It’s just gone midday. You’ve been productive, energetic, and effective in the first half of the day, but now you need some fuel to carry you through to the end of the day. Should you go with big heavy lunch or light meal?
Take good care with this decision, though. Lunchtime is the pivot point in the day, and the difference between good and bad decisions here is the difference between finishing every last task on your to-do list and struggling on with a frustrating hangover of work to be done tomorrow morning.
Big Lunch = Sleepy Much?
The phenomenon of the “food coma” after a big meal is regrettably very much real. In 2012, scientists used a driving simulator to see if the effect of meal size, the so-called “post-lunch dip,” was real. Did it make the dip longer? Was the lethargy more intense? Were people worse drivers following a large meal?
All these were found to be true. Consuming larger meals instead of light meal left drivers observably worse on metrics ranging from brain power (measured by an EEG) to incidents of lane drifting, to even just feelings of “tiredness”. If this is something that can come up on a task as mundane as driving, imagine how much worse it could be on something more complex!
Big Lunch = Time Crunch
You might think that it’s more convenient to head out to the local burger bar or fast food outlet to get a quick midday meal to send you flying through the rest of the day. But this can be misleading. At peak times, queues at fast food outlets are common. When you factor in order prep time, the travel time to and from your office, and the sluggishness that fast food leaves you with on the return journey, you end up with a lot of lost time on your hands.
While you might think, “I have an hour for lunch, and all that takes less than 30 minutes,” that misses the point of what a lunch break is for. The key word is “break”. Take a refreshing walk. Have a nice chat with friendly colleagues. Enjoy some fresh air. All these are vital parts of a good break at lunchtime, and should not be skipped. A lighter lunch keeps you feeling refreshed and frees up more of your time to get the most out of your lunch break.
Big Lunch = Gut Punch
The more food, and especially the greasier, fattier, carbohydrate-rich food you eat, the more resources your body needs to direct towards processing the food. When it comes to grease and oil, this is such a serious problem that your body has needed to evolve an entirely separate organ, the gall bladder, to help deal with it.
This kind of issue causes the bloating and sluggishness often associated with eating a big meal, and will leave you with an uncomfortable sensation that can be very distracting well into the afternoon.
So, now you know why you should avoid super-sizing your lunch, the next logical question is, “what’s the alternative?” Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help keep your lunches efficient, effective, and healthy.
- Complex carbs – eating foods with simple carbs, like lots of white flour and refined sugar, increases the production of hormones like melatonin, which causes sleepiness and inhibits the work of orexin neurons that control wakefulness. Instead, go for complex carbs, which are often found in cereals, grains, and generally anything high in fibre
- Switch from red to white – Red meats like beef and pork have a much higher fat content than chicken or turkey, which are often a lot more lean. When looking for a sandwich filler or salad addition, think white meat first
- Fruits and vegetables – It is a healthy food cliché for a reason. Fruits and vegetables often have long-release minerals which mean that while you might have to wait a little longer for them to take full effect, when they do it will be all the more powerful
Following these tips for a light meal lunchtime will leave you refreshed, ready, and raring to take on whatever challenges your day brings.