Whether it’s just a day or several weeks of training, hosting your learning programme is at the heart of what The Venues Collection do. All of our venues are experts in hosting training programmes and know how to support both trainers and delegates to get the most of their day.
As part of our ongoing mission to serve delicious meals that keep our trainee and delegate guests alert and engaged, we’ve made a few interesting discoveries that challenge traditional thinking on what’s good and not so good for our learning performance.
At the top of that list is coffee. Few of us need persuading to indulge in that mid-morning hit – it’s the most popular drink worldwide after water; a jaw-dropping 95 million cups are drunk every day in the UK. But coffee still gets a bad press as a sleep disruptor. Too much of it, especially at night, will block the brain chemicals that trigger feelings of drowsiness and keep us wide awake into the wee small hours.
At The Venues Collection we believe in offering delegates a choice of hydration, from water stations flavoured with fruit peelings to ethically sourced free flow tea and coffee throughout the day. The decision for delegates is ‘to caffeine or not to caffeine?’.
In this blog we look at how food and drink can fuel learners and how The Venues Collection are helping with this.
But that very feature happens to work in our favour earlier in the day. According to James Betts, Professor of Metabolic Physiology at the University of Bath, this powerful stimulant improves almost every aspect of our performance, including cognitive – which encompasses remembering, learning, problem-solving and decision-making processes.
One study showed that a singe dose of caffeine (less than a cup) enhances attention, alertness and mood; improving mental as well as physical wellbeing. Caffeine levels peak within an hour of drinking, so a coffee on arrival at the learning venue, followed by another mid-morning will ensure delegates are firing on all four cylinders. As the final component to lunch it will carry them through the legendary mid-afternoon slump.
Another happy discovery is that chocolate – and specifically the dark stuff containing high percentages of cocoa solids – enhances blood flow to the brain. Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which is particularly rich in plant compounds called flavonoids. These help your body function more efficiently while protecting it against toxins and stressors.
Professor Aedin Cassidy, Director of Inter-disciplinary research at the Institute for Global Food Security, University of Belfast, says there is growing evidence that dark chocolate offers benefits for our brain health.
One study of young adult brains showed that consumption of foods high in flavonoids enabled them to complete cognitive tasks more efficiently: their brains showed better oxygenation and improved blood flow. Flavonoid-rich foods have been described as ‘superfoods’ and the list of plant-origin gems also includes blueberries, dark cherries, citrus fruits as well as black tea, green tea and red wine.
Over recent years there has been so much emphasis on reducing calories for healthy eating, that we have run the risk of depriving hungry brains. We believe that there’s a happy medium to aim for and here at The Venues Collection we’re looking into the fuller-longer approach that will give our delegates the best quality brain fuel, keep their blood sugar levels on an even keel, and avoid the risk of them flagging towards the end of their sessions.
Once upon a time the word ‘salad’ on a menu conjured up depressing images of limp lettuce leaves, blackened hard-boiled egg and a dollop of mayo. But that picture is about as far-removed from the medley of tastes and textures that we can offer today as is possible to get.
Satisfied, alert and attentive
By incorporating a variety of brightly coloured (and flavonoid-rich) fruit and vegetables, from butternut squash to beetroot and spinach, complemented by nuts, fruit, herbs and slow-release grains, we can produce a riot of crunchy, sweet and sour flavours to delight the tastebuds. Most importantly, these nutrient-rich combinations will keep delegates satisfied, alert and attentive right the way through to the end of their learning day.
So there really is a sweet spot when it comes to stimulating brain function and productivity. It takes the form of a modest portion of rich, dark chocolate, complemented by three to four coffees throughout the day and bolstered by a rainbow of slow energy release nutrients.
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