Foods for the peak performer

Updated at: Dec 29, 2010
Foods for the peak performer

We can consciously plan our menus and mealtimes to favour mental work of naptime or warring in the boardroom or in the sports arena, and winning…

Editorial Team
Exercise & FitnessWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Dec 29, 2010

We can consciously plan our menus and mealtimes to favour mental work of naptime or warring in the boardroom or in the sports arena, and winning… 


I happened to look at corporate head honcho's diary for daily appointments.  It read: 9.00 am - meeting…10.30 am - presentation…12 noon - discussion over lunch….7.30 pm - corporate get together and so on…all packed in very tightly- too much to do and too less the time! How many of us go through this rig-ma-roll day in and day out - as a corporate bigwig or one striving to be, as a youngster into a vocational course, or a budding professional, or even a full time mother or wife?


At the end of the day what matters is - how energetic we felt throughout the day and at the end of it?  Did we enjoy every bit of what we did, or we dragged ourselves feeling burdened?  How irritable were we?  How many times did we lose our temper?


Most of us never find time for this kind of self analysis unless we are told by our physician: "Its time you think about yourself…take a breather" or your body starts giving you warning signals and you say to yourself. "Hey, I don't feel good!" Well, considering the lack of time in the fast-paced life of today, we need to be in form at all times -- mind alert and body fit - to accomplish the many deadlines and targets. Falling sick is definitely not an option.


The mind alerting effects of food are 'subtle', because of which we tend to overlook them. But once we learn to recognize our mind and body reactions to certain foods, we can consciously plan our menus and mealtimes to favour mental work or nap time or warring in the boardroom or in the sports arena, whichever pleases you.


Nutritionally speaking, the peak performance is essentially related to the specific role of the nutrients obtained from food, which in turn alter the brain chemistry in terms of certain neurotransmitters. It is the release of these substances, their types and amounts, which in turn govern our mental zones of analytical thinking memory, level of alertness and a decrease in mental fatigue.So here are foods for thought, sleep and peak performance:


Remember that optimum performance of the brain is dependent on a continuous supply of glucose (simple form of sugar). Then why not gulp sugar, munch a candy bar or sip a cold drink - all these options are full of sugar and do pep us up?  Actually, the boost of energy from such foods is for a short duration of time and this peaking is very often followed by a sudden drop in sugar level, which may leave you drained and fatigued.  Start your day with foods, which do not favour a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels or have a low glycemic response (refer box).  This helps our body to get a sustained release of glucose, which is long lasting and more productive.  In addition, such foods also provide us with a bonus of additional vitamins and minerals and not just empty calories.


Very often we are dependent on cups of coffee or tea to wake our minds throughout the day, or light cigarettes in the no smoking zones to fill in the gaps between the meals.  Coffee and tea pump in caffeine and cigarettes nicotine both tend to liberate simple sugars in the blood, thus giving the transient 'high' followed by a 'low'!  It is recommended that for in between meal energizers, one has refreshing beverages which can be a mix of citrus juices and vegetable juices or munch on roasted dalia or dry bhel with less of puri and sev, or a relatively nutritionally sound snack like dhokla, idli, patra.  It is much wiser to take these small inputs in between the meals rather than gorging on big meals for better productivity.


Select foods with high protein content in combination with 'limited' amount of carbohydrates in the productive part of the day.  Thus, be judicious in planning your working lunch (refer box).  It will favour a decreased production of a neurotransmitter, Serotonin that is known to slow down the connectivity of our brain signals, thereby making us feel more alert.  It is ironical that foods which are high in quality and quantity of protein like milk, curd, paneer, cheese (beware of the fat), fish, chicken etc. inherently contain high amounts of 'tryptophan', which is a precursor (raw material) of serotinin.  In order to decrease the synthesis of serotonin in the productive hours of the day such foods should be given with low carbohydrate accompaniments.  On the other hand the reverse will be true in the latter part of the day when we would like to close shop and induce sleep.


Boost your memory by choline rich foods.  Choline is a part of the B-complex group of vitamins, which the brain uses to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in the memory function.  The 'food which contain good amount of choline are - fish, eggs, groundnuts, pulses like black gram (urad dal), field bean (val) cowpea (chawli) mothbeans (math), dry peas, soyabeans and vegetables like carrots, beetroot, turnip and cabbage.


Supplement your diet with iron rich sources coupled with vitamin C. Intake of good amount of iron with vitamin C not only improves iron stores in the body but also improves mental functioning. Vitamin C is needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters that are required for the survival instinct to deal with mental stress.  So increase your vitamin C intake when you are working under a lot of pressure. Iron not only helps in supplying oxygen to your starved brain cells but also is a part of a number of chemicals, which keep your mental agility ticking.


Strike the balance by getting the right mix of other important vitamins which are brain boosters viz Thiamin, Niacin, Pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, Zinc and selenium.


Add to your menu the exercise vitamin, which gives you the endorphins high to achieve peak performance.Get going and with a little prudent selection and combination of foods achieve the coinciding effect of peak performance, productivity, and a win-win state when it is most required.


Low Glycemic Index Foods


  • Milk and milk products (curd, yoghurt, cottage cheese)
  • Pulses (black gram/black chana, kidney beans/rajmah, black gram/urad etc.)
  • Nuts (groundnuts, walnuts, almonds, in restricted quantity)
  • Whole grain cereals (broken wheat, whole wheat flour with bran, rice flakes etc.) and coarser cereals (bare mower) and cereal pulse combinations, pasta.
  • Fruits like apple, pear, orange, sweetlime, chicko etc.
  • All vegetables except potato, yam, colocascia etc.

Working Lunch Options


  • In the order of priority
  • Thick unstrained soups without added white sauce, cream.
  • Grilled paneer, fish, chicken
  • Main Course dishes: Vegetable and pulse based dry preparations/main course salad with pasta
  • Yoghurt/curds/salted thick lassi/fruit lassi
  • Unrefined cereals in restricted quantity.

For Additional Vitamins  


  • Minerals  B Complex:  Pulses, nuts, tilseeds, whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables, animal foods, milk and milk products.
  • Vitamin C: Amla, guava, capsicum, cabbage lettuce, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables.
  • Folic Acid: Greens (spinach, mint), pulses (chana, urad, chawli, soyabean), tilseeds, eggs, and liver.
  • Iron: Sheep liver, mutton, green (cauliflower greens, chaulai, methi etc.), pulses, whole grain cereals, nuts and oilseeds.
  • Zinc: Tilseeds, groundnuts, almonds, walnut, fish, cheese, egg, whole grain cereals.Selenium: Fishes, chicken, egg, oatmeal, wholegrain cereals.



– Dr. Jagmeet Madan (Courtesy: Wellbeing, Aramuc) 


All possible measures have been taken to ensure accuracy, reliability, timeliness and authenticity of the information; however does not take any liability for the same. Using any information provided by the website is solely at the viewers’ discretion. In case of any medical exigencies/ persistent health issues, we advise you to seek a qualified medical practitioner before putting to use any advice/tips given by our team or any third party in form of answers/comments on the above mentioned website.

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK