The Difference Between Mental And Physical Energy

Not having the energy is the number one explanation for not doing things, desire for energy sells us energy drinks, keeps us eating calorie dense foods, has us addicted to coffee (actually just the amount of fat and sugar you put in your coffee), etc etc.

You have all the energy you need right now, no matter what, unless you’re literally dying of starvation and are under 5 percent body fat.

There’s 9 calories per gram of fat, that’s all energy that your cells could burn to produce work.

The truth is you just don’t feel like it.

So you turn to caffeine and actually coffee perfectly captures the difference between mental and physical energy. Caffeine, as found in black coffee or tea, has no calories. It contains no energy.

A caffeine molecule is close enough to the shape of an adenosine molecule that it can fill up an adenosine receptor. Imagine a helicopter landing pad, if caffeine is on the pad then adenoise can’t land. And adenosine makes you sleepy. You feel ‘awake’ because not because you have more energy but because you’re not getting the sleepiness signal.

BTW, this causes your body to make more adenosine receptors which is where caffeine tolerance comes from.

This is also why power naps work. Adenosine makes you fall asleep but doesn’t keep you asleep, if you let yourself fall asleep you’ll clear the adenosine and wake up five minutes later slightly refreshed. Again, you don’t have any more energy – from a physics point of view – you’re just experiencing the absence of sleepiness, a mere mental state.

Another thing that has no calories that blocks adenosine is light. Full spectrum light like my veralux happy light I turn on every morning in the dark Canadian winter.

If you can’t get some sunlight, get some fake sunlight and you’ll feel more energetic. Taking vitamin D (with appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin K) helps as well.

So let’s talk about the other drug people use to try and have more energy that does contain calories: Sugar.

Now sugar does contain energy and it glucose is vital to the brain. If you have no glucose your brain can run on ketones but your body loves glucose so much it can use the liver to even turn protein in sugar. Neat.

If you ingest sugar while you’re doing something your body will grab it right up. In fact, carbohydrates just entering the mouth causes cyclists in an experiment to produce more power.

Aside from that I’m just going to link to this article about sugar. It’s really good.

The thing is if you’re not moving your body just stores that sugar for later, as fat. Energy isn’t use it or lose it, all that you accumulate you store.

Adding more energy to your system won’t get you moving, won’t make you feel like moving. Mental and emotional energy doesn’t track with physical energy. I’m at my most excited after a 10k run or a squash game because the oven is hot, burning lots of fuel lets your body know there’s lots of fuel to burn.

The final way that mental and physical energy is different is actually a way that they are very much the same, they both run on glucose for fuel. Your brain actually uses most of the glucose you consume. And yes, you can be exhausted by thinking, being emotional drained is physically draining – all those thoughts and feelings you have are coming from the same neurotransmitters that respond to physical threats.

With one difference. Your muscles store energy in the form of glycogen. No matter how exhausted you are from math or dealing with people or whatever you do have the physical energy to exercise or run from a lion or go dancing.

And you don’t even need to top your brain up with glucose, honestly. As mentioned before, your body will produce ketones to keep your brain running. This is why people in ketosis aren’t zombies (although, oddly, people loaded on sugar are, but I’m not going to get into carb-related brain fog in this post). Anyone who has ever fasted knows there’s a weird and often sudden mental clarity that kicks in. That’s ketones. And that’s proof positive that mental and physical energy are completely different.

To wrap up I’m not saying that I don’t feel like it is always an invalid excuse, sometimes your body is telling you to back off training using emotional signals that you shouldn’t override.

But just to be sure, just to Leave No Doubt, why don’t you get started and see. Most of the time the heaviest lift at the gym is front door. Procrastination, fear, comfort, these are the much more likely culprits than a lack of energy.

Why You’re Not Going To Run Yourself Thin

Ultimately fat loss is easy, change your habits and wait.

But focus on the results and obsess about the outcome and it’ll be torture. If you got into running because you want to lose weight and that’s what you think about all the time, you’ll quit. (and I’ve said this before) You’re comparing imaginary future feelings of good to current feelings of suck and you’ll quit.

If you focus on the habits, on the here and now, what you’re going to do and not-do today, then time will just breeze by and then you’ll look up and notice you look a little better. Then you’ll really want to keep going and it’ll be a pleasure.

So at the start I say no announcing that you’re starting, no before pictures, no first weigh-in, no nothing just coffee

Stop making coffee (or morning… ugh… tea) at home. Get up at the same time everyday, get dressed, and walk to the store for a cup of coffee. For almost all of us coffee is mandatory so you’re not going to skip this, in fact you’ll notice you feel driven. Sooner you’re out the door, sooner coffee.

Then, even if you have music or a podcast going, be mindful. Take in the air, cool or warm, the sunshine or lack therefore, the quiet streets or the bustle, but take it all in and let it feel good. Especially after you’ve gotten the coffee and you’re taking those first sips (It’s an interesting question to ask if you could live in a commercial what commercial would it be? I say coffee commercial, it’s always a beautiful morning where you’re not tired in the least and you’re usually out at a cabin or something). I learned this in reverse, in a way. I was committed to wearing suits everyday for a year and when you get up and put on a suit you don’t want to sit around the house drinking coffee. So I got out and became a morning person after years, decades, of being an up all night sleep past noon drunken songwriter.

