Nutrition for Career Success

Episode 232 - How to Improve Your Job Search Performance – with Jessica Spendlove

Guest: Jessica Spendlove

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Jessica Spendlove is a dietitian who specializes in optimizing performance through nutrition. Her work reveals a critical yet often overlooked aspect of professional success: that our diet is not just fuel for our bodies but a key driver of our cognitive capabilities and overall performance in the high-stakes corporate world. And not just our diet: She also wants us to know that exercise, sleep, and the way we treat our body and mind matter.

Jessica’s insights present a refreshing narrative, shifting the focus of job search from mere “skill and experience” to include the fundamental and holistic role of wellbeing and nutrition in professional excellence. Yet, we often neglect our diet and well-being during our demanding life and work. However, for ambitious professionals, understanding the significant role of diet could be the catalyst for achieving new heights in their careers.

Here are some of the topics we discuss in this episode:

Translating Athletic Nutrition Principles to Corporate Success

Jessica Spendlove highlights the universal principles of nutrition that can be tailored to individuals in various high-stress, high-performance environments, such as the corporate world. The discussion sheds light on the parallels between athletic performance and corporate success, emphasizing the role of nutrition in enhancing cognitive and physical capabilities.

Key Strategies for High Performance in the Corporate World

Jessica explains the importance of ‘protein pulsing,’ a concept of including protein in each meal to maintain stable energy levels and focus throughout the day. This approach is vital for busy professionals who often experience fluctuations in energy levels.

The Impact of Diet on Job Performance and Interviews

We discuss the often-overlooked aspect of diet in preparing for job interviews and maintaining high performance in demanding roles. I share personal anecdotes to illustrate how dietary choices can significantly impact cognitive abilities in high-stress situations.

Nutrition for Longevity and Sustained Success

Jessica emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to nutrition, incorporating principles that benefit both current and future health. She advocates for the big three pillars: food, sleep, and movement, all of which are crucial for maintaining high performance over a prolonged career.

Combating ‘Busy Syndrome’: Strategies for the Overworked Professional

We address the common issue of ‘being too busy’ and provide practical strategies for integrating effective nutritional and wellness practices into packed schedules. The focus is on creating adaptable habits that align with individual lifestyles and professional demands.

Jessica’s insights offer an expert perspective on the significant role of nutrition in enhancing professional performance. Her approach encourages individuals to adopt sustainable habits that cater to immediate performance needs and lay the foundation for long-term health and success. Listeners can explore more of Jessica Spendlove’s expert advice on her podcast ‘Stay at the Top’ and through resources available on her website.

About Our Guest, Jessica Spendlove

Jessica Spendlove is a leading Australian Advanced Sports Dietitian, Holistic High-Performance Coach, and Speaker, specialising in the intersection of nutrition, human performance, and high-stakes environments. With 15 years of experience, Jess has collaborated with more than a thousand professional athletes, business leaders, founders, and the Australian Defence Force School of Special Operations, as well as businesses of all sizes. She is also the host of the “Stay at the Top” podcast. Having been surrounded by and immersed in high-performance culture for most of her life, Jess is now on a mission to change the narrative and start the conversation of not only what it takes to achieve your goals and reach the top but to do it sustainably and stay there.
Renata Bernarde

About the Host, Renata Bernarde

Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.


If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.


In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients

How can nutrition impact a corporate professional's career success?

Nutrition plays a crucial role in enhancing energy, focus, productivity, and cognitive performance, which are essential for career success in the corporate world.

What are the major 'needle movers' in nutrition for both athletes and corporate clients?

The major ‘needle movers’ include proper protein intake (protein pulsing), maintaining stable blood sugar levels, and understanding how different foods affect energy and cognitive function.

How does Jessica Spendlove recommend corporate professionals manage stress and nutrition during high-stakes periods?

Jessica emphasizes the importance of using nutrition to maintain stable blood sugar levels, which helps in sustaining focus and energy during stressful periods. She also suggests having strategies in place for acute stress periods, similar to how athletes prepare for competitions.

What are the key elements of a balanced meal according to Jessica Spendlove?

A balanced meal should include protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grain carbohydrates. These elements support both immediate performance and long-term health.

How does sleep contribute to performance and longevity?

Quality sleep is essential for cognitive reprocessing, clearing brain debris, and overall mental and physical health. It impacts both short-term performance and long-term disease prevention.

What is the importance of resistance training for longevity?

Resistance training helps maintain muscle mass, which is crucial for longevity and overall health. It supports better physical performance, hormonal balance, and cognitive function.

