28 Mar The Most Important Hour of the Day for Optimal Health for Workday Warriors
As your workday drags on, willpower, energy, and discipline may drop for a variety of reasons. Excessive sitting, poor eating habits, and poor sleep the night before can all contribute to an inability to handle stress in the second half of the day.
When you are stressed, you tend to make poor decisions about your health and can make a bad situation much worse. Which isn’t exactly conducive to optimal health.
Defining the Optimal Health Hour
The hour of the work day (or 90 minutes for some of you) that you can do the most damage to your health is the hour that includes the last 15–30 minutes before you leave work, the commute home, and goes through the first 15–30 minutes that you arrive home.
Enough damage can be done in this short period of time that it can ruin all of the other healthy decisions you made during the day.
Most of you experience a dramatic change in your day during this hour. You go from what can be a highly stressful end of the work day where you are fighting deadlines or general fatigue to a completely relaxed and decompressed state on your couch. While these changes are a good thing, they can also trigger bad habits in even the most disciplined people.
That’s why I call this the “Low Willpower Hour.” Most people do not have enough willpower left in the tank after a long day of work to make decisions decided for optimal health when they arrive home.
But Workday Warriors don’t rely on willpower—they create an environment to make the easiest decisions the healthy ones.
Fighting the Low Willpower Hour for Optimal Health
If you are a typical desk worker who ends your day right at 5 p.m., you might spend the last 30 minutes finishing up a particular project so you can start fresh the next day. This usually means extreme focus on the task at hand and ignoring all other things like drinking water, moving your body, and fueling yourself for optimal health and performance.
After finishing up the work day, you jump up from your desk, go straight to your car, blast some tunes to relax, and commute home. By the time you get home, you might be ready to take your relaxation a little further and rest on the couch for a few minutes.
But as you change out of your work clothes you begin to realize you’re starving because you haven’t eaten since lunch. For the sake of argument, let’s say you ate lunch at 12 p.m. and it is now 6 p.m.—you have gone six hours without eating.
This is no time to enter the kitchen to look for a snack.
This is poor behavior design if you want to be healthy. Entering a kitchen for a quick snack when you haven’t eaten for six hours is likely going to lead to overeating and poor nutritional choices.
You’ll have to fight the strong urge for sugar, salt, and fat as you search for a snack. There is not a single person on this planet that has this kind of willpower on a daily basis.
Willpower is not something that healthy people have more of than unhealthy people—they are just better at designing their behavior. Healthy people design their day so they don’t find themselves in too many situations that require large amounts of willpower, like entering a kitchen as hungry as a wild boar.
Because of the large changes in your stress levels during this hour, the length of time since you have eaten, and lack of self-awareness, I feel this period of the day can be the most important for optimal health.
Making a Plan for your Health Power Hour
You need to have a plan for this hour of the day if the above scenario strikes a chord with you. If you struggle with too much snacking when you walk in the door, you need to prepare yourself before you get home.
It is about keeping yourself hydrated, satiated, and aware of the decisions you are making.
During the last 30 minutes of work, things can begin to go “off the rails.” On many days, you may find yourself trying to laser focus on getting an important work task done so you can head home and decompress.
But this laser focus comes at an expense of ignoring what your body may need after a long day. No matter how focused you are on finishing up your work for the day, there are a few things you can do for yourself so you don’t enter your house on a mission to tear into a bag of chips.
In the last 30 minutes of work, you should try and get between 12 and 24 ounces of water in to make sure you are well hydrated to help combat cravings when you arrive home.
To help even further, within the last 30 minutes at work, you should aim to eat 100 to 200 calories of something that has protein, fiber, and fat in it, again with the goal of staving off an assault on your snack cabinet when you get home.
An ideal food that would fit here would be 15 to 30 organic raw almonds. Foods with protein, fat, and fiber are going to keep you satiated with minimal calorie intake and also keep your insulin levels balanced to help you fight unnecessary cravings.
Eating a small snack in the last 30 minutes of work is also a great health hack because the commute home will give the body enough time to feel satiated and you won’t feel hungry once you get home.
While it is easy on the commute home to shut your mind off and give it a break after a long day, you need to come up with a plan of what is going to happen when you get home. Having a plan will help you steer clear of mindless eating or just melting into the couch.
Maybe you change into comfortable clothes and go for a 15-minute walk to decompress, eat a healthy snack like sliced apples and some almond butter, or go get one chore done before planning dinner.
Whatever your plan is, make sure it’s clear and can be achieved with minimal effort—this is not the time to plan some major project that takes up valuable brainpower. Having a plan in place each day before you get home is an imperative behavior design for healthy people.
Once you walk in the door and before you execute your plan, there is more thing to do. Drink another glass of water. This will only add to your feeling of satiation and is key to helping you not to stray toward unhealthy snack options.
Everyone is going to have a slightly different plan for this power hour, but the biggest takeaway here is that you become aware of this danger zone.
A little awareness will go a long way in maintaining habits for optimal health, and the end of the work day is when awareness can be at its lowest as we recover from the daily stresses. So pay attention and put together a plan that works for you! Contact us for assistance!