FOOD & FITNESS / NOV. 28, 2013
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Coffee and Cereal: Your Secret Weapons In The Career Game

Want to secure that deal, get that promotion or out-perform your office's Golden Boy/Queen Bee? Apparently, all it takes is:

1) Coffee


2) Cereal.

No, really. Andrew Smith and his colleagues of the University of Bristol found that not only does breakfast put you in a good mood and lead to those who regularly eat breakfast setting higher goals at work, caffeine and cereal can improve work performance.

The caffeine improves your attention span and speeds up the processing of new information. Caffeine had a large effect on reaction times in Smith's study participants. Previous research had already documented the effects of caffeine and cereal, but Smith used a wide variety of tests to see if caffeine and cereal could improve things like serial recall, blood pressure, mood and spatial memory. A study which put Navy SEALs through 72 hours of sleep deprivation found that coffee improved marksmanship and alertness. Coffee also makes you run faster; a 5-kilometre study showed a 1% improvement in times for both trained and amateur runners. Caffeine alters your brain chemistry by suppressing adenosine, which allows you to enjoy the effects of dopamine, which is a chemical responsible for alertness and positive mood.

Breakfast cereal improves your memory by increasing glucose levels in the brain. It also elevates your mood because it increases the level of serotonin in the brain (serotonin is the chemical responsible for feelings of happiness and is used to treat depression). Smith found that cereal improves memory a lot, especially spatial memory. His conclusion was that eating cereal for breakfast will make you less depressed and less stressed. Other researchers have also found that cereal is linked to lower stress levels. 

But a lot of us skip breakfast. The research indicated that 33% of us don't eat breakfast at home. And for 18-25 year olds it was 42%. The reasons people gave for missing breakfast were that they just couldn't be bothered, had too little time or didn't feel hungry. For many people, appearance is the top priority and most would rather use their time to fix their hair and get dressed. Many of the sample said they spent between 45 minutes and an hour getting ready for work.

If you have breakfast you'll feel better and improve your productivity. You'll be happier, less stressed and on the ball. Isn't that worth getting up 10 minutes earlier for? Other ways to make time for breakfast would be to plan your outfit the night before, eat breakfast while watching TV or eat breakfast while exercising (if the exercise you're doing will allow you to eat without potentially choking). Sometimes if I'm running late, I just eat dry cereal (Shreddies) and down a mug of coffee. It takes about three minutes. It's also worth mentioning that healthy cereals will give you more boost. I used to eat Krave with chocolate milkshake. I actually thought I was doing a good thing by eating healthily, but of course I wasn't- I was simply taking my chocoholism to the next level.

But whether you'd prefer a chocolicious breakfast or a healthy one, the results are clear: eating something will make you perform better than skipping breakfast altogether. Which means breakfast is a must for anyone trying to get ahead at work.

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