Timestamps to Guide Your Listening

  • 01:28 Jessica Spendlove’s Journey from Athlete to Dietitian 

  • 03:34 From Athletes to Corporate Warriors 

  • 07:23 The Power of Protein and Managing Stress Through Diet 

  • 13:45 Navigating Career Transitions 

  • 16:57 Advanced Strategies for Health and Performance 

  • 26:42 Exploring Optimal Performance for Now and the Future 

  • 28:38 The Three Pillars of Health: Nutrition, Sleep, and Movement 

  • 33:27 Micro Recovery Strategies for High Achievers 

  • 35:25 Personal Anecdotes and the Importance of Sleep 

  • 41:19 Addressing Misconceptions in Coaching 

  • 45:06 Strategies for Full Schedules 

  • 47:45 Wrapping Up and Future Engagements 

Renata Bernarde: How did you decide to become a dietitian in the first place?

Jessica Spendlove: Yeah, it all started for me when I was quite young, like 10 or 11 years old, which is when I became interested in it. The reason for that is because I was getting it very wrong before I learned how powerful it could be. I was a very good swimmer growing up, all into my late teens, and swimming demands a lot of you – training before and after school.

So just trying to grasp what you need to eat for that level of training… I work with a few swimmers; I’ve definitely worked with a lot over the years, and they’re all getting it wrong, just because it’s so hard to figure out the requirements and what you need. So that’s really where it all started for me.

And I guess I felt how amazing it was to go from being an under-fueled teenager and athlete to a really well-fueled one. And I also felt how that translated to not just my physical performance but my cognitive performance as well. So for me, the love… and, you know, I should add, I’m a foodie as well. I love food, you know, food is delicious.

And I love that you can enjoy it and really use it as a tool to better every aspect of your life, which is how I see it today. It really can deliver immediate more energy, better focus, better productivity, better quality of life now, but when you get it right, it’s also paying you health equity credits for your future self as well.

So, yeah, that’s how I really fell in love with it. I started working, well, actually started working in a hospital, which was a fantastic opportunity to start my career, like working in a multidisciplinary team and having a full-time role. It’s quite challenging straight out of university. They nearly set you up to be like, ‘Don’t expect that; it’s not the norm.’ But for me, the vision was always high-performing individuals, particularly high-performing athletes. And yeah, I spent a lot of my career there, which I loved. But as I started to move more into my mid-thirties, my interests began to be, well, there’s a lot here that can transfer to high-performing individuals in general.

And this is where these kinds of holistic high-performance interests, as well as transferring a lot of the lessons and learnings and what elite athletes do so well, come into play for high-performing corporates and businesses and, you know, military and other high-stakes, high-performing arenas and individuals.

Renata Bernarde: Yeah, that’s so interesting. Some people are asking – well, one person is asking – MBTCPHMM for your full name. It’s Jessica Spendlove, S-P-E-N-D-L-O-V-E. If you type that up, you will find her website. And then from there, you can go to her LinkedIn and Instagram and whatnot. Jess, one of the feedback that I received was from someone who was using your tools and resources for both her daughter and for herself.

And I thought that that was so cool, right? That her daughter was using your resources because she’s a young athlete and the mother was using it for herself as well, in different ways. And I thought that that showcases the diversity of what you provide and how it can be used. With that experience as a young athlete, and then understanding how you could translate that knowledge into the corporate world, which is where I operate.

How do you see nutrition playing a role in the corporate professional’s career success? We see that in athletes. We kind of understand that. We watch them play and perform so well. We never really think, ‘Oh, I can use some of those things.’ And even for me, it took me a while to understand that I could adopt some of those techniques and the discipline, and nutrition.

So tell me a little bit more about how we can translate that to corporate clients.

Jessica Spendlove: Yeah. And I love that someone emailed saying they use the same information their daughter uses because, I think — or rather, what I’ve started to notice — is these ‘big rocks,’ these major needle movers, which are, to be honest, universal. And yes, there’s a small percentage that’s very sports-specific, like what to eat on game day or what to have during training and some supplements.

Learning how to eat to perform now means increasing your energy, focus, productivity, and optimizing your brain health. Hopefully, many people listening are embarking on their own fitness journey as well. Whether that’s starting out, trying to move more, or, you know, I work with some very high-level corporates who are very serious about their training as well. So no matter where you sit in that level, there’s opportunity. And, you know, I think of it almost like a pyramid or a hierarchy, where we’ve got the beginner foundation base, and then we can move up.

And, to answer the question, I don’t think people are having the conversation about how food can support you to feel. We have the conversation that food is this, carbs are that, fruits and vegetables this, but what people don’t understand, which is the message I’m trying to spread, is these are the types of foods, and when you have them — or when you don’t — this is how they make you feel.

When you understand what you have and how it makes you feel, both positively and negatively, that’s when people truly start to understand. And, where a lot of people get it wrong, is they listen to what someone else is doing and try to do exactly that. Whereas, I’m more about, ‘This is the principle, this is the knowledge.’ One thing that’s definitely going to come up is the concept of protein pulsing, which focuses on eating protein at each meal and snack, which a lot of people have probably heard of in terms of the gym and muscles — and that’s correct.

