Does the meal or snack before your presentation make a difference in how you look and sound? Absolutely. You want your voice to be strong, your mind to be alert and your presence to be confident when you give your speech.
It’s easy to overlook nutrition as an important part of your speech because the slides, pitch books and makeup of the audience take precedence. However, if you believe that you are what you eat, then you will also see that your pre-speech meal will either fill you with positive energy or funnel it away.
Go for the complex carbs
In her article, Foods that reduce speech anxiety, Cindy Ellen Hill references several scientific sources to explain the chemistry of foods that will boost your ability to deliver home-run presentations.
For instance, she notes that you should look for complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread or brown rice as part of your pre-speech meal. Those types of carbs break down slowly and leave you feeling full longer.
Stick with lean protein
Hill also says that while protein can increase your energy and concentration level, your best bet is to avoid the heavy steak in favor of the lean protein in fish or soy products. The lean protein will stabilize your insulin levels and strengthen your mental focus. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables, as they provide the crunch that you want and eliminate the sugar craving that tends to follow feelings of anxiety.
In the article, Eating for special occasions: Foods to eat for your best performance, Charles Platkin explains the lean protein effect in further detail. He indicates that lean protein triggers your brain to improve mental alertness by producing two chemicals: norepinephrine and dopamine, both made from tyrosine.
In addition, he quotes Judith Wurtman, PhD, a research scientist at MIT and coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet: Use Your Brain’s Natural Chemistry to Cut Cravings, Curb Emotional Overeating, and Lose Weight (Rodale, 2007) in discussing why speakers should eat the lean proteins early in the day:
Ordinarily we eat enough protein so this is not a problem, but after an overnight fast, not eating any protein for many hours (until dinner, for example) could limit the synthesis of these neurotransmitters.
Stay away from sugar and caffeine
Finally, you should avoid caffeine and sugar consumption before you speak in order to decrease your anxiety and control your energy. You want to feel those butterflies in your stomach, which is normal and indicative that you have the right amount of adrenaline to give you that spark and enthusiasm to inspire the audience. The sugar and caffeine bring on extra anxiety that is difficult to control and counterproductive for your speech.
What you eat before you speak will play a major role in your confidence and presentation success. Good luck and Bon Appétit!