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Why does food make us feel sluggish?

In the rapid environment of a Design Sprint, this won’t fly. We go through two days of workshops. They are extremely fun… but also intensive. If everyone is sleepy after lunch, that’s a problem.

The science behind it is complex, but to put it short: eating large amounts of protein and carbohydrates can make us tired.

This should give you a good idea of what to avoid. We’ve used the process for years now and we’ve never found a comprehensive guide on snacks – so here’s the diet to help you avoid Design Sprint failure.

What to eat during a Design Sprint

Cutting down on both protein and carbs might sound harsh, but there’s still plenty of varied food fit for the workshops. Let’s start with a quick list, and then I’ll briefly explain the choices:

  • unflavoured nuts
  • fresh berries
  • plums
  • natural yoghurt
  • bananas & apples
  • kale chips
  • dark chocolate 👀
  • nut bars

Continue reading to learn how to manage lunchtime, or go straight to the explanations.

The lunch conundrum

Okay, assume everyone stays on top of their game until lunch. Snacks are great, there’s more than enough for everyone. Everything is complemented by healthy drinks (more on that later).

And there comes the 1-hour lunch break free-for-all. How to avoid jeopardising all your effort by letting people eat what they want?

The best option is to organise catering, but that’s not always feasible. Maybe you’re working on short notice, or there’s not enough space to accommodate it. Finally, it’s also not cheap.

Your best bet is to make sure people know what to avoid. The good thing is that a fair chunk of your work is done before lunch. It doesn’t make the other part of the day less important by any means – but having a couple of people drop their bar a little after lunch isn’t the end of the world.

Just let everyone know to avoid foods high in carbs for lunch. Here are a few great choices:

  • veggie soups
  • salads
  • light sandwiches

In the end, everyone will come back to a room full of snacks. As I’ve mentioned, Design Sprint facilitators should ensure there are plenty of snacks for everyone.

Learn more about driving innovation in just five days

If you couldn’t tell, we love the Design Sprint. It’s a great process that helped us achieve user-tested outcomes with our clients. There’s an entire section on our website dedicated to the Design Sprint, where you’ll learn:

  • What the Design Sprint is
  • The different phases of the Design Sprint
  • How to assemble a perfect workshop team
Visit the Design Sprint hub

The best Design Sprint food & snacks

Unflavoured nuts

Emphasis on unflavored. Even simple additions will make your carbs skyrocket. Our favourite choices are almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia and pecans.

Fresh berries

Did you know that strawberries have fewer carbs than lemons? Who would’ve thought! Virtually every type of berries is among the fruit with the lowest sugar content, so go ahead and pick your poison.


Plums are a surprising addition to our list. A great source of vitamin C, and they also make your body release hormones that help with anxiety. And they also play nicely with Design Sprint rules – what’s not to like?

Natural yoghurt

I’m not sure how much truth is in this, but apparently kids like natural yoghurt. Perhaps it’s something we can learn from them. You can have them on their own, or throw in fruit or nuts. Their nutrients are almost perfect for a Design Sprint – a great choice across the board.

Bananas & apples

Yes, bananas are high in sugar. But in the end, your team is facing a long day of workshops. We’ll need the energy. Throwing in a banana or two (especially shortly before lunch) is a great boost.

Kale chips

They’re best homemade, but you can get the commercially prepared ones as well. I’d save it for the second half of the day as the protein & carb contents are a bit above average, but it’s a great snack nonetheless.

Dark chocolate 👀

This one caught you off guard, didn’t it? After a hard day of work and food restrictions, everyone deserves a treat! Chocolate has fairly high sugar content, even in the dark 70-80% variants. But as mentioned, we still need to get through the day. Carbs are an important part of our diet so it’s good to re-fuel on the final stretch. Plus, if you get a little bit sluggish on your way home, it won’t impact the workshop 😉

Nut bars

We have nuts on the list, so why not nut bars? There’s an important distinction – they have plenty of additives. You should be able to get fairly low-sugar nut bars with dark chocolate. They’re another good option for the afternoon.

What to drink during a Design Sprint

Definitely do not drink soda and beer. Ideally, avoid sugar in your tea and coffee as well (and make it a daily habit while you’re at it).

We’ve already mentioned tea and coffee – caffeine is a friend of every facilitator & participant. Other than that, water is the only other great option. Sparkling and still work just as well, so make sure to stock up on both. And stay hydrated!

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Originally published Aug 05, 2022 4:20:31 PM, updated May 8 2024.

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