But what isn’t often mentioned is when you do that. So these are foods like anything from an animal, if you eat animal products — anything derived from an animal like milk, yogurt, and cheese — and also some really great plant options like tofu, lentils, legumes, soy-based products, plant protein. When you spread that out across your day, what it enables you to do is feel satisfied and sustained, which means at a physiological level, stable blood sugar levels.

And when they’re stable, your focus is stable. Your ability to do deep work is improved, and you avoid those big energy crashes and burns. So, yeah, I really love taking what has been used with athletes and helping people see the application to anyone, whether it’s this high-performing corporate individual looking to better themselves or seeking that competitive advantage as they, you know, maybe look to climb the ladder or move into a different career or role.

Renata Bernarde: Yes, I think that’s probably what surprises people the most when talking to me about recruitment and preparing for a job interview, or how they look for work now that they’re unemployed. The first thing I tell them is, “Okay, how are you feeling right now? What’s your mental state from one to ten? Do you need a break before you deep dive into this?” Second is, “Are you sleeping well? You’re not going to have great cognitive ability if you’re not.” And then, “How is your diet? Do you have someone you can go to discuss your diet?” Because the fact is, I think the positive — the silver lining of me having so many different allergies…

Renata Bernarde: I have a gazillion allergies, Jessica, I cannot tell you the number of allergies that I have, all diagnosed with patch testing and so forth. I really do understand the impact of what I eat very acutely because once I eat gluten, or I eat something with, you know, whatever I’m allergic to, like benzoic acid, for example, I immediately feel unwell.

It’s very quick. Imagine if I’m going to an interview afterwards, right? If I accidentally eat bread with gluten, and two hours later, I have an interview, my cognitive ability after eating gluten goes down the drain. And I know that now, and that’s very personal. Right? It’s not the same for everyone.

So it’s so interesting to see how athletes have already understood that and incorporated it, also in terms of the difference between being in competition and being in training. And I think that’s important too, isn’t it? Like, when somebody’s in competition, for me, that’s when they’re going through job interviews, recruitment and selection, or they have a very big responsibility within their role and they’re going through a big milestone, like a merger, an acquisition, or a partnership.

You know, they’re about to go into an AGM and deliver reports or go to Senate inquiries, or whatever it is that, you know, my clients have had to do in the past, which is acutely stressful. That’s when they need to worry most. Would you agree?

Jessica Spendlove: I’m so glad you’ve mentioned that because of that pyramid I mentioned, and I only really spoke a bit about the base, but, you know, that first baseline is learning how to eat for energy, appetite, and physical and cognitive performance. And then as you move up, there’s a tier, which I call the performance tier. What you’ve said there exactly aligns with this – for athletes, it’s racing and competition, and for the corporate world, it’s those stressful sprints, you know, around financial times or those big presentations. Another one I see a lot is for big speakers or people who need to perform during those acute periods of stress.

And, you know, the thing we know about stress is that it impacts our gut. And you’ve mentioned your allergies, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that, you know, 30 percent of the population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or certain symptoms. And we know that those symptoms are exacerbated when we are stressed. For some, that can be acute stress, like some of the examples you’ve mentioned.

But for other corporates, it can be just that low-level, consistent stress in their lives. It might be all the changes they want to make, or it could be the relationships in the workplace, that toxic culture – there can be so many factors. You need to understand that as much as stress impacts your gut, if you’ve got things going on in your gut, and that’s limiting…

Maybe like, if you’ve got gut issues, you might not want to go for a walk or a run because you might be worried about needing to find a bathroom, or you might not want to eat before a meeting because you think, ‘Oh, am I going to feel not great?’ But that might impact your cognitive ability. So really, this is much further up the pyramid in terms of where it sits, but that’s why we need the foundations in place.

We need to understand how we can use food as a tool day-to-day to feel our best now, and also invest in our future selves as well, which the great thing is, it’s the same strategies. We don’t have to worry about different strategies. They’re the same ones that help both current and future us. But then once we figure out those, yeah, those acute periods or those what I call high-level, intense periods of work, like a major deadline or whatever it is, we need to know what tools to put in place then. Because as we know, when we’re under high-level stress, often a lot of our habits fall by the wayside as well. So it’s kind of this compounding effect, but not in the way that we want it.

Renata Bernarde: Yeah. Jessica, let’s think about the sort of person who could have tapped into listening to this podcast in the future when it becomes part of the job hunting podcast, or is listening now. Let’s say this person is a corporate professional who has lost their job at the end of last year, which is unfortunately very common for companies during restructuring and layoffs.

Let’s say it’s now February, so they’re starting to get concerned and anxious about not having a job and applying for roles without success. What strategies would you recommend for this professional to adopt, to maintain sustainable performance in what is really very much like an ongoing competition for an athlete, isn’t it?

I always use, I don’t know if you’ve listened to me before, but I’m always talking about tennis, like, you know, you’re a tennis player about to go into the Australian Open. There are lots of little competitions. You need to go through all of them. You’re not going to win them at the beginning. You know, you’re a bit rusty, but we’re going to practice and train you, and you’re going to get better and better and eventually win your next job. What would you add in terms of my career advice? What would be your advice?

