There’s a certain brand of brightly-coloured, chocolate-covered peanuts that I suspect have done particularly well out of the innovation business. But are there any better options out there for dialling up energy levels in a flagging ideation or strategy session without resorting to pure sugar?
Fuelling the brain
The brain is a very hungry engine; it can hog up to 30% of the body’s energy production when working hard! Its preferred source of fuel is glucose; which possibly explains our tendency to feed our innovation teams’ plenty of it in a quick-access format: sugar.
You’ll have noticed though, that the tide on sugar has been turning… It’s the baddy on the health block, so you may want to avoid sedating your ideation team into sugary snack-induced comas (we’ve all been there… and it is pretty counterproductive!).
The more Machiavellian amongst you might be keen to extract maximum output from your participants: get them high (energy-wise) and then let them recover post-session once they’ve delivered the ideation goods!
What are the more natural, healthier ways to achieve this?
Fruit, & nuts are a sensible choice. There’s some real science behind this. The oils in the nuts help slow down the absorption of the sugars in the fruit for more sustained energy release.
Protein balls are a convenient way of combining slow-burning nuts with fruit and cacao to still give everyone their chocolate hit satisfy the protein lovers in the group. Try Bounce Balls for size.
Vitamin B6 is known as an energy vitamin. Sunflower seeds and pistachios contain amongst the highest amounts of B6.
Marvellous maca. It is rumoured aphrodisiac properties say it all. Maca is used in its native Peru for endurance and vitality. This natural stimulant is useful for long creative sessions. Find it in Maca Bliss and Bliss Bar protein bars made by Pulsin, and Superseeds Maca Caramel by Punch Foods.
Extra minty chewing gum. In a 2012 study, people who chewed gum for 15 minutes felt more alert than those who didn’t. This is because chewing gum increases the heart rate, which increases blood flow to the brain. Additionally, mint stimulates your nerve fibres. A bit like splashing cold water on your face. Xylitol sugar-free gum is the most tooth-friendly option.
In terms of maintaining energy levels, it’s just as important – if not more so – to watch what you’re giving people for lunch. White bread baguettes and sandwiches may as well be chocolate in terms of causing post-lunch energy slumps. It’s best to keep lunch light; heavy meals take up a lot of energy to digest, leading to snoozing team members.
Spicy food. Cayenne pepper stimulates blood flow to the brain and also dampens painful headaches. Consider putting out bottles of hot chilli sauce with lunch and encouraging team members to dowse liberally. Or order in one of the following:
- Hot chilli tacos & burrito wraps
- Korean food tends to pack a spicy punch…. especially kimchi
High protein meals. Keep it focussed on protein rather than heavy carbs and add lots of grilled or steamed veg or salad. Here are some ideas – all of which can be served cold:
- Super food salad topped with grilled chicken or tuna steak
- Classic Greek salad
- Caesar salad
- Quality sushi – has a higher fish/rice ratio, is easy to digest and hard to overdose on!
- Spanish style frittata & tortilla served with mixed grilled vegetables
- Roasted stuffed peppers with feta and couscous
- Baked salmon on middle-eastern style lentils
Slow-release carbs. If you have hungry colleagues, but want to avoid a blood sugar roller coaster, try beans, lentils and sweet potatoes. Some ideas include:
- Baked sweet potatoes with protein topping such as tuna and cottage cheese
- Mexican bean stew
- Tuna bean salad
- Southern style pork ‘n beans
- Sweet potato & lentil soup
- Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup
Miso soup. It’s been scientifically proven that if you have a bowl of miso soup as a starter you’re less likely to eat too much of your main course. Apparently it’s down to the umami flavour which is highly satisfying.
Good old water. The most common cause of fatigue is dehydration. It can cause everything from mental fogginess, impaired short-term memory, dizziness, and fatigue. Not great for ideating! Consider setting water bells… a regular bell that rings for everyone to refill and consciously rehydrate.
Mighty matcha. Consider swopping the coffee for this quality powdered green tea. It contains slightly less caffeine than coffee, boosts your metabolism and contains a compound called L-theonine which promotes alertness without making you jittery. Teapigs does t-bags or find it in Vivid iced tea drink.
Lower sugar soft drinks with natural flavourings. Cool and refreshing without the sugar hangover. Volvic Touch of Fruit offers a good range.
Guarani. A type of pure plant caffeine. Even the makers at Innocent Drinks have picked up on this trend. Try their Energise Super- Smoothie, which also contains Vit B6 amongst others.
Coffee… it works!
Where to source
Ocado offers the best range of the above product suggestions and can be delivered to your office door. What could be easier?
Some of the above may be starting to sound like nutritional drug pushing but it’s mostly natural (maybe with the exception of the chewing gum!). Hopefully you’ll not only see the quality of the ideas improve. Your participants will also feel like they have a good, productive day and will want to do it all again…