Top 10 nutritional mistakes made by busy people
Top 10 nutritional mistakes made by busy people
With only 24 hours in a day there is never enough time to fit in all the things we need to do, especially when deadlines are looming and schedules tight.
Some people gain undesirable weight while others lose lean tissue, both impact how we feel and perform, and increase the risk of illness and fatigue. Busy people frequently make crucial mistakes with their nutrition and eating patterns reducing the benefits of healthy eating practices and activity.
EIS Head of Performance Nutrition Jeni Pearce explains that there is more to health than being thin or a set body weight, and how combining good nutrition with being active and staying fit helps busy people to cope with deadlines, tight schedules, high energy demands and stress.
1. Skipping breakfast
Jeni says: "This will leave busy people hungrier later in the morning (making weight and body fat control a greater struggle), fails to provide fuel for busy and demanding morning meetings (especially as food may not have been eaten for 8-12 hours and blood glucose levels could be low), increases the risk of poor concentration and attention to detail, and does not raise the body’s metabolic rate (assisting weight control).
"Breakfast should contain carbohydrate (cereal, fruit, and grains), a reasonable amount protein (egg, yoghurt, milk) and fluids. Some busy people may need two breakfasts, especially with early morning starts – one before work and a second on arrival or mid-morning, especially if they exercise before work."
2. No eating or choosing the right carbs at the right time when active
Jeni says: "Fuelling the body with energy to start the day and prior to workouts allows muscle glycogen stores to last longer and can stabilise blood glucose, allowing busy people to train harder, feel less fatigued and not to feel hungry.
"The timing of snacks or meals depends on individual preference and the demands of the day or training session. Keep foods familiar and including fluids (water is fine for most workouts under 1hr). After workouts including protein and carbohydrate within 2 hours helps refuel energy stores in the muscle, maximise training responses, helps to maintain brain function later in the day, reduces fatigue and prepares the muscles for the next workout. This is more crucial if the next meal is delayed (demanding work schedules or working late nights). Some busy people (after hard sessions) may lose their appetite and struggle to eat.
"Drink sports drinks and use liquid meals (milk based smoothies or soups) if this occurs. Carbs are the key fuel for brain function."
3. Not protecting the immune system
Jeni says: "Many people get colds and sore throats when busy and schedules are tight. Nutrition strategies that can help, include maintaining a hydrate state throughout the day (dehydration reduces saliva flow rates increasing the access for microbes to enter via the mouth), consumed fluids and carbohydrate after workouts helps to close the ‘open window’ denying microbes access, and the use of probiotics (friendly bacteria) have been reported to lower the incidence and length of illness.
"Remember excess or over exercising (especially when unwell) increase the vulnerability of the body’s defence system. Omega 3 (fish oils and oily fish) are believed to boost both the immune system and assist brain function. Eat a rainbow of colour in fruit and vegetables to provide protective compound, keep hands away for the face and wash hands regularly."
4. Replacing meals with energy bars, sports foods and sports drinks
Jeni says: "Energy bars are developed for athletes and designed to refuel muscle stores. Many also contain high levels of protein and calories. They are not designed as a meal replacement, rather a convenient snack of a limited number of nutrients. These bars are unsuitable for people who are performing very light training or workouts. Some bars may contain the same energy values a sandwich, fruit and fruit juice with a lower total nutrient contribution.
"Read the labels of bars carefully as some are protein only and may not be suitable to fuel for a busy day and may contain compounds that are not needed (caffeine or creatine). A quick meal is soup, fruit and cereal bar or roll and milk drink."
5. Eating too much protein and not enough CHO
Jeni says: "The popularity of protein and low carbohydrate diets resulted in some busy people including protein at the expense of carbohydrate in their diets. Carbohydrate is essential for blood glucose, brain function, delaying fatigue and is the preferred fuel or exercise. Balancing intakes with workouts and busy schedules is the key. Include protein at every meal (especially breakfast).
"Although protein is not an effective energy source, it is important for tissue repair, growth, regeneration and metabolic responses. It is not a case of one at the expense of the other as both are needed."
6. Trusting the accuracy of dietary supplements labels and claims
Jeni says: "Despite attempts by some supplement companies to improve safety and accuracy of marketing claims many products remain unregulated, with claims unproven and with little or no research performed on them. Busy people are advised to choose food first and to seek professional advice from a registered nutritionist or dietitian.
"Vitamin B does not contain any energy (acts as a spark plug releasing energy from carbohydrate). There are many compounds, necessary for good health, which are not found in supplements (polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidants). Choose a wide variety of food first including lots of green and coloured fruit and vegetables, fresh and frozen!"
7. Relying on stimulants for energy, caffeine and energy drinks
Jeni says: "Caffeine is well known for generating a sense of wellbeing and providing benefits to performance (reducing perceived effort, increasing alertness and increasing tolerance to pain).
"Heavy use and high doses can have serious side effects, especially for the non-tolerant (headaches, sleepiness, heart palpitations, shakiness, poor attention spans, and in the short term can lower blood glucose levels). Suddenly increasing caffeine can have additional side effects such as increased urine output (increasing the risk of dehydration) and stomach discomfort (reflux). Caffeine does not contain any energy or additional nutrients and has individual effects and tolerance levels (effects lasting for 2-4 hours). A diet energy drink contains no energy and is only a stimulant beverage.
"To hydrate use water or a sport drink, especially in the heat, and when using caffeinated beverages monitor the volume and frequency consumed."
8. Believing that exercise means you can eat what ever you want
Jeni says: "A benefit of working out is the ability to consume more food (energy) and a higher metabolic rate. However, quality and quantity is just as important. Exercise does not allow anyone to eat large amounts of high fat or treat foods (this compromises recovery).
"Training when busy means eating more healthful foods and nutrients to support the body’s immunity, recovery and to cope with the extra stresses placed on the body. Exercise and activity have been an excuse to justify poor eating patterns by busy people."
9. Not drinking the right amount of fluids and making hydration complicated
Jeni says: "As hydration status is very individual changes in body weight can be monitored during the day (replacing 1-1.5x fluid losses) and after workouts. Dehydration can be a serious concern, especially in hot humid weather, for people who sweat heavily and are active for long periods.
"Sports drinks containing sodium are more suitable than water in these situations and busy people should take care not to over hydrate or gain weight due to excess fluid intakes. Alcohol provides very few nutrients, is high in calories, reduces the will power to make healthy choices and accelerates dehydration when consumed in volume. When drinking socially eat first and be hydrated prior to consuming alcohol. Monitor urine colour during the day as well as the frequency of production."
10. Following a crazy diet (it just makes you crazy)
Jeni says: "Busy people may adopt the latest diet to gain a performance advantage at work or to cope with hectic schedules (at the expense of trusted and reliable practices). There are no magic formulas or practices that will dramatically boost intellectual performance, prevent fatigue or result in an amazing weight loss. Some practices may actually lead to a decrease in performance or have undesirable side effects.
"The best advice is to follow well recognised and tested nutrition practices and seeks professional guidance for individual fine tuning. Never try anything new during a busy or stressful time in your life. There is no such thing as a day off to eat all you want!"
Photography © Getty Images
© 2012 Jeni Pearce, English Institute of Sport.
Read Jeni's Top 10 nutritional mistakes made by athletes here
Read Jeni's Top 10 nutrition tips for young athletes here