Jessica Spendlove: Yeah, I think the first thing is acknowledging how tricky that can be, whether you’re looking for that next opportunity or you’re in between roles. So, really trying to flip the script and see the opportunity that currently is available for you to really invest in this space. And when I say invest, I’m talking more about time and focus.

You’ve got an opportunity to invest in becoming the best version of yourself. And, you know, what we know is when people have, and we’ll run through them, but I like to talk about them at a macro level. Like, these are the really big rocks of your health and wellbeing, which are your nutrition, your sleep, and your movement. And we know all three of those things can be really impacted when we’re in a new role or when, again, the demands of the role or the company we’re working for are high. So why not use this time to develop good habits, to learn, and to adapt and put some protocols in place for yourself so when that championship does arrive.

Because it is coming because you’re putting in the work, you’ve already elevated the baseline. You’ve elevated your habits. You know, we know that the brain only has the ability to change a maximum of three habits at a time. So if we’ve got a new role and a new way of working and a new team and new systems and all these new things, we’re certainly going to struggle to then be implementing better practices that support ourselves with our nutrition, sleep, and movement. So ideally, it’s like preparation time. I love that analogy. It’s exactly what it is. It’s training for the grand slam, which you will take home.

Renata Bernarde: That’s true. My next guest on this podcast is Mike Smith from Use Verb, and he is here asking you, Jess, what about fasting? What is it that people love about fasting? So many people now are adopting shorter and shorter windows of eating, like eating from 12 PM to 6 PM and then fasting from 6 PM to 12 PM the next day. What do you have to say about that?

Jessica Spendlove: I have so much to say about fasting. I actually have a podcast myself called “Stay at the Top,” and I think it was episode 19, just two episodes ago, I did an episode called “To Fast or Not to Fast.” When it comes to fasting and considering the types of clients I work with, it really comes down to the individual.

I see fasting as an advanced tool for an advanced user. Thinking about this pyramid, you know, we have the beginner stage, the intermediate performance stage, which we’ve talked about, and fasting is at the top of the pyramid with supplements. It’s an advanced tool that can add value. The reason why it’s so big is multifaceted.

There’s definitely some science supporting the longevity aspect. When we fast, our telomeres, which indicate how fast we’re aging, either slow down or maintain. So that’s where this longevity aspect comes from. The other side of the coin is from a cardiometabolic and gut health perspective. There are some really positive signs there. But it really comes back to the individual. And when I think about my clients, I have two main camps. I’ve got athletes, CEOs, execs, and business owners who really have an athlete mindset and are training intensely. They might be doing Ironmans, marathons, or are avid powerlifters. When you’re training at a really high level, fasting isn’t always going to fit with those goals.

The other camp of clients I work with includes CEOs, execs, business owners, and busy professionals who have prioritized their career and maybe their family, which has organically meant their health has dropped down the hierarchy. We can only prioritize so many things. Now, with these clients, fasting does have a spot. However, what I never want to see is fasting used as a bandaid to cover up a poor lifestyle. If someone is Uber Eats’ best customer and isn’t moving much, then we need to have a bit of a conversation about how fasting fits into their lifestyle. That’s the high-level version.

It’s a bit tricky. Fasting is not for everyone. It definitely has a place and a role, but as I said, I like to see it as an advanced tool for an advanced user once they’ve updated the rest of their lifestyle. Because if it’s really applied well, there can be some benefits. But if you’re training a lot, you want to make sure it’s targeted to your goals and not undoing what you’re trying to achieve.

And for those who are not as active, you want to make sure, ‘Have I earned the right to fast? Have I progressed from my undergraduate degree to my postgrad? Am I going on to the PhD level to do the fasting?’

Renata Bernarde: Yeah, that’s interesting. I listen to a lot of podcasts and haven’t listened to your episodes 18 or 19, but I’ll definitely go listen because I’m fascinated by fasting. It’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about as well, because it’s complicated for those of us who haven’t studied dietetics at high levels. You listen to podcasts or read books, and they seem to be contradicting each other, not just about fasting, but about what you should eat — like a carnivore diet or a plant-based diet. There’s even criticism of podcasters who invite guests to speak, like Huberman or The Diary of a CEO, where one guest will say one thing and the next week another guest says something different.

So there’s a bit of criticism towards those big podcasters, you know, about what they’re trying to convey to their audience and potentially confusing them. Do you agree with the criticism, or do we just continuously learn about these things? And as we learn, we need to convey the message and whatever we’re learning is incrementally different from the previous research that was done.

Jessica Spendlove: Nutrition is hard. There’s so much nuance in it. It’s not black and white because we all eat, and physiologically, it’s very hard to do, you know, the best quality science, which is randomized control trials. And when it comes to nutrition, like, it’s very hard to do that really high-quality level of science. So I guess that’s part of it. I also think nutrition is really that one space where everyone feels a little bit informed and entitled to have an opinion because we all eat, and what we eat is also underpinned by our culture and our own knowledge and how we’ve grown up. So there’s just so much that goes into it.

