Leadership

How eating breakfast can dramatically improve your work day, according to a new study

Do you ever find yourself getting to your office feeling unprepared for a barrage of emails from coworkers or indecisive on how to go about your work day?

A new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests following low-carb breakfast fads may be at fault.

A team of nine researchers from universities across Europe investigated the impact of eating a well-balanced meal on making social decisions — such as helping, trusting or rejecting/punishing another person — by conducting two experiments on participants who had eaten a low-carb, high protein breakfast versus a high-carb, low protein breakfast.

The experiment consisted of an "ultimatum game," in which the subject had to accept or reject an offer they deemed unfair. For example, the company you work for says it it will give your boss $100 on one condition: He or she is willing to share with you. If your boss chooses to short change you by keeping $90 and only giving you $10, you reject this offer and neither you or your boss gets any money, because you deemed this offer unfair.

When the participants were nourished with a high-carb, low protein meal , they were more likely to make social decisions and reject unfair offers, the researchers found in their second controlled experiment. Report author Soyoung Park tells CNBC the study shows changes in food actually induces higher cognition in our planning ability.

"Many times people think that nutrition is important only for their health and they neglect the fact that it is important for our psychology and our brain function," Park says. "If you completely get rid of the carbs and switch to the high fat and protein diet, then that is not balanced anymore."

She adds that this isn't about getting "hangry," which she says the researchers thought might be one explanation for the higher rejection rate. Although they did not observe any statistically significant changes in mood between each respective day, the researchers found that a relatively small variation in the breakfast's macronutrient makeup had a striking impact on social decisions.

"If you are being treated unfairly by your boss, the question is how do you react to that, do you just bear with it or do you show the person that this was unfair?" Park tells CNBC, explaining how what you have eaten can dictate your response.

Although more Americans are eating breakfast than in the past 20 years, fast food restaurants are driving the trend. Park says today's diet is extremely unbalanced and recommends a balanced macronutrient diet, which includes carbohydrates like beets, rice and potatoes; proteins like fish, dairy, meat and lastly fat.

"The implication for society is that this is not a matter of when or how much you eat, you should pay attention to what you're eating," Park says. "This is important to having well-functioning cognition in the workplace."

See more:
What Richard Branson and other successful leaders eat for breakfast
What 4 top female execs eat for breakfast
Warren Buffett eats the same thing for breakfast every day — and it never costs more than $3.17