How to Eat Healthy While Running a Business
By Aaron Broverman
Andrew Lenjosek and Jonny Stephan build their businesses 24/7. They have every excuse to skip meals and eat unhealthy and yet, they make it work.
Lenjosek is the 23-year-old co-founder of Koge Vitamins, a premium vitamin company that’s getting ready to offer its customers personalized vitamin packs according to their health needs, and Jonny Stephan is a 24-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt who just opened 905 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a training gym in Aurora, Ontario.
“Eating healthy everyday helps me feel better and ultimately be more productive at work,” says Lenjosek. “I’m never sluggish despite not drinking coffee or any sort of caffeinated drink and I’m always mentally focused. I also run a health company, so it seems logical that I should take vitamins and keep a strict diet.”
It wasn’t always that way. In a previous life, Lenjosek was a Park Avenue investment banking analyst and the hours he worked made it extremely easy to put on weight. Looking around the office, he saw a potentially unhealthy future and resolved to never go down that road himself.
Stephan admits that it’s not always easy to prepare all the fresh food he eats, compete in jiu-jitsu and run a business. For him, it’s about keeping his eyes on the prize.
“For the most part, I’m focused on my goals, both in competing jiu-jitsu and as a business owner, and I know giving my body the fuel it needs to accomplish those goals is the only way I will achieve them,” he says.
But you don’t have to run a vitamin company or be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt to successfully fit a nutritious diet into your busy schedule. Nadine Khoury is a registered dietitian at Toronto’s Medcan Clinic and has spent over 15 years advising busy executives how to eat healthy. It starts with not skipping meals, especially breakfast.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
“When you don’t kickstart your metabolism within an hour of waking up, your metabolism continues to be sluggish until your first meal, which for some people is at noon and for other people is at 2 p.m.,” says Khoury. “This is really bad and unhealthy and it puts the pressure on one or two meals to give you your entire calorie count for the day. You’re also going to be more sluggish, tend to over eat and more than likely gain weight.”
For breakfast, Khoury recommends a balanced combination of protein, fibre and fruits or vegetables, but for the busy entrepreneur, she says it doesn’t have to be a big sit down meal. In fact, both Lenjosek and Stephan get all their required nutrients, but keep their breakfast portable, with a smoothie and a protein shake, respectively.
“A smoothie could have fruits, it could have protein, from either, yoghurt, milk or protein powder and then you could add a tablespoon of flax seeds, ground chia seeds or bran buds for fibre,” says Khoury.
However, if you’re so busy that you don’t even have time to blend a smoothie, Khoury will tell you that a granola bar, a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds is better than going without breakfast all together.
The Five Hour Rule
If you think the next meal you should plan for after breakfast is lunch, you’d be wrong.
“You don’t want to go more than five hours without eating,” says Khoury. “The ideal is, if your meals are more than five hours apart, to include a healthy snack in between.”
Both Lenjosek and Stephan abide by the five hour rule and indulge in a mid-morning snack to tide them over before lunch. Stephan juices a whole bag of spinach or kale with carrots and fruit, while Lenjosek goes for a protein bar, both acceptable options as far as Khoury is concerned.
“You want a one-to-one ratio, so having just bread or a cracker or fruit is not a good idea because these foods turn quickly into sugar and with sugar your body reacts by raising your insulin and dropping that sugar level and with every drop, you crave more sugar or just more food,” she says.
Cravings should be avoided in favour of staying full throughout the day, which keeps your energy level and blood sugar stable. So, go for the complex carbohydrate and protein combo, as protein takes longer to break down into sugar, increasing fullness.
Eating Out and Eating Healthy
For most people lunch is a challenge. Many say they don’t have time to prepare a bagged lunch and yet unhealthy and expensive temptation awaits them the moment they step out of the office. But, Khoury says eating out doesn’t have to mean eating unhealthy.
“There are fast food places like Freshii that serve healthier meals and there are supermarkets that are catering meals that are easy to grab like balanced salads,” she says. “But, it’s always better to make it yourself; it’s also cheaper, which is something that probably matters to you if you’re building a business.”
Johnny Stephan really takes advantage of the myriad of ready-made options now available in supermarkets before he hits his gym.
“I’m in the grocery store every day to avoid fast food,“ he says. “Salad bars and fresh cut fruit are staples in my diet.”
The New Family Dinner
Back in the day, dinner use to be a meat and potatoes operation, as the largest meal of the day, but today, busy schedules and after-school activities mean we sometimes need to grab and go.
“Dinner will need to be bigger if you’re a breakfast skipper or a lunch skipper, but the idea is to spread your calories throughout the day, so that dinner doesn’t have to be huge, but still bigger than lunch,” says Khoury.
Nowadays the size of your protein at dinner should be no bigger than the palm of your hand and when it comes to vegetables, you need two handfuls at least.
But if, like Lenjosek, you find yourself in the office until 11pm, Khoury recommends having raw almonds or low fat yoghurt at your desk for those moments when meal times are inconsistent.
“Yoghurts are good because they’re high in protein and they take care of your calcium needs,” she says. “Plus, make sure you fit in about a cup and a half of fruit and two cups of vegetables at some point throughout the day.”