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Priming our engines for top performance

17 January 2019 by Kristin Ryan

By Kristin Ryan, Senior Talent Manager, Alternatives

Priming our engines for top performance

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Kristin Ryan, Senior Talent Manager, Alternatives Other, Career Advice, News & Views...

Priming our engines for a healthy you 

It’s that time of year, back at work with already a mountain of work on our desks! Generally, in January we have renewed focus, goals and aspirations, not only in a professional capacity but also personally. It is around this time of the year that we assess our health and fitness and seek to make improvements. However, the two are more entwined than we think. Improving our health and wellness can very often lead to better productivity in work and a stronger focus culminating in better decision making and improved results. Stronger performance in work gives us a renewed confidence in our own abilities and the positive cycle continues ultimately leading to you being where you want to be in many aspects of your life.

On our first day back we each discussed our New Year’s Resolutions. Each one of us mentioned something to address health and fitness to give us balance in our lives. And I’m sure this is a similar situation for many others too. Given my background in Nutritional Therapy, I am happy to share some positive and hopefully helpful ideas in relation to food and nutrition for the months ahead.

Priming our engines for a strong year requires first and foremost, a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) system. With 70%-80% of our immune system in our gut, it is an important organ to nurture. And nurturing it needs. Our gut needs to be in tip top shape, working not just well, but optimally for us to have great health. Why strive for just average health when we can feel amazing? Our lives are busy and stressful, packing a lot into each day and week, (which also impacts our gut) and so it really is a task to actively take care of our GI system.

The state of our gut affects everything from digestion and detox (purging toxins from our bodies) through to sleep, healthy skin and good mental health. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, of which 90% is made in the intestines and this sends signals to our brains affecting mood, anxiety and even our circadian rhythm. Hence, it is called the Second Brain.

Therefore, a healthy gut leads to a healthy human. 

Top 10 quick and achievable hints and tips:
  1. Apple Cider Vinegar – two tablespoons in a small glass of water before each meal. It helps to regulate digestion, metabolise food, regulate blood sugar and detox the body. Ticks a lot of boxes!
  2. Minimum of 2 litres of water a day. It’s often hard to remember to drink water or even measure your intake so perhaps a jug on your desk will help remind you to drink and help track how much you have consumed. If you find it hard to drink water, particularly in cold months, drink hot water and lemon or else put flavour into your jug of water by way of strawberries, lemon and lime
  3. Fibre can help detox our bodies as it acts as bulking agents in the gut and excretes toxins. Whole wheat breads and pastas or brown rice and fruit are good sources. Porridge, nuts and beans offer slow release energy and work to keep you fuller for longer.
  4. Milk Thistle is great for helping our liver get back to good health. Just pop drops into a small glass of water during the day and your liver will love you for it. If you have a juice in the morning you could put it in there also, but beware it will alter the taste. It’s not great on the palette if you catch my drift. In my opinion it’s easier to knock back in a small glass of water.
  5. Probiotics: with a lot of bugs flying around this time of year I suggest an immune booster by way of probiotics or a good multi vitamin.
  6. A nice dose of Vitamin C by way of trusty oranges or also blackberries, spinach, kale, broccoli and other leafy greens. A juice containing some or all of the above in the morning along with some flax seeds thrown in and you will have a lot accomplished by 8am!
  7. Reduce caffeine – very often leads to bloating and acts as a diuretic. Counter intuitive to rehydrating!
  8. Dieting is a bad idea and fad diets are not sustainable. It leads to moodiness, tiredness and most of all HUNGER!. Don’t be unkind to your colleagues by having a grumbling and hangry team member giving daggers when someone starts tucking into a chicken fillet roll, complete with coleslaw and what seems to pass as cheese (but is in fact rubbery and doesn’t melt) at their desk. There’s no need to crawl through the month of January, life doesn’t have to be this difficult! Eating healthy and making good choices day by day is the way to go. Don’t worry if you slip up one day, tomorrow is another day.
  9. Antioxidants – load up on garlic, ginger and turmeric – these three ingredients are a power house with inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. A nice recipe for a nourishing hot drink in Winter is Golden Milk which includes coconut/almond milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, honey and black pepper. Check out the recipe here and a tip – if you are using raw turmeric root as opposed to powdered turmeric, wear gloves as it really stains your hands. You don’t want people to think you have now turned to smoking on top of everything else!  https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/golden-milk-turmeric-tea
  10. Mindful eating: taking time to eat and enjoy lunch away from the desk is more important than we think. Eating lunch at our desk, monitoring emails and taking calls leads to heightened stress responses and impedes good digestion.

Let’s have a great & healthy 2019!

Kristin Ryan, Senior Talent Manager at Alternatives 

(Editor's Note: Kristin has a 3-year diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition as well as her degree in marketing from DCU. An interesting and great combination! Lots of great advice to give on many subjects!)