I’ve been a fitness buff my entire life, experimenting with all types of exercise and nutrition. I tried low-fat, high-carb, and high-protein diets, in a variety of combinations – I was even a vegetarian for seven years and vegan for two. When I heard about keto – the ketogenic diet which activates ketosis, a metabolic state that burns fat instead of carbohydrates – I decided on a lark to try it. My motivation was not to lose weight but to experience the other advantages the diet espoused, especially increased energy and brainpower.
As business leaders, we’re always looking for ways to optimize things. A keto diet is essentially based on the same principle. It retrains your body to do more with less using a different energy source for both physical and mental health benefits. This eating approach may sound radical, but it’s been around for over a century.
Not a Fad Diet
In a recent medically-reviewed Healthline article, a registered dietitian/nutritionist reveals her experience with keto as the first diet that allowed her to successfully lose weight and maintain it while feeling full and satisfied, describing “keto more as a lifestyle than a temporary or trendy way of eating.”
She cited a medical journal chronicling the diet’s comeback from its introduction in the 1920s to help children with epilepsy: “As medications became available and effectively addressed seizures, the diet fell out of favor. During the last few decades, researchers and clinicians have learned that it can be useful in children and adults with refractory epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.”
Dr. Eva Catenaccio from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine summarizes her recent Pediatric Neurology paper for the Epilepsy Foundation: “Young doctors, like me, are being trained in how and why to administer the ketogenic diet. Patients and families are sharing knowledge and experience through online groups and foundations. Collaboration and mentorship are critical to ensure the ketogenic diet doesn’t disappear again.” She credits these efforts with “leading to discoveries of how the ketogenic diet can help individuals with a variety of different neurologic conditions.”
Back to Business
As the medical application suggests, the cognitive support of keto was my biggest draw. A lot of people in Silicon Valley started playing with it for the same reason – looking for ways to get an edge. The concept of eating smarter to work smarter appeals to an industry that thrives on innovation.
It was surprisingly easy for me to make the transition to keto. Most people will take a week or longer to adapt, but my activities on the first day of the diet helped me reset more quickly: a simple morning fast, burrito bowl (with just meat, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese), and 45-mile bike ride. I was in ketosis by that evening. My wife noticed the difference within a few days – I literally became a sharper version of me as some definition reappeared for the first time in years.
The positive effects also translated directly to the office. Here are the five business benefits I experience on keto:
- Brainpower boost
Without the brain fog that comes with low glucose, I can process extraordinary amounts of information in short periods of time. I always had some skill in this area but am way better at it now. In an executive position, I make hundreds of decisions, from routine details to significant choices that can shift the trajectory of the company. Decision fatigue is a real thing – it can be exhausting to always be the decision maker, which leads me to the next benefit.
- Endurance and stamina
Important in any career is to have the energy to get through the day. In many roles, especially at a leadership level, those days stretch 12, 14 and sometimes 16 hours, with few breaks to refuel. On keto, I can handle it – I feel energized longer with less food and can keep going without the lethargy that creeps in when consuming mostly carbs. Steadier blood sugar allows me to be a more even-keeled leader, providing additional stamina to do one of the most important parts of my job: listening.
- Patience and presence
The only way to be a good leader is to be a good listener. Without the distraction of cravings or meal breaks for that next energy boost to keep going, I have a longer attention span with people. I’m not getting hungry and irritable, so I can be more patient and present in meetings. Heightened concentration allows me to hear employees out, so I’m making better decisions for the company and the people it serves.
- Less inflammation
The keto diet supports my overall health. In ketosis, my body started removing excess fat and water, in addition to decreasing inflammation – something I didn’t realize I had until it was gone. In pictures of me before and after ketosis, there’s a dramatic difference in the puffiness of my face and skin. Not only will you lose weight, but keto can help reduce internal inflammation that has been linked to ailments such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer, according to Harvard – all of which can derail a promising career.
- Structure and discipline
To maintain a healthy diet and manage a demanding job, you need the structure and discipline to prioritize and schedule everything, including exercise. Never has this been more important than now, as our routines continue to be upended by the global pandemic. Even before COVID-19, I was putting workouts on my schedule, but I’m more specific about calendaring out my entire day now. For example, I block out time for email, productivity, meetings, personal commitments, and “me time,” when I can relax and recharge doing nothing.
Rev Up Your Performance
Even if keto isn’t right for your individual situation, your diet has a huge impact on your job. Put garbage in, and you’ll get garbage out. Improving your nutrition will help you power through the workday, rev up your performance, and fuel your success.
Written by Richard Jalichandra.
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