Key #6: Eat Healthy Protein

When I was younger, I worked with a group of negotiators preparing for a very difficult and possibly confrontational meeting. At the time, I was a pretty competitive guy, so I wanted my team to be totally prepared and perform brilliantly. And I wanted the other side to flop.

Here’s what I did.

I asked for the meeting to occur between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. because that’s the time of day when energy levels are the lowest. I then told my group to show up at noon for a lunch I would prepare for them.

I gave them water to make sure they were hydrated, green tea for a small dose of caffeine, chicken for protein and avocado salad for quality fats. We were building long-term energy.

The key to this lunch was that I made sure that they had mostly proteins, some fats, and a little carbohydrate. I wanted this combination because I knew that the amino acid tyrosine has been shown to help increase the levels of the “alertness” neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. (Amino acids are the components that make up proteins).

Neurotransmitters are small bundles of protein that work in the brain to carry signals from one nerve to another. This creates thoughts, memories, and basically controls the way the brain is functioning. I wanted to increase the amount of the amino acid tyrosine in my team and keep the levels of that transmitter as high as I could during the important meeting.

With my team primed for excellence, I welcomed the visiting group to our conference room where I had prepared a buffet of croissants, muffins, bagels, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. It was a smorgasbord of simple carbohydrates and caffeine. They were most appreciative and loaded up.

By eating foods that were very high in simple carbohydrates and very low in protein, I changed their brain chemistry right before the negotiations were to begin. The result was an increase in the amino acid tryptophan, which has been shown to increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps relax the brain. Great stuff if you want to take a nap. Not so much if you need to concentrate for three hours.

No surprise what happened. Jacked on sugar and caffeine, the other team started with a lot of energy and then hit a slump. They became irritable and distracted. By two hours in, they were really struggling. The last hour was a train wreck.

My team was calm but energized and consistent for the entire time. We rocked the negotiations.

You know the moral of this story: simple carbohydrates are low-quality foods that set you up for an energy plummet. Proteins, good fats and complex carbs maintain your focus and energy over long stretches, and you won’t crash as you slowly get hungry again.

High quality, nutrient-dense foods are the optimal fuel for our brains and bodies and help to deal with stress. In addition to eating healthy carbs and healthy fats, healthy proteins are critical because they have such a powerful influence on our brain neurotransmitters, which can help us concentrate, focus and problem solve.
 
It’s a great idea to eat protein at every meal. That low-nutrient, high-carb breakfast of toast and orange juice will lead to an energy crash. High protein foods can help you to maintain better attention, concentration and focus. Healthy proteins arrive in their most basic forms – not processed or battered. Some examples: eggs, fish, chicken, pork, quinoa, chickpeas.

Today's POWER-UP: Add healthy protein sources to your nutrition plan

HIGH PROTEIN FOODS CAN HELP YOU TO MAINTAIN BETTER ATTENTION, CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS. HEALTHY PROTEINS ARRIVE IN THEIR MOST BASIC FORMS – NOT PROCESSED OR BATTERED. HERE ARE SOME GREAT EXAMPLES OF HEALTHY-PROTEIN FOODS:

NUTS AND SEEDS: PUMPKIN SEEDS, SQUASH SEEDS, WALNUTS, ALMONDS, PINE NUTS, PISTACHIOS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CASHEWS, HEMP SEEDS, FLAX SEEDS.

VEGETABLES: CORN, TOMATOES, SOY BEANS, BLACKEYE PEAS, NAVY BEANS, GREEN PEAS, LIMA BEANS, BRUSSEL SPROUTS, SPINACH, BROCCOLI, POTATOES, ASPARAGUS, CHICK PEAS, TEMPEH AND TOFU, EDAMAME, LEAFY GREENS.

FRUITS: APRICOTS, PEACHES.

CEREALS AND GRAINS: OAT BRAN, OATS, EGG NOODLES, BUCKWHEAT, COUSCOUS, BULGUR, MILLET, LONG-GRAIN BROWN OR WILD RICE, QUINOA, SEITAN.