate when your stomach is empty. But it’s not as simple as that. It’s also important to know that not all foods are processed in the same way. Simple carbs and sugars release glucose quickly and provide short bursts of energy, but they result in a dramatic drop in energy and motivation afterward. Saturated fats and processed foods are also difficult to digest, which can lead to lethargy and reduced productivity.
Which Foods Increase Motivation and Productivity?
Here are our top tips for choosing foods that increase motivation and productivity through nutrition.
- Start your day with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. In addition to starting out your day with some energizing yoga poses, choose a breakfast that includes slow-burning foods to provide long-lasting energy. Try a veggie omelette with whole-grain toast, Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit, or a green smoothie with a scoop of protein powder and coconut oil.
- Snack on veggies and nuts. These foods are excellent for boosting motivation because they provide a steady stream of energy, rather than a short burst followed by a crash. Veggies and nuts contain nutrients that increase dopamine production, which is a neurotransmitter that promotes motivation and focus.
- Prioritize brain-boosting foods. Pomegranates, berries, and other dark fleshed fruits are often called brain foods because they contain anthocyanins. These phytochemicals turn important genes on and off in the brain and make the cells more receptive to incoming messages. They also promote cellular growth and protect your brain and other organs from premature ageing and inflammation.
Rajasic, Tamasic, and Sattvic Foods
Yoga is excellent for our health, but you need to make sure you are providing yourself with the proper nutrition when exercising. Rajasic foods such as red meat or lentils can cause over stimulation, and yoga is meant to bring you into the moment, so that is not the ideal food to increase your productivity properly. Tamasic foods include pastries, alcohol, and bread. These types of foods will increase laziness and weakness or fatigue, so this is not the kind of nutrition you’d want before a yoga class. While you want to be calm, you don’t want to feel drained.
Sattvic foods are fresh fruits and veggies, and will provide you with the energy and sustainability you need before your yoga practice. Ditching the afternoon coffee for tea and working on incorporating more sattvic foods will succeed at making you feel lighter, and are easier to digest before your class. You’ll have less of that “sugar crash” feeling, and the nutrition helps to keep your brain focused and relaxed, and you will get the most out of your yoga class. Nuts that contain protein, B-vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can actually amplify the antioxidant effects of dark-fleshed fruits. They also work to balance serotonin levels, which influence mood and appetite. Leafy greens are also fantastic for reducing inflammation and protecting the brain from premature ageing.
- Drink green tea. Green tea contains phytochemicals that help the brain stay energized, focused, and calm at the same time. It also contains antioxidants that protect the brain and improve signalling efficiency and effectiveness.
- Eat fatty fish. Fatty fish are packed with healthy fats and other nutrients that support brain health. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, and B-vitamins, which all improve memory, focus, cognitive function, and motivation.
- Include seeds in your diet regularly. Seeds are brain-boosting food that supports mood and motivation. They contain valuable B-vitamins for cognitive function, healthy fats for reduced inflammation, and protein for sustained energy.
Wrapping It Up: Strategies to Help You Stay on Track
Many times, even when we already know which foods are healthy, we don’t always make healthy choices, partly because we’re at our lowest point of energy and self-control when we’re hungry. Convenient, cheaper, and faster options are usually more readily available than healthy ones. In a way, this fools our brains into thinking unhealthy options are more efficient, which is where the best intentions often go astray. Unfortunately, skipping breakfast or eating a fast-food lunch to save some time results in weaker motivation and performance for the rest of the day. With that in mind, here are some action-based strategies to help you eat healthier, even when you’re pressed for time:
- Plan ahead and know what you’re going to eat before you get hungry. If you are going to be at the office all day, bring your lunch and a healthy snack from home. And when you’re heading straight to yoga class after work, bring a light, healthy snack to eat on the way. Also, when you always come home from work starving; planning, shopping, and prep healthy dinners for the week on your day off.
- Avoid the glucose roller coaster. Highs and lows in blood sugar are bad for motivation and focus. You will be more motivated and have better performance if you eat small, frequent healthy snacks and meals throughout the day to keep your glucose levels consistent.
- Make healthy snacks more efficient and convenient than unhealthy ones. Keep some protein bars and nuts at your desk. Bring a bag of fruit to the office at the beginning of the week so you have healthy options all week long. Or use an automated subscription service to have healthy snacks delivered to your home or office regularly.
Planning ahead and using nutrition to power your body and brain can have a tremendous impact on your motivation and performance. Avoid saturated fats and refined sugars and choose protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and nutritious fruits and veggies instead. Your body and brain will reward you with sustained energy and motivation that lasts all day long. Improving motivation through nutrition is what you need!