The results from different scientific researches show that after 40 minutes of mental work, which requires high concentration and good memory, people consume 30% more calories compared to those who were involved in easier tasks. Blood insulin levels are not stable during and after intellectual work. The organism tries to restore the normal values of glucose, which is the main energy source for the brain and hence comes the desire to eat. In other words said, intellectuals overeat more often than the people involved in physical work, and mental work makes us gluttons.
People often forget to eat during sharp work and deceive hunger with unconscious meals. This leads to the necessity the organism to catch up at dinner and no matter how restricted this meal is, the weight is increased.
Performing mental tasks consumes around 200 calories for 40 minutes. The brain takes only 2% of our body weight but consumes 20% of our energy. These indicators are relative and are valid only when the body is still. The truth is physical activity needs much more energy for muscle activation. Mental stress consumes lots of energy but the quantity is quite small compared to the spent calories in any physical activity.
Food is a particular challenge for people of intellectual labor. They often eat more than needed and take more calories than their work requires. Energy intake should not exceed energy consumption to obtain weight loss, regardless to mental stress. On the contrary, the allowable maximum is 2100 calories for those dedicated to intellectual activities. The qualitative composition of the food is also very important. The menu of an adult, occupied with mental work should contain 75-90g fats per day – animal and vegetable. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C are useful for active brain activity. 40g black chocolate a day or preferably 7-10 raw cocoa beans may slow down brain aging. Foods which act as anti-oxidants are quite healthy for the brain functions. They neutralize the free radicals – the culprits of damage, malfunctioning and aging of cells. Among the best anti-oxidants are: olive oil, soya, eggs, spinach, broccoli, cranberries, goji berry, cabbage, beet, citrus. Carbohydrates help to memorize better and boost the active brain function, but it is good to choose such with low glycemic index, or in other words said – wholegrain products, requiring longer degradation and thus maintaining a relatively constant blood glucose level: brown rice, oats, buckwheat, spelt, integral flour, quinoa. Prefer fish and seafood, along with fish oil, they contain phosphorus and unsaturated fatty acids which stimulate the activity of brain cells. Walnuts and the other nuts are on top among the “smart foods” as they stimulate the mind and improve memorization.
I cannot skip my personal maxim – exercise is the best way to get relief from mental stress. It is proven that one-hour walk in the nature improves fivefold the capacity of the brain to perform mental operations.
My advice towards the people engaged with intellectual labor is first to plan their meals for the day in the range of the allowed daily calories. You can eat often during the day, but only within the already planned. And the assortment really matters, try to choose foods with low energy density – poor in calories but high in volume. These are the vegetables and some fruits. Drink water whenever you feel the need for eating – quite often thirst and hunger cannot be distinguished by our occupied brains. Choose a physical activity so you don’t strain but meanwhile it becomes part of your everyday life – thus you will maintain your tone, increase the consumed energy and relieve the mental stress. Don’t forget the rest – the good sleep is essential for maintenance of optimal weight by controlling appetite and for improved memory and concentration during the day as well.
If you are overweight and it’s difficult for you to control it, you’d better look for a physician – specialist in nutrition and metabolic disorders. Sometimes real diseases requiring medical help are hidden behind the extra weight. Identifying and defining the cause for the overweight problem is the main step in its solution and the establishment of proper and working strategy.