And, I get it. It is very conflicting, and it’s hard to know who to listen to and what is the best practice for me. I don’t know if it means I sit, I certainly don’t sit on the fence. I’ll definitely have an opinion. Carnivore is definitely something I don’t support. I do think people can find different ways of eating that work for them, but with that, we know so much around the gut microbiome and true carnivore. I mean, this is the other thing as well. Like people often say they’re eating a certain way, but when you dig deep, they’re not actually maybe doing the full extreme, like carnivore is really like, I’m eating meat, and that’s it. Whereas sometimes if people, you know, come to me for a coaching program and they might’ve tried that, well, it’s like a modified version.

But I think when anything, like finance, which is certainly not my area of expertise, but you know, the get-rich-quick schemes, the finance experts are saying that doesn’t work. It’s really about compounding interest, diversifying your assets, and all of that. So when it comes to nutrition, I really think we need to take the same approach. We need to look at not the extreme end of the bell curves.

Jessica Spendlove: Where do we sit in the middle? And for me, that’s what I’m particularly passionate about. Blending that health, that wellbeing, that performance. And I’ll very rarely tell a client you need to subscribe to this. But what I do do is I sit down and I listen, and I do something, it’s a process called the life audit, which I’ll give you the link and you can get access to it.

But it’s basically when I work with a coaching client, it’s the first step that I take, which is a seven-day template, probably similar to a business owner or someone in the corporate world doing a time and an energy audit. But we do their life. We look at their nutrition. We look at their sleep. We look at their energy. We look at their cravings. But what it also allows someone to do is get off autopilot because that’s where we all live and just become a little bit self-aware. And obviously, when I’m working with them one-on-one, I can accelerate that process, but I really even believe just mapping it out and seeing the gaps and even connecting, you know, I’ll give an example.

I’ve got a client in the tech world, like CEO of this business. And one of his essential non-negotiables is a high-protein breakfast. That really has been a fundamental pillar for him to set his whole day up for success. But when we dove deep on all of that, he has four different mornings. He has mornings he drops his kids to school. He has mornings that he doesn’t drop his kids to school. So those are the office days. Oh, the balloon. He has office days, I’m sorry, he has home days, and then he has the weekend. So, this is where it gets down even further, where you go, okay, well this is what we’re trying to achieve, but we need a few options that give you the same outcome, but that are going to fit for that.

So, I’ve kind of taken that question a little bit, but I guess it’s nuanced. It really is anything extreme we’re looking in, looking to sit in the middle. And I’m really a big believer in helping people decode what the body and brain are telling them. And I’ve even done a LinkedIn post about it today for anyone listening live, which is if we can get more in tune with what I call the metrics that matter, our energy levels…

Jessica Spendlove: How stable they are and do they feel good, or are we falling off a cliff? What is our appetite doing? Is it stable or is it ravenous, super full? Do we crave sugar often? What’s our performance like in the gym or in the office from that cognitive or physical side? And when we tune into that, that’s our body trying to communicate how we’re responding. And it’s not just food, but food is a huge proponent of that because what else do we do three to five times a day that we have total control over? So when we really start to understand and listen, then we start to see the clues. So yeah, I like the extremes because I just think extreme in any industry doesn’t work, but where do we pull from? What aligns with our beliefs, our philosophies, what we like, and our lifestyle, and how do we blend that?

Renata Bernarde: That’s a great answer and I think it leads to another question that we have from the listeners that I want to go into because it’s very linked to that. But Mike’s asking for episode 19. So, it is episode 19 of Stay at the Top. And if you go to Jessica’s website, you’ll be able to find her podcast and other resources there. So, have a look. I’ll also be listening to that episode. But one of the things that came up yesterday from somebody who wanted you to answer a question for her is Donna Burr, who has been on the podcast. She’s been a guest and she’s an executive search partner and recruiter.

And she asked a question that I really love, which is about balancing optimal performance now with optimal performance for longevity. So, this idea that longevity and improving your health span and lifespan is so important these days, given that we will be working for much longer than previous generations. So, the question is how do we achieve optimal performance aiding both your performance right now and aiding longevity in the long term?

Jessica Spendlove: Yeah. The good thing about what I’m about to say is that I actually think, and I don’t want to say it’s easy, because it’s certainly not, but we’ve never had more information available to us about what helps both current us and future us. And again, I don’t know if it’s because where I sit is really that blend of health, wellbeing, and performance, but a lot of these principles I talk about, they consider both current and future you.

So, let’s talk about the three big pillars. We’ll talk about the macro and the micro. So our macro really, the big rocks, the big needle movers, nutrition, sleep, and movement. So, from a nutrition standpoint, and the best place is, yeah, go to the website. There’s so much info, or LinkedIn, even Instagram. There’s heaps there, but when we learn how, and it’s something I call all the elements, which really makes up a meal.

