Original post Ellie Krieger, The Washington Post
The hour-long lunch may be a charming relic of the past, like phone cords and typewriters, but in today’s 24-7 work culture, many of us don’t take any lunch break at all.
Fewer than 20 percent of American workers regularly step away for a midday meal, and 39 percent usually eat at their desks, according to a survey done by Right Management.
This trend is fueled by the notion that the most dedicated, effective workers are constantly available and on-task, and that taking a lunch break is counterproductive. It’s a perception that’s especially powerful in the tech sector, which gave birth to the meal-replacement drink Soylent so you don’t need to stop what you are doing to eat. The tagline for the product is “free your body,” which implies we’d be better off liberated from the pesky burden of needing to be fed.
But the idea that breaking for a meal hinders accomplishment is plainly wrong. The truth is, stopping to eat can actually make you much better at what you do.
Part of the reason lunch can boost your performance at work is that food literally fuels your brain, which needs a constant supply of energy to function optimally. So, the worst thing you can do for your midday mental performance is to skip lunch; and the best thing you can do, it seems, is to eat one with a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Carbohydrate is the brain’s primary fuel and study after study, on everyone from children to airline pilots to the elderly, show improvement on memory tests after eating carbs, especially slow-release carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables. But it turns out that protein and fat have distinct roles in powering our brains as well.
In a 2001 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looking at how carbs, protein and fats affect thinking, researchers concluded that each of the macronutrients enhanced performance on different kinds of tasks. So the optimal power-lunch should include all three — carbs from vegetables and/or whole grains; a protein such as lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts; and a healthy fat like olive oil or avocado.