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How work-life balance impacts your diet

I know what you’re thinking, why is a nutritionist talking about work-life balance?

When someone starts talking about work-life balance you might expect to hear about finding more time for yourself, increase your time with spending time with family and friends, make time for exercise or actively trying to extract yourself from a habitual 12hr workday. These are all extremely important aspects of work and life and addressing them will certainly help in leading a more contented and productive work-life whilst avoiding burnout.

But there are other aspects to work-life balance that are not so often talked about, and what you eat is one of them.

The truth is work-life balance can have a substantial impact on your dietary needs. Whether you are desk-bound for an entire day, a busy construction work, go for a walk over lunch, or train for that marathon in your spare time, the amount of time you spend active, sedentary, tired or stressed governs the type and amount of food you need to sustain yourself.

Here’s an example:

An office worker is pulling regular 12hr days at a desk. They are working from home, eat breakfast, walk to their desk and are sedentary the rest of the day, barely getting time to have lunch or eat dinner around work before heading to bed late at night.

Realising the scales are tipped too heavily in the direction of work the same person starts to apply more balance and concentrates on reshaping their schedule to fit in a run before work and a dance class with their partner and friends in the evening.

When you compare the two situations the sedentary state will require less food than the more active state, and on top of that requires different proportions of macro and micronutrients as well. As a couple of examples, being more active will increase the need for calories, a higher proportion of protein and particularly carbohydrates. Both running and dancing will deplete electrolytes that may need to be replenished and water/fluid requirements will also increase vs. the sedentary state, where fewer calories, lower carbohydrates and less protein would be more suitable.

Generally speaking, a change in work-life balance also impacts identity, behaviours and energy needs overall. Continuing our example, by taking up running and dancing this person is more likely to “eat like a runner” and gravitate towards healthier food choices associated with that activity. They may change their behaviour by adding in a snack before dancing, and the addition of organised sport and activity increases the amount of general daily movement and energy expenditure. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT is the energy some one uses by doing everyday non exercise related tasks and it increases with activities such as walking, stretching, social events, even getting showered and changed a few times a day. All of this adds up! NEAT has a much greater impact on calorie needs over time than exercise alone and so is something that everyone should consider whether you’re able to actively engage in exercise or not.

If you are looking at your work-life balance, it is worth considering nutrition and whether it fits your lifestyle and activity pattern both current and future. You can eat to maximise your health and performance whether active or sedentary by including protein and nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods regularly throughout the day. Focus more on nutrient-dense vs calorie-dense foods when sedentary and include more calorie and carb-dense foods to support increases in activity and exercise as you balance the scales to make sure your body has what it needs, when it needs it.

If you would like to find out more about how work-life balance and nutrition impact each other, or you would like some advice on where to start check out or email me at for a chat.

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Apr 29, 2022

Really interesting and definitely something that is overlooked or not considered enough


Apr 28, 2022

I found this very interesting. Although i am retired i have a busy life. Excercise is difficult due to joint pain and arthritis but i do try to walk as often as i can. I was particularly interested in NEAT as that is encouraging. On days that i can not walk i try to be more mindful of my diet

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