So, I talk about four elements, which are protein to satisfy and sustain us. I talk about colors, fruits, and vegetables for vitality and gut health. I talk about healthy fats, which are anti-inflammatory, also very good for cognitive wellbeing. And I talk about whole grain carbohydrates. Now, if we make sure those components are at each meal and most snacks, we’re doing a pretty good job. You’re the top 1 percent with your nutrition. The other thing about that, you’ll feel increased energy, better performance, better focus now, but when you eat like that, you’re also eating to minimize the risk of disease and the acceleration of aging. Basically, we are in control of that.

And nutrition is definitely one of the biggest factors when it comes to disease development or delay. Some of us have been dealt certain cards. Our genetics is an uncontrollable factor, yes, but there’s an area called epigenetics, which is genetics plus our lifestyle. And our lifestyle is so much more of a factor than our genetics.

Jessica Spendlove: It’s kind of like, what fuel are we adding to the fire? Are we supporting that or are we just throwing stuff on and it’s getting out of control? So I guess, okay. Nutrition is definitely one when we learn to eat to perform now, cognitively, physically, energy-wise, we’re also eating for future us as well, which is great.

The second piece is sleep. And I love that you, you know, ask your clients about this because it’s just fundamental. It’s fundamental to how you feel every single day, not just getting enough sleep, but also the quality of our sleep, which we call our sleep architecture. We’ve got four phases of sleep and unfortunately, we can’t rewire that. That is innate in our body and how we operate. Now, if we are not getting enough of our deep and REM sleep, where our cognitive reprocessing and clearing and removing the debris that accumulates in our brain across the day happens, then we’re not optimizing that. Over the short term, we know how we feel when we’re not sleeping well. We just don’t feel great. Our memory and creativity are all blunted, but long term as well, that’s when it accelerates disease progression, particularly cardiometabolically, like heart disease, some cancers, but also dementia and Alzheimer’s. Sleep is a huge factor in the amount and quality of sleep for the progression or the onset of those mental conditions later in life.

Now, the third pillar is movement. Similarly, there’s so much coming out in this space at the moment, particularly around resistance training. And you know, the benefits of resistance training now, depending on who’s listening and their age. For women, we go through certain phases, like the perimenopausal phase and the menopausal phase. So we really want to have nutrition, sleep, and movement that supports the maintenance of muscle mass. The other thing we know about muscle mass is it’s becoming one of the number one markers for longevity. As we age, men and women, we decrease our muscle mass, a process called sarcopenia, and we all face it. So we need strategies in place to support that if we really want to consider our longevity. Resistance training a couple of times a week is really protective. We feel good, release hormones and myokines, which are great for our brain, body, and energy, and we feel good hormones, but it lays the foundation for a better quality of life as we age.

And then, I guess, outside of the macro space, if we look at these more micro, what daily practices do we have in place? And, you know, I come to this conversation as an expert, but also someone who identifies as a high achiever. And I have also very much suffered from the shadow side of being a high performer and being so driven. Like, I’ve burnt myself out more than once. I’ve run myself totally into the ground. And you know, this phase of my career is like blending both of those conversations, and one of the biggest determinants when it comes to managing our energy levels and minimizing our risk of burnout are our daily micro recovery strategies.

So one of the big things here is how do we set our day up? You know, are we taking what I call brain breaks, but it’s really just about working in a way where we have space away from our screens, away from technology, and away from stimulants. Or are we just on the go, on the tech, on the caffeine, and then having an afternoon pick-me-up because we’re so tired because we haven’t learned to tune into our body and prevent that from happening?

Jessica Spendlove: And that cycle just goes on and on. So, they’re probably the four big spaces I like to talk about to support an individual now, but also set us up for working later into life because we’re living longer. We’re wanting or needing to work for longer. So, how do we do that? I really believe that holistically addressing your lifestyle to live a high-performance, sustainable life, starting with your nutrition, your sleep, your movement, and these micro recovery strategies, are the keys to you being able to do both of those.

Renata Bernarde: I love that. Going back to that initial discussion about the corporate professional being in competition or out of competition, I think it’s so important in the way that you manage all of those pillars and even the little details. I’ll tell you a short story about what happened to me this weekend on Sunday. There’s a new TV series on Apple TV, a sci-fi, and I love sci-fi. My husband said, let’s watch it. I’m like, yeah, of course. And we watched the first episode and it’s dark. It’s something that will give me nightmares at night. Right? So that series, I said, okay, we’re going to stop this. And when we are on holidays, we will watch this, but I can’t watch it right now because I’m running my group coaching. I have two big corporate clients at the moment. I am at the brink of burnout, and I think with athletes, they know when they may burn out. It’s when they are in competition. And, you know, another little snippet from this weekend was I was watching the Netflix series about the tennis players. Cause I love that series. And one of the tennis players is preparing for a big match. And the physio says to the coach, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight. And the coach says, don’t say that. Don’t say that close to her because it will affect her, and it will affect her performance. So just noticing the things that you should be doing and shouldn’t be doing when you are in high-level stakes in your career is so important because you’re not going to be able to avoid them. They will just be part of a long career, right? There will be times when you will burn out or be close to burning out, or you’ll be stressing your body and your mind to the limit. And it’s just a matter of having those fundamentals supporting you.

