Need a boost at work? Think about how you’re eating

You are what you eat.
You are what you eat.
Image: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
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If you’re hoping to kill it at work this week, you may want to take a cue from Mark Teixeira and Jeb Bush.

Both the New York Yankees baseball player and the Republican US presidential hopeful have shed pounds and turbocharged their energy in recent months by changing their diets. For Teixeira, that entails eliminating sugar, gluten, and dairy. For Bush, it means much the same, along with limiting himself to lean meats, seafood, eggs and nuts.

The restricted palates appear to be producing dividends for both men. Heading into Sunday night’s matchup against the Mets, Teixeira, 35, had eight home runs—second-most in the league—and a .720 slugging percentage, a performance he attributes to the overhaul of his eating habits.

Since December, the former Florida governor, 62, has dropped 30 pounds, lost his jowls, and retooled his wardrobe to match a narrower frame, all moves that may buoy Bush’s prospects as he readies a run against a younger field of Republican rivals.

Despite debate over the effectiveness of the so-called paleo diet—the protein-heavy programs that Teixeira and Bush adhere to—it’s clear that taking control of your eating is one way to boost performance on the job, whether that’s on a sports field, campaign trail, or in an office tower.

Employees with an unhealthy diet are 66% more likely to report a drop in productivity than those who eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains regularly, according to one 2012 study. Exercise matters too. Employees who exercise only occasionally are twice as likely to report lower levels of productivity than their counterparts who work out regularly, the study found.

In their push to feel better and boost their performances, Teixeira and Bush are following a path blazed by a number of professional athletes. Novak Djokovic, 27, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, favors foods like avocados, cashew butter, and shakes made with pea protein concentrate, all part of a gluten-free diet he mapped out in a 2013 book that promises a blueprint for remaking one’s body and life in 14 days.

Ray Allen, the longtime NBA basketball great and current free agent who says he is considering a return to the league next season at age 40, cut out sugar and carbs two years ago. So have LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin, 26, and the actress Jessica Biel, 33.

The diets that these professionals embrace may not work for everyone.

So what’s the best diet for someone who aims to lose weight and improve their health? According to a recent poll of nutritionists and doctors, that’s the DASH diet, which stresses whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, along with red meat, fats, and sweets in small amounts.