You will enjoy these mornings, enjoy it for it’s own sake, it’s self-rewarding. Much better than trying to jump into running as an awkward beginner and fight through hoping it’ll feel worth it once you’re skinny.

But speaking of awkward beginners, step two of running is actually running. Well, actually step two – phase one of step two – is buy an new outfit.

A terrible one.

Don’t think that your dirty old sweats are good enough and don’t matter anyway because you’re just going running. If you wear your loser clothes you’re going to feel more like a loser. And if you go buy cool sports cyborg branded super science clothes you’re also going to feel like a loser. When you actually run. In the store you’ll tell yourself you’ll feel (and look) super cool and then… you won’t. Reality is a hard bitch.

I new I’d feel stupid running for the first time so I leaned into it. I bought bright green runners, white shorts with palm trees, and a yellow tank top. I’ve always found that if you feel stupid (or silly, or awkward or whatever) and you acknowledge it, embrace it, it goes away. Don’t be afraid to be a character.

When I started swimming I had no problem imagining the life guards saying to each other hey it’s the drowning guy again.

After you’ve moved from walking to get coffee to running in bright clothes then it’s time to start setting goals. Just arbitrary ones. Run 20 minutes a day, run barefoot on grass every other day, see how long you can go for at comfortable slow place, do some sprints. Don’t have pro goals like marathons and training splits. Don’t think it has to suck to be effective.

Accept it: You Are A Beginner. Embrace it, you get to make mistakes, you get to look dumb, no one has expectations, no one gives a shit what you’re up to. Goof off. Just find good feelings, that’s all you’re up to for the first months of whatever you’re doing.

Except with food. Sorry. You’re going to have to give up all your comfort foods, all your convenient foods, even tons of things you thought were healthy.

The first thing I learned about losing weight is that weight doesn’t matter. If you start working out you burn fat and build muscle and your weight won’t really change. You’ll look fantastic but you’ll weigh the same. And this is about how you look ultimately. If you get healthy you’ll look good.

So the first action I took came from Tim Ferris. Don’t eat anything white or that could be white. Meaning bread, pasta, rice, etc. I thought I was good because I ate whole grain bread fortified with quinoa or flax or any such shit. Nope. Gave up bread and pasta 5 or 6 days a week and started shedding belly fat. Plus having more energy through the day and feeling less sluggish less often.

Next I started strength training. We all think, and I did too, that cardio burns fat, you just run yourself thin. Nope again. To get your body to burn fat takes a shit ton of effort. You gotta get your heart rate near max for 20 minutes just to start burning any serious fat with cardio. And people doing fasted cardio just eat more later throughout the day (as does anyone skipping breakfast – don’t skip breakfast).

But muscle burns fat. Building muscle channels nutrients that might get stored as fat into useful areas. Plus strength training let’s you eat garbage bags of food. If you want to eat yourself thin you basically have to eat one meal a day. Switching to healthy snacks is still fueling your body, and your body burns carbs before it burns fat. A small bag of carrot sticks has enough sugar to fuel your body most of the day if you’re not training. Fat cells are your body’s savings account, it doesn’t want to dip into that, it’ll spend what you eat long before it reaches back and opens up the fat cell bank account. But if you burn those carrots for fuel and use the nutrients to repair the over-worked muscle? Go to town, get your carrot stick on, you can have almond butter on your celery, girl.

There might be some women reading this thinking they don’t want to work out with weights because they don’t want to get bulky. You won’t. You see all those bizarre, intense ads and huge tubs of protein powder, and tropes like Rocky drinking raw eggs? There’s a billion dollar industry and whole areas of science based on dudes trying to get bulky. It’s not going to happen to you by fucking accident.

And if you just stop eating your body will adjust. It’ll lower your metabolism and your NEAT (non-exercise thermogenesis), if you just eat less food over all rather than giving up carbs and beginning exercise your body’s maintenance calories will go down and down. It’s known as persistent metabolic adaptation or  The Biggest Loser effect.

So let’s review: Exercise and don’t eat flour everyday.

Booze ruins it all too. Sorry. We all knew it.

In studies one daily drink contributed to better health than zero. So hurray, drinking is good for you and everyone uses the totally fraudulent glass of wine with dinner example to justify drinking. But while one is better than none, two is worse. All the purported health benefits of drinking are undone by drinking.

But you know what? This isn’t about being a robot. Train hard and eat well during the week then do as you please. You’re not in competition, you just want to look and feel a little better. You still gotta live some life.

Beyond eating and training your whole life dictates if your gaining or losing abdominal fat (I’m focused on the that because abdominal fat is particularly a sign of a health problem and not just aesthetic) so get your sleep. Being tired makes you fat. Being stressed makes you fat. Being fat makes you tired and stressed which makes you more fat. Basically we’re always at the top of a point with slopes on either side, you’re either sliding away from health or towards it.

