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Business Nutrition – What the hell?!?

In November last year I had the privilege of being in the audience to hear two successful retired sportsmen talk about their achievements in their sporting fields, (Rory Underwood – Rugby Union and Steve Smith – athletics (High jump)) and how they now both run businesses to help organisations to benefit from the things they learnt when they were at the top of their game in the sporting arena, be this critical thinking, team work or controlling the controllables.

I also watched BBC Sports Personality of the Year and listened to many of the award winners thank the team around them for their successes and made the point of saying that many factors go into success and it’s the team, in terms of the sport physiologist, sports scientist and nutritionist, that all come together for the one event. Just before Christmas I read an article about some of our top snooker players changing their diet to vegan and finding that this change was improving their performance

It is true that we can take a lot from sport and the practices they use to achieve success and translate those into ways of working in business that achieve success and create high performing teams.

Khoi Tu, in his book Superteams, highlighted two sports teams (the Ferrari Formula One team and the European Rider Cup team) and demonstrated how their successes could be replicated in a business setting.

The one thing that hasn’t seemed to translate in the same way is sports nutrition and the effect food has on performance.

I have been a qualified nutritional therapist for the last nine and half years. During my training we did a module on sports nutrition but back then in the mid-nineties sports nutrition was purely for professional and semi-professional sports people and the only mainstream products available were things like Lucozade and Gatorade.

Over the last decade we’ve seen the explosion in the sports nutrition market, with many products aimed at the mass market, mainstream general population who now take their health & sport more seriously. Every week I see new products come to market claiming to help you boost performance, aid recovery, speed up weight loss and the list goes on…

Research done by Mintel  in July 2016, found that one in four Brits had consumed a sports nutrition product in the preceding three months .The consumer spend was £66 million –  up by 27% (it was £52 million in 2013).

Yet when I go to networking events and tell people that I am a business nutrition specialist and say I help organisations to understand how the food their staff are consuming during the day is impacting on their business success, I get raised eyebrows. People want to know more.

Last year I spoke to over 500 people sharing my knowledge about food and business performance, with many people coming up to me afterwards saying that during my talk they’d had a “lightbulb” moment and they had finally got it.

Already this year we’ve seen the publication of a report telling us to stop the “Cake Culture” that seems to have become a way of life in British companies. Not only is this having an effect on our dental health, but our waistlines and productivity too.

So why haven’t some of the key learnings from sports nutrition science transferred into the business sector like some of the other aspects of sport? I think one of the reasons for this is that there are not that many people who are qualified to do this in a workplace setting, there are many businesses promoting healthy eating but not many have made the connection between health & productivity in the workplace and show that it is essential for business success.

We should be looking at our employees as business athletes and helping them to fuel themselves so they can achieve great results in their working life (which means better business results for you) as well as feeling the benefit of improved health when spending time with their family and friends.

Here are some simple tips to get you started:

  • Have weekly team breakfasts – have fruit, yogurt and granola or go continental with some cooked meats and cheeses
  • Provide company branded water bottles to encourage staff to drink more water
  • Organise team lunches – get everyone to bring one dish in to share with the rest of the team; not only does this encourage people to try new foods but also gets them away from their desk for a proper lunch break
  • If you have water cooler, enquire if the company who provide them also deliver fresh fruit; I know a couple companies local to me who do this.
  • Instead of having cakes for birthdays, ask the birthday person their favourite cuisine and organise a cook school for the team, this could either be off site at a local cook school or simply using portable hobs & ask people to bring in some kitchen equipment from home.

Food brings people together and is a great way for teams to bond as well as a cost effective way to educate people about food and health.

What ideas have you got to bring a healthier food culture into your business?

Healthier staff + happier staff + more productive staff = Business success

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