Thu | Mar 23, 2017

Power eating for executives and entrepreneurs

Published:Sunday | August 17, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Christian Stokes

N. Christian Stokes, GUEST COLUMNIST

As an athlete, my intense physical training was complemented by an equally structured programme of nutrition.

Food and supplements, as the conventional wisdom went, would enhance my ability to train and to perform at a high level.

This started from as early as Port Maria Primary School, where I was given nutmeg to suck because it would supposedly give me 'donkey breath', and reached its apogee with the various concoctions of oils and minerals preferred by Sam Bock, an outstanding and innovative bobsleigh coach who led Jamaica to its best Winter Olympic finish in that sport.

While there is considerable divergence on what diets and supplements lead to peak athletic performance, it is generally accepted that both, properly used, will yield significant positive results.

Executives and entrepreneurs face demands for high performance which outweigh in scope, duration and consequence demands faced by athletes.

The stakes are entirely different. In the high-stakes world of professional sports, soccer, football and basketball, athletes compete at this level for a relatively short time. For example, the average career length for an NBA player is 4.8 years, 3.3 years for an NFL player, and a player in the English Premier League can expect to be active at that level for about eight years.

Now with life expectancy in the Caribbean in the '70s and increasing, we will all spend the majority of our days in some sort of professional or entrepreneurial endeavour.

The executive or entrepreneur will not perform for a few hours a day, for some months each year, for a relatively short number of years like her professional athlete colleague, she must perform on demand, 12-14 hours or more per day, without an off season for 40-50 years. She needs all the help she can get. If nutrition is important to the athlete it is critical to the business person.

NUTRITION FOR PERFORMANCE

Many of us have watched a 400m race where an enthusiastic youngster sprints out of the blocks and blasts down the backstretch and we think to ourselves 'him must buss', and by the time the fellow gets to the home stretch, he is all but crawling, and the cadets run onto the field with the stretcher to haul him off in ignominy.

This should not be your day or your week. How can you not 'buss', mentally, physically, and emotionally by 2 p.m. or have to ask yourself on Wednesday if it's not Friday yet.

Here are the foods I have found helpful in supporting energy levels.

First and foremost, carbohydrates - try to stick with whole grains: and complex carbohydrates which break down well into glucose which is the only energy source for the brain and central nervous system.

Brown rice and quinoa are excellent sources of complex carbs and both contain manganese, which plays an important role in producing energy from carbohydrates and proteins.

Try sweet potatoes, which are an easy 'take to the office meal'. They're easy to prepare and also have high levels of vitamins A and C.

Forsake the condensed milk and try a spoonful of honey instead. Honey releases its energy throughout the day as opposed to giving sugar highs - and lows.

Thirst masquerades as hunger, so save yourself from overeating by ensuring that you are always hydrated. I am grateful for Coca Cola's sponsorship of the World Cup, and admire their value chain management and corporate social responsibility, but their products, and similar products, including bag juice and Bigga, do not count to what we are trying to do here - I hasten to confess that I grew up on Kool Kat and sky juice, but we learn as we go.

Snack on fruits throughout the day. They provide an immediate bump in glucose which the body can easily convert into energy. Bananas provide a quick source of energy through its high levels of glucose fructose and sucrose. Combine bananas with oranges which provide a more sustained release of energy during the day. It's a powerful combination. Next time you see a taxi driver buying oranges and bananas at the stop light, you'll know why.

You may also want to add apples to your snack list. They take longer than most other fruits to digest and therefore provide energy over a more sustained period of time.

Provide some variety for yourself by including greens in your meals. My favorite is spinach, which provides some carbs and lots of iron for the production of energy.

Beans provide further variety and are a good source of both carbohydrates and proteins.

Getting through your days with optimal productivity doesn't have to be about coffee and energy drinks. What you eat can give you the energy, mental acuity and stress-management abilities necessary to be a peak performer.

N. Christian Stokes is founder and CEO of NCS Enterprises.ncstokes@ncsenterprises.com