Eat Your Way To Success

31 May, 2017

Nutrition is one of my ‘things’. Yip. Quinoa, kale and cauliflower excite me. A bowl of lentil and black bean soup is a happy meal. I find gut flora fascinating.

But I’m not purist.

I can smash a box of cheap chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs if you let me. I go through phases where there’s not a vegetable in sight. “No greenies on this plate” my children have been heard to remark as they carry their food to the table.

After a few days of that, we’re back on track with avo smoothies and vegetable frittata.

So, why this love affair with nutrition? I hear you ask.

Of course, the impact on my body is part of it, but mostly it’s about the impact on my productivity.

Just as your muscles feed on the food you eat, so too does your brain.

In his book Your Brain On Food, Gary Wenk, Ph.D., writes that your brain has a symbiotic relationship with the bugs in your gut.  Whatever you eat, they eat. In return, they produce a wide range of chemicals that help your brain function optimally.

  • For example, they convert complex carbohydrates – like peas, beans and lentils – into a chemical called BDNF, which plays a critical role in your brain’s ability to learn and remember.

The gut also turns these complex carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar) for your body to use as energy.

Here’s how it works:

Brain researcher Leigh Gibson found that the brain works best with about 25g of glucose circulating in the blood stream – about the amount found in a banana.

You can get glucose from a cheap chocolate marshmallow Easter egg, or a small bowl of lentil soup. In fact, you can get glucose from just about anything you eat.

There’s virtually no difference for your brain. In the short term.

However, over the stretch of a normal day, the difference is spectacular. The chocolate egg releases glucose into your blood very quickly and you’re super-alert for about 20 minutes. After that, your glucose level drops and you become unfocused and easy to distract. Usually reaching for another chocolate egg.

The lentils, on the other hand, release sugar slowly, which means you have better focus and attention levels for a longer period of time.

Successful people know this.

In his book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris spoke to some of the world’s biggest achievers about what they eat. He found that they credit their success, in part, to their eating habits.

  1. They eat the same thing every day. This reduces the stress of simple decision-making and frees their brains for more important decisions. You can read more about how successful people simplify their lives here.
  2. They eat slow release food. It doesn’t make them smarter, but it does help them operate at their full potential for longer.

So if you want to optimise your brainpower and mental focus, take the challenge.

For the next week, try eating the same thing for breakfast every day. Make it a simple smoothie, full of slow release complex carbohydrates that are good for your gut and your brain.

Here’s how.

Blend together a banana, an avo, some nuts, a teaspoon of cocoa powder and a splash of coconut cream. Add a few raisins or chopped dates if you want it sweeter. It’ll take you 5 minutes to make and it tastes like chocolate mousse.


Look, it’s not going to turn you into an overnight millionaire, but it will make you more productive, more creative and more mentally alert.

Until next Easter.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.