There’s no magic pill or secret trick to become a better presenter. It takes hard work and practice like anything else. It takes time and intention and research and feedback and failure. But if you did all that and there was still something else that could give you a leg up for your next presentation, you’d want to know about it, right? Well, there is an important ingredient to public speaking success that no one is talking about. It’s called glucose.

Presenting is hard work, right? It takes literal mental energy. I wrote about that energy in yesterday’s blog which unpacks some of Daniel Kahneman’s research in his best-selling and award-winning book, Thinking, Fast and SlowIn order to complete the demanding mental task of talking in front of an audience, you need fuel. So let’s break down the relationship between the brain and glucose to see how it might just be the ingredient we’ve been missing.

Brain Fuel

Did you know that your brain is the most energy-demanding organ of the body? Or that it uses 50% of your body’s sugar energy? Research from The Harvard Medical School says, “Brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this fuel source.” That means your brain can’t do its best work if your blood sugar levels are too low.

The key to functioning at your best is to make sure your blood sugar levels aren’t too high or too low. Without enough glucose to fuel your brain, you’ll find yourself lethargic. You might be overly emotional. Or–the one that always seems to get me while presenting–you find yourself searching for a long time to come up with words that seem to be just on the tip of your tongue. On the other hand, if your blood sugar levels are too high, you might feel jittery and have trouble sustaining focused thought.

But if you aren’t diabetic or prediabetic, you might not have given thought to your blood sugar levels previously. That means you might not readily think about how the levels of glucose in your body can affect your performance. But you should. You need brain fuel to perform at your best.

Brain-Boosting Snacks

Most people will experience a natural low before mealtime and then a boost right after eating. In an article on Healthline, registered dietician and nutritionist Mary Ellen Phipps lists some snacks that work well to help bring your blood sugar up while also sustaining it for the length of your presentation.

  • Peanut Butter and Crackers: The combination of starch and protein makes this snack a great choice. Phipps says, “Any form of starch — in this case crackers — will help gradually raise your blood sugar just slightly, and the fat and protein in the peanut butter will sustain those levels.”
  • Fruit: Some fruits have more natural sugars than others. For example, Phipps suggest bananas, grapes, or pineapples to help give you a quick glucose boost. Choose to fuel yourself with natural sugars like those in fruits, rather than artificial ones, like those in soft drinks.
  • Grape Juice: If you feel like your blood sugar is very low, and you don’t have time for a snack, opt for grape juice to give your blood sugar a quick spike. Phipps says grape juice helps when your blood sugar is very low because it contains “rapid-acting liquid carbohydrates” without “fiber, fat, or protein” which might slow down the absorption.

You are putting in all the hard work needed to become a great presenter. So don’t let low blood sugar keep you from performing your best.

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