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Gut Nutrition On-The-Go – High Performers Guide To A High Performing Gut

Written by: Chelsea Haines, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Chelsea Haines

Nourishing yourself isn’t easy. As a high performer, you're low on time, have high-stress levels, and likely have ever-present underlying decision fatigue. I can confidently tell you just how much caring for your gut matters. You can also exhale knowing that reading and implementing these meal prep tips will make it much easier to have a healthy gut supporting you in your pursuits.


woman enjoying lunch box in outdoor

Why gut health matters so much for high performers


The community of high achievers I work with needs to be able to validate the time they spend on given tasks. Here's the validation you need to know why this is so important.

 

Every second of time and focus counts

 

High performers often have busy schedules, leaving little time for digestion-related discomfort such as bloating, gas, or indigestion. A healthy gut microbiome facilitates efficient digestion and nutrient absorption, minimizing digestive issues that could disrupt productivity and focus. This is essential to save time in the bathroom or prevent running to the pharmacy. I also know that focus work requires a quiet body. What I mean by this is a body that is not screaming for help, especially in the form of pain and discomfort.

 

Less sick leave

 

High performers' nightmares usually start like this: You’re leading up to a major deadline, and just when it’s crunch time, when you are most needed, your immune system decides to shut down. You get sick.

 

Your gut plays a significant role in immune function. Many of your body's immune cells reside in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). A balanced gut microbiome helps regulate your immune responses and reduces the risk of infections and illnesses that could sideline you when you need to be at your best.

 

Your mental well-being

 

The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain. A healthy gut microbiome can influence mood, cognitive ability, and stress resilience by producing neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). A balanced gut microbiome supports the motivation, brain power, and stress tolerance you need to perform at your best.


Energy & stamina

 

The gut microbiome plays a role in producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). This happens through the fermentation of the fiber found in plant foods (and in abundance in whole grains and legumes), and why all the recipes I share are high in fiber. SCFAs serve as an essential energy source for the cells lining the colon and contribute to overall energy production. High performers can benefit from a diverse gut microbiome that efficiently produces SCFAs to support sustained energy levels.

 

Nutrient metabolism

 

The saying has changed from: "You are what you eat" to You are what you absorb." A healthy gut helps you metabolize, synthesize, and absorb nutrients—especially vitamins B (for converting food into energy) and K (for protein production). Efficient nutrient metabolism is essential to extract nutrition from the diet you're working so hard to get right. I know how hard it is to get it right for each individual. While scrolling down to the snacks and meal prep below will help. Personalized nutrition is always the highest quality, so I recommend working with my team at The Gut Health Agency. We're a team of gut health-focused expert health coaches and dietitians to take all the guesswork and stress out of the equation.

 

Manage your gut, manage your stress

 

Pressure is inevitable in high-performing environments, but stress can be managed. Gut health should form part of your stress management plan. It's imperative since chronic stress can disrupt gut health by altering the gut microbiome's composition and compromising the gut barrier's integrity. A well-cared-for gut microbiome can help mitigate the effects of stress on the body, supporting high performers in managing stress and maintaining peak performance levels.

 

Gut health extends beyond how you digest food. As seen above, it's essential to your success, especially as a high performer. Let's dive into exactly how we're going to do this. The first key is planning. Planning comes in the form of meal prep. This vital activity does take time and planning, but it is nothing compared to the time, mental energy, stress, and disease that not caring for your nutrition would cause.

 

Fundamentals of meal and snack prep for high performers


You've seen why this is so important, so now it's finding the time that is going to be the best for you to do the following critical weekly steps:

 

  1. Set aside time every week to plan meals and snacks (it could be scheduled in your planner like a meeting). I typically like to do this on Thursdays.

  2. Write down the ingredients for your snacks and meals and turn it into a shopping list. Go shopping. You may want to outsource this tedious errand. Otherwise, you can do what I do: set a timer to stay focused, put on a podcast on my Airpods, and get it done.

  3. Prep and store the weekly meals and snacks.

  4. Set time for another day that week to do any more prep needed to get you through the rest of the week. I do this on Mondays!

 

Meal prep essentials for high performers


If you're newer to the world of healthy eating, this blog I created for holiday eating is an excellent introduction to what I call The Magic Plate Method. This is even more important for high performers to understand. Put simply, it's making sure my plate always has a combination of:

 

  • Protein

  • Essential Fat

  • Fiber

 

Deciding whether to eat the same meals for a few days or mix it up every night is essential. Both are possible; they just require some extra planning to nail it.

 

I keep this at the forefront of my mind when planning meals and snacks for the week. I always want to aim for plenty of color. When I'm on the go, I know that protein keeps me satiated for longer, so I make sure that my snacks are packed with protein—here are some examples to kick us off.

 

Protein-packed snacks

 

  • Hard-boiled eggs: Prepare a batch at the beginning of the week for a quick protein boost.

  • Greek yogurt: Choose plain Greek yogurt and add your favorite whole-food granola or fruit for extra flavor and nutrients.

  • Nuts and seeds: An excellent option for protein and healthy fats

  • Rice or seed crackers and homemade bean spread: An option to get in those high-fiber legumes and pack in the flavor for a snack spread that is versatile and made in minutes.

  • Hummus and veggie sticks: Cucumber, carrot, and celery are all great pairings with hummus.

