How to eat right on the road
The right food can power you through your next business trip and bring you home with energy--and new ideas--to spare.
(Business 2.0) - Anyone who's ever endured a cross-country red-eye, only to dash straight from the airport to a morning meeting, knows that the life of a road warrior can be like running a marathon in a wool suit. Poorly rested, with an internal clock set several time zones away, you may feel groggy by noon. But at midnight, you're restless and wide awake. Many travelers try to counteract this cycle by loading up on lattes and late-night sleeping aids, but there's a better way. Eating the right foods at the right times can give you extra oomph, ward off unwanted colds, and even help you think more clearly. Forget what Gordon Gekko said; lunch isn't for wimps. Quite the opposite--eating right may be the most effective way to power through the day, day in and day out.
Boost Your Energy
Need to stay alert when you have a string of meetings with no lunch break in sight? A cup of coffee may seem like a quick fix, but you'll crash before the day is done. For a longer-lasting shot in the arm, try eating some nuts. The ultimate snack food, walnuts, almonds, and even those airplane peanuts provide a great source of lasting fuel. Full of slow-burning protein, nuts deliver energy over an extended period of time, and they have other benefits too. "If you're going to sit through a long meeting and don't want to have to use the bathroom, then a high-protein food with sodium will temporarily slow down the production of urine," reports Alan Titchenal, a sports nutritionist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For a faster pick-me-up, Titchenal recommends dried fruits, which are packed with concentrated sugar that causes an immediate--but fleeting--energy boost. Dried fruits are a better source of sugar than pastries or candies because the fruits also contain plenty of useful nutrients and vitamins. To get a fast-acting boost without a harsh sugar crash, try pairing sugar with protein. A prepackaged trail mix with both nuts and dried fruits is a perfect (and portable) high-energy combo.
Extend Your Endurance
Most of us know that avoiding the dreaded postlunch food coma means steering clear of pasta and other carb-laden meals, since they're usually packed with simple carbohydrates that supply only short-term energy. But surprisingly, the experts say you should also forget about that juicy 16-ounce T-bone or scrumptious duck à l'orange; a lean protein food like grilled fish or chicken will serve you far better. The slow-burning protein in these meats has excellent staying power, yet comes without the added fat found in red meats. Fatty meats require more time and energy for the body's enzymes to break down.
Calm Your Nerves
Some foods can diminish the anxiety you feel before a crucial meeting or big speaking engagement. According to registered dietitian Tara Geise, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, many foods have stress-relieving properties. She cites asparagus as being rich in B vitamins like B6, B12, and folic acid, which increase serotonin levels in the brain and in turn help to regulate reactions to stress. (Broccoli, kale, and spinach are also packed with B vitamins.) If you have trouble sleeping, many nutritionists recommend warm milk. Hot beverages produce a "comfort feeling," while milk's tryptophan has a modest sedative effect, especially on an empty stomach.
Refresh Your Memory
Can't recall last quarter's sales figures? Or your hotel's address? If critical information goes in one ear and out the other, try loading up on blueberries. A 1999 study by the Department of Agriculture showed that mice that were given blueberry extract performed significantly better on memory tests. Why? Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidants, which protect against free radicals, the charged atoms that can destabilize your physical and mental equilibrium. While not an instant fix, eggs are also a brain booster. Eggs are rich in phospholipids, fatty compounds found in the brain's neurotransmitters. Dietitian Susan Kleiner, a former adviser to the Cleveland Browns, recommends an egg yolk a day (unless, of course, you have a history of high cholesterol). "Studies show that supplements with these compounds can help with brain function," she says. Soybeans contain many of the same phospholipids; try soy milk or whole soybeans (edamame).
Soothe Your Stomach
When queasiness strikes--from either a bumpy cab ride or the latest stock market fluctuations--relief is usually close at hand. Look for the striped mints found at the front of many restaurants. "Peppermint is more than just a breath mint," says dietitian Lona Sandon. Packed with menthol, which acts as a mild anesthetic on the stomach lining, either peppermint or spearmint can facilitate the digestive process and settle an upset tummy. Sandon also recommends ginger, which contains two chemicals that help to neutralize stomach acid.
Bolster Your Immunity
Just because you had to share a row with the sick guy in seat 7B doesn't mean you have to catch his cold. A lean cut of beef, such as loin or round, may be just what you need to boost your immunity while traveling. Red meat is a great source of zinc, which stimulates the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Another immune system booster is vitamin C, which studies show can lessen the severity and duration of a cold or flu, so load up on fresh juices and citrus fruits. Garlic can also help fight off infection, thanks to its healthy dose of the antimicrobial agent allicin. Just don't forget to pop in a breath mint before calling on your next client.
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