Jessica Spendlove: Exactly, and it’s about how we respond to things or accelerate the learning process by working with someone in that capacity. But yeah, I totally relate to that. One thing I talk about is to win the day, you need to win the night because we all sleep, and the importance and the power of sleep to just every aspect of our life. But have a wind-down routine. You know, a plane doesn’t just take off. We don’t get on the plane and take off straight away. We get on the plane, and there’s the same protocols they do every single time, and we take off, and then we prepare to land. Or an athlete does their warm-up, then they train or compete, then they cool down. Why do we as high-performing corporates think that we can just work and do everything and then relax by watching Netflix and then just think we’re going to switch that off and go to bed? The more we can downregulate ourselves, downregulate our thoughts – thoughts are the number one preventer of people getting to sleep. So, that can look like different things for different people. You know, can we at least dim the lights before we go to bed? Can we have some sort of relaxation practices?

Jessica Spendlove: That might just be having a hot shower and a skincare routine, but have something. For me, I’ll use an example with sleep. I feel like I’m a sleep enthusiast because I love how good I can feel when I sleep well, but I’ve never actually been a good sleeper. I used to get quite stressed being a swimmer having to get up at 4 am before school. If I didn’t get enough sleep, I’d be very worked up, and that can still happen now if I’ve got a big presentation the next day. So in those instances, I actually dial that up, but I’ve figured out what works for me. So that might mean having a sauna and also having a magnesium drink and also reading a book, which are not things I do every single time. But if I’m feeling a little bit stressed or a little bit wired or worried that I’m not going to be able to go to sleep, I pull out more of the big guns from the toolkit. So for a corporate client, you know, they might have dinners or entertaining, and, you know, you do that, but you come home and may not just switch off and go to bed straight away. So, in those instances, can we still put those little down-regulating strategies in place? Because essentially by doing that, you’re telling our brain, “Okay, brain, we’re getting ready to go to bed.” And it starts to get familiar with all of that. So, yeah, I love that you’ve used that example because sleep is something I see a lot with my corporate clients, and they have big success with creating that kind of dedicated wind-down routine that works for their life. That’s not like 50, but they also have extra strategies for when they need them.

Renata Bernarde: I love that. My word for 2024 for me is sleep. And I’ve been obsessing with sleep for years. But this year, I’ve decided that the biggest thing I can give myself is time to sleep, you know. If LeBron James does it and JLo and Dakota Johnson, the actor, they all sleep like 10, 11, 12 hours. And LeBron James is, of course, such an amazing optimal athlete in my eyes. I just look up to him so much, and his sleep routine and the way that he recovers from injury as well by sleeping is something that I’ve paid attention to. And this year, it’s about me giving time to sleep more if I can. And it’s not easy, you know, because if you don’t allocate the time, it just won’t happen. You can have red lights and down lights and winding-down techniques, which I’ve always had, Jess, but what I didn’t really do up until this year is giving it time, you know, starting earlier, getting ready to sleep. And I hadn’t done that. What do you think, you know, before we go about the rest of our days, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have when they come to you to work with you, that you need to sort of revert?

Jessica Spendlove: Yeah, I think a lot of the people who come to me, and people listening, they’re very motivated and dedicated, which often also means they can be a little bit all or nothing. And, you know, being all or nothing may have served them in certain areas of their life, but when it comes to making behavior changes in areas like, however old you are, if you’re 45, you’ve got 45 years of habits related to how you eat, sleep, and move. So one consultation or one meal plan… and that’s why I don’t really offer one-offs, I do coaching programs now, because it’s not just about addressing something while you’re feeling motivated, it’s about implementing something into your life. So a few things I’ll say, one is, and I mentioned it before, just listening to the Hubermans, which look, I’m a big fan of, but we listen and we get a protocol and we just apply it to our life. But if we think of that pyramid, that might be addressing that very top layer. But what about the foundation? We haven’t, so first of all, that’s not having an effect. And second of all, it’s feeling really hard. The next thing is we just do what other people do, which doesn’t consider who we are, where we’re starting from, what our goals are, what our lifestyle is, and also what we like. Like, I’m so big on people enjoying… I believe it gets to be easier and more enjoyable than what we tell ourselves, but it only really starts when we customize something to our life, which that isn’t really explored because it can’t be in a podcast always. So there’s that. I also think it’s very much about nutrition. Like you said before, like there’s the camps. I’m camp this, or I’m camp that, where it’s all about the nuance and often in between all of that. And I also really think…

Renata Bernarde: Much.