  • Fruit and nut butter: These may be lower on the protein side, but whole or cut-up fruit is a nutritious, satisfying snack. Nut butters add protein and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer.

 

Breakfast ideas

 

  • Overnight Oats: Prepare overnight oats in individual jars with oats, milk of choice, and toppings like fruits, nuts, and seeds for a quick and filling breakfast or snack. I also like adding a scoop of my favorite clean protein to keep me fuller even longer. (Code ‘CHC20’ at checkout gets you 20% off)

  • Smoothies: These can be prepped a week in advance by preparing the smoothie bags. All you have to do is add your liquid and blend.

  • Sourdough toast and bean spread: bringing us back to increasing those whole grains and legumes, this quick and easy breakfast also includes fermented bread - another food your gut microbiome LOVES. Add some avocado for added flare!

 

Lunch ideas

 

  • Bean Burritos: Prep all the relevant ingredients in advance and just assemble.

  • Salad jars: With all the chopping work done in one go, you'll have your salad jars lined up and ready to grab one for the day and go.

  • The viral—ramen jar: Swap out the fried ramen for rice noodles and prepare all the elements in advance to have lunch ready in two minutes. All you have to do is add some boiling water.

 

Dinner ideas

 

  • Bean chilli and rice: This meal can be enjoyed hot or cold, and all the ingredients are simply added to a pot or slow cooker, so it's a tasty, nourishing, low-effort meal.

  • Homemade pizzas: Buy (or make) whole food pizza bases and have all the ingredients chopped and prepped for a dinner that's easy to throw together in just 15 minutes each night (10 of those being cooking in the oven while you shower ;)

  • Stir-fry with veggie noodles: This is another 10-minute or less option. Buying pre-chopped vegetables and fresh chicken requires even less prep on a Sunday. Prepare your sauce and either fry it fresh each night or fry it in a large batch and simply reheat it each night. My favorite noodles with this are lentil noodles, but any noodles, including regular noodles, will be delicious.

 

What if I want to eat different things every day/night?


The fantastic thing about these meal suggestions is that they're so versatile that you can easily adjust the flavor profiles. For example, you can have different flavored overnight oats—chocolate, vanilla, carrot cake, or berry swirl. Choose berry smoothies one week and create your version of peanut butter jelly the next. Switch out the grains in your dinners and change the sauce in your stir fry.

 

It is also possible to prepare individual elements to create a variety of meals each week. The same vegetables you use in your salad jars can also be used to make soup or curry. This simplifies your shopping experience and saves money as well.

 

Meal prep tips for high performers


Prep your whole grains

 

Things like oats, rice, quinoa, or noodles can be prepped in advance to bring down cooking time each evening/day.

 

Soak and cook your beans


If you have a pressure cooker, you can skip soaking, but knowing that this is an essential step helps you think ahead the night before by setting out your chosen beans in a large bowl of water to be cooked the following day.

 

Chop your fruits and vegetables

 

A tedious task, I know, but your future self will thank you. This is the time I usually catch up with friends or listen to a podcast or music. Store your chopped fruits and vegetables in containers with dividers, glass jars, or air-tight containers to keep them fresher for longer. Some fruits and vegetables are stored well in water, so be sure to give it a quick Google if you notice any particular fruit or vegetable going off too quickly too often.

 

Have emergency meals

 

I always make extra and freeze some of it so that if my meals run out, are shared, or are just not what I feel like, and I can throw a frozen meal in the pot and heat it in no time. This practice helps me not turn to junk when I'm hungry but don't feel like anything I've prepped for that week.

 

Prep desserts

 

Your ideal self might never have sweet cravings and only eat the meals you've prepared. The reality, however, is that we're human. Instead of shaming ourselves until we give in and binge on an entire chocolate bar from the convenience store prepare healthy and delicious sweet treats as part of your meal prep.

 

Dessert ideas

 

  • Chia pudding: This can be as easy as making your favorite smoothie, adding chia seeds, and leaving it to swell overnight.

  • Mug cakes: Make pre-mixed mug cakes that you can pop out of the fridge, into the microwave, and into your happy place.

  • Date balls: These store really well in the freezer and are also great pre-workout snacks or on days when you need a little energy boost.

  • Homemade chocolate bars: some melted coconut oil and fresh cacao mixed and frozen, and topped with sea salt is often all it takes to hit those sweet craving spots!

 

Final thoughts


The right way is the way that is the most enjoyable and sustainable for you.

 

Gut health is increasingly recognized as a critical factor in overall health and performance, especially for high performers and achievers. By reading this, I know you're on the right track. Preparation is vital, and I hope this article has shown you how much time (and time off) you can save with a little more planning and preparation.


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Chelsea Haines Brainz Magazine
 

Chelsea Haines, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Recently featured "The Gut Health Coach" by Yahoo!, Chelsea Haines has a unique way of helping high-performers heal. She doesn't claim to know best. Her mission: to remind you that YOU are the expert on your body, only you know precisely what you need, and you are not "crazy" for feeling how you feel. Her expertise stems from personally healing autoimmune disease paired with formal degrees in psychology, gut health, and mindfulness. She’s the Founder of The Gut Health Agency, where a team of health coaches & Registered Dietitians merge health coaching with clinical testing for increased patient compliance and lasting habit change ‒ a needle-moving combination not otherwise seen in the gut health space.

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