Science-backed ways to stay energetic when working from home

Picture it: A snow day. The snowflakes are coming down hard. The fireplace is heating up (or, let’s be honest: maybe it’s just the radiator). You stocked up on bags of chips and dip, plus all your favorite sweets, and you’re working from home, so why not indulge?

Hold up. If you want to get your work done, don’t inhale all those sweet, delicious snow-day treats — at least during work hours.

The sad truth is: all that sugary food will slow you down, just when you need real energy to keep going.

Step away from the chips

No one wants to hear this when cookies beckon, but: if you want to stop being exhausted, stick to healthy foods to while working. Diet can be one of the major differences between a superstar and a slacker at work.

Which would you rather be?

Gallup research from 2013 states that in the U.S., “engaged employees eat healthier, exercise more frequently, and consume more fruits and vegetables.”

The researchers defined “engaged” workers as “deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work,” as opposed to “not engaged” workers, who might like their work but are “not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort.”

Workers who were “actively disengaged” were not connected to their work or place of work emotionally, and “jeopardize their teams’ performance.” These workers also did not eat as well.

There’s more reason to avoid the delicious junk food: a recent study found that the majority of U.S. deaths from illness result from eating the same 10 ingredients, including bacon, soda and hot dogs.

Balance your foods for a better mood

While an all-cookie diet sounds appealing, a balanced diet puts you in a better mood and helps you resist stress.

The Mental Health Foundation in the UK says “a balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing can be protected by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.”

For high stress moments working at home, hydrate with water or chamomile tea. Protein and vegetables give you energy that sustains you long after you eat.

Look for healthy food options when working from home

You very likely already have healthy food options already at home. Tuna or clean protein, fresh vegetables, and especially legumes or beans for fiber will fill you up. (The humble lentil is an amazing ingredient that does it all, from salads to soups).

Another key to a healthy, productive day might already be lurking in your pantry: green tea.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, green tea has traditionally been used for its health benefits, including “regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion, and improving mental processes.”

Buddhist monks have long prepared green tea before meditation, for what it does for mental alertness as well as calming the mind.

Don’t crash and burn with sugar

The worst thing you can do for your energy levels is eat excessive sugar.

Author Christopher Wanjek explains that the energy you get from eating sweets may be short-lived. In his 2005 book for the ILO titled Food at Work: Workplace Solutions for Malnutrition, Obesity and Chronic Diseases, Wanjek comes down pretty hard on sugar.

Snacking on sugary foods and drinks, which the body quickly digests, causes a short surge in energy but ultimately leaves the body more tired,” Wanjek writes in his book

It can be so much fun to eat sweets all day on a snow day, but think about delaying them until your working hours are over.

Save wine for after work

One of the delights of a blizzard day can be wine by candlelight. Trust us: it’s better for dinner. Keep your energy up in the middle of the day by not reaching for a wine glass with lunch.

“For people who drink alcohol, one of the best hedges against the midafternoon slump is to avoid the sedative effects of drinking alcohol at lunch,” an article by Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School says.   

But once your work is done, hurry! Get back to all the goodies and uncork your favorite red— in moderation.

Stay active

Sure, you’re at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around. Even 15 minutes of exercise a day could increase your lifespan by three years, according to a 2011 study. Walk around, stretch, or go outside. If you love cardio or yoga, there are great 10-minute workouts available, designed by experts. If even that seems too long, the 7-Minute Workout app can get your heart rate up fast. Apartment dwellers may try walking up and down the stairs for a little movement. Parents can play with their kids in the snow, or just play tag in the house. There’s always a good option to stay energetic.