What to Eat to Stay Focused For Longer at Work

Nutrition tips for the office.

Steve Glaveski


You’ve probably had your fair share of carby lunches. You head out with some colleagues, order the burger and fries with a side of Coke or even, a pint of beer, and after an hour (or two), you make your way back to your desk for the afternoon shift.

Only, your body might be present but your mind is in hibernation.

This is because the high-GI carbs, also known as simple carbs, that you just consumed, spiked your blood sugar for about all of one hour before sending you crashing back down to earth.

Simple carbs like these are a source of fast-release energy — they give us energy for an hour or so. But when it comes to work, we should be opting for slow-release energy — foods that keep us focused for hours on end.

Most of us, however, are consuming way too many simple carbs. A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that over 42 percent of the typical American diet is attributable to simple carbs such as grains, fruit juice, potatoes, and sugar.

So what should we be eating, then, for sustained energy at work?

Essentially, we should try to keep our simple carbs to a minimum and opt for low-GI carbohydrates, also known as complex carbohydrates, instead.

These can be found in what you might know as ‘brown’ variations of food — brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread, and so on.

Slow carbs can also be derived from vegetables (kale, cauliflower, broccoli), grains such as quinoa and steel-cut oats, legumes, and nuts.

The chart below illustrates the difference in energy release between High-GI/simple carbs and Low-GI/complex carbs.



Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.