Jessica Spendlove: …and the how. So, you know, people will say, is this a good food or a bad food? And I’m like, in relation to what? What are we… so it’s less about the specific individual food and it’s more about that global approach. And when we learn, you know, okay, well, when we have our protein foods, I actually feel more satisfied and sustained. And at the back end of the day, I’ve got more energy. And oh, what do you know? I’m not raiding the pantry after dinner. When we learn that and how to do that, that’s meaningful. Similarly, with gut health and the microbiome and diversifying our intake there. So I think nutrition really depends on the person. Like, they can come either with all their facts and super informed, and sometimes you’re busting myths. But for every single person, it’s just about understanding them and where they’re trying to get to and why and giving them the tools that are going to support them. And like I said, it’s really about helping them find that first domino that they’re going to push that’s going to give them the most impact, that’s going to give them the most momentum. And so the rest of it pushes on, which really then can only be totally tailored to that individual. So, yeah, maybe the last thing is, I think they think it has to be like boring and bland and not enjoyable. That’s not healthy nutrition. Nutrition is meant to be nutritious, delicious, and easy. And when you find something like that, that works, plus it also makes you feel good, plus it also works for your life situation, plus it’s also sustainable. That’s the sweet spot.

Renata Bernarde: Yeah, we have a very different question here at the end that I wanted to raise with you before we go. And it’s a question about being too busy. What does Jessica have to say about when people always say, “I’m too busy”? What does ‘bad busy’ look like?

Jessica Spendlove: Busy is a word I’ve tried to remove from my vocabulary because it’s just, I’m not going to say it’s an excuse, but busy is a very individualized term.

Renata Bernarde: Can I ask you something? Because you operate in these two realms of corporate and athletes, do athletes also say that they’re busy or is it just a corporate thing?

Jessica Spendlove: Everyone says it.

Renata Bernarde: Oh, okay.

Jessica Spendlove: We’re in the era of busy. So I think the first thing is we try to remove that and understand like everyone’s got a lot going on and there’s always going to be someone doing more than you, and there’s always going to be someone doing less, but that’s not what it’s about. So maybe I’ll answer these from the lens of, in a busy, full schedule, I’m going to call it that, how can we get the things done? And that’s where I haven’t really spoken about it here, but I’m really big on non-negotiables and guardrails. And, you know, maybe a thing for someone with a full schedule is “I move every day.” On some days, depending on what that is, maybe I’ve worked from home day where you don’t travel and you’ve got more time, well, maybe that means going to the gym or going for a walk with a friend or something. But maybe on a fuller day where you’ve only really got your lunch break, maybe it’s just doing a quick lap around the block. So it’s just having this adaptable way of working. And then I guess the next thing with food, like people are quite surprised, I, a lot of the clients I work with, busy corporates, I’m not necessarily advocating they go and do a whole heap of meal prep. It’s kind of going, okay, well, what do you need to achieve? What’s the best option? How can we do that? Because it’s often about creating the habit and that support system, which potentially means we’re outsourcing. Are we getting meals delivered? What day are we doing that? Are we having a recurring grocery shop? So it’s really about finding ways to make things work. Yeah.

Jessica Spendlove: It’s the era of being busy, but we just want to be careful with how we interpret that. And we also just want to set ourselves up with strategies that are going to support how full our schedule is. Whether you’re meal prepping or outsourcing, you can still achieve the same outcome. And if you outsource it first, you gain more energy, you have more space in your day, then maybe you progress to that next step. So, I hope that answers the question a little bit from my perspective.

Renata Bernarde: I love that, you know, and I love that the question was about what is bad busy and what’s good busy because, you know, you will have a full schedule, but like you said, you can allocate time in different ways that are better for you and will optimize your performance. Jess, it was so wonderful having you here. We’ve been planning this for a few months now. So thank you so much for your time. I think you provided such a great overview of expertise and insights, and I encourage everybody to go to your website. I mentioned it a few times, and when the episode goes to air, it will be in the episode show notes, so you can click and find out more about Jess Spendlove, her podcast, her resources, and her coaching programs. I think this combination of me working with people who are going through recruitment and selection, and you working on optimizing people’s performance alongside whatever they’re going through in their careers, is really a good combo. And I’d love to have you back. So, when you have new things to say, or if you think about other topics we haven’t talked about today, reach out and we will have you back for sure.

Jessica Spendlove: Amazing. I look forward to it. And, uh, yeah, I look forward to connecting with some new faces and it made me feel very nice this morning when I got the email about people already knowing about me in your world. So that’s always nice to hear as well, especially when they’re favorable things.

Renata Bernarde: You have an amazing following. So thank you so much for reaching out and for accepting my invite. It was really lovely to have you. See you next time, Jess.

Jessica Spendlove: Good luck to all the job hunters. Bye.

Renata Bernarde: Thank you.

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