You can even find correlation (not necessarily causation) between smoking and a lack of intimate friendships. People who have one tend to have the other and they’re the number one and two predictors of all-cause fatality.

Any healthy choice has momentum but so does any unhealthy choice.

Even something as simple as eating a banana at breakfast because you’re going for a run spills over into other benefits like bananas containing tryptophan which is a serotonin precursor and makes you happy (in layman’s terms) and then the run also makes you feel happier, and then the fact that you ate breakfast means you’re going to eat smaller meals throughout the rest of the day so you’ll be leaner and you’ll be even more happy.

It’s a slippery slope in both directions, don’t let anyone tell you health is an all or nothing uphill battle, it gets easier and easier all the time as you make it your normal and keep finding good feelings.

 

What Makes A Good Work Out?

When I read the kettlebell work out in Aubrey Marcus’ Own The Day I thought that’s a good work out. And then when I did the work out I thought wow, that’s a really good work out.

But how did I know? What did I see when I read a series of movements and times organized in cycles that made it good?

As I see it the work out had two things going for it, Purpose and Novelty. Novelty is that it had moves I’d never done before which is always nice but doesn’t need much more to be said. Purpose I think is the feeling of imagining how rewarding something is going to be.

The work out is divided into sections and cycles. There’s a mobility section where you do 3 moves in a cycle as many times as you can in 8 minutes (so movement A, movement B, movement C, then repeat).

Playing with time also makes a work out good. Just doing reps doesn’t really feel like anything, no matter how near the end you are. But knowing time is running out excites you to keep moving. A timer also allows your thoughts to wander rather than mechanically counting which is pleasant, it makes working out more recreational and less like a chore.

Then in the work out there’s two more sections for power and conditioning. This gives it a sense of progress, like finishing a chapter and going to the next one. You feel like you’ve got one section under your belt and now you’re moving on, causing you to take stock of how you feel and notice you’ve got energy left, you feel good. And the sections are in order for a reason. There’s an Athlean X tricep work out I love that’s 6 movements in groups of 2 based on shortening the moment arm each time. It’s lovely because it’s just so organized.

And good work outs are Simple. The Aubrey work out is 2 kettlebells and some space, the Athlean X is 2 20lb dumbells and a floor. The more complicated a work out the less likely one is to even get started.

Because what a good work out isn’t is outcome focused. Tim Ferris talks about how people would ask him to write out on index cards exactly what they have to do to get abs and they’ll do it.

Success rate zero.

Looking at the outcome and the work out and thinking this is the chore that gets me there will not get you through a work out.

People say nothing tastes as good as skinny feels but you’re not skinny and you don’t feel good so fuck it, you end up eating pizza. And it’s the same with working out: you’ll give up on a hard work out because you’re comparing discomfort in the present to a future feeling you’ve never had.

Once you’ve seen some gains from diet and exercise you’ll be able to get through some pain cave moments knowing that there is a purpose but before that you have to keep the work outs as self-rewarding as possible.

They’ve got to be fun, quick, easy, simple, organized, purposeful, and variable.

Let’s Learn About Muscle Glycogen And Why You Should Eat Candy Post Work Out

Your body doesn’t prefer to store energy as fat, it prefers to store it as glycogen in the muscle and the liver. Glycogen is like the chequing account and fat is the savings account, you’re body spends from the glycogen fund and if that fund is full it stores the rest for a rainy day.

The money metaphor breaks down because you can’t empty your savings account all at once when you’ve saved up a ton and do a marathon or something. Anywho your body prefers to use glycogen which comes from glucose which is sugar which comes from carbs.

Neat fact; your body likes sugar so much if you don’t have any it will make some. If you exercise hard in the gym or in life and deplete your glycogen your liver will convert protein in a process called glycogenesis. But it won’t do it super well so you won’t really refill your stores and you’ll use up protein that could have gone to building and maintaining muscle fiber. So carbs post-work out is a good thing, in fact the quicker the carb the better, you can have candy and junk food after a work out because the body will grab it and store it as glycogen and doesn’t want to have to work too hard to get it. All those sports drinks and bars and crap? They’re just candy. Candy with extra salt and lightning bolts.

The notion is that one has to fuel up for the day and you don’t. You’re fueled. We all have enough carbs and fat at any given time to do anything that comes up; from an energy stand point we all have enough in the accounts to do about a half marathon right now. And one cookie has enough energy to get you the rest of the way.

Your body send out the alert signal of hunger (well, sugar cravings that we call hunger) all the time because money is being withdrawn from the chequing account in nickels and dimes and your body is one of those freakish cheap skates like oh no if we keep spending like this and we lost our income right now we’d be broke in three and half years! but your fat cells are like chill dude, we’ll pick up the tab if your card gets declined.

More like we’re always chipping in a percent based on VO2 max and ketosis is a thing where fat will pay the whole tab but I want to keep this metaphor accessible.

Anyway this is where we need to goal-split: If your goal is to lose fat you need to deplete your glycogen by working hard, resting long, and not having any carbs. Leave the chequing account empty so it’s filled by the savings account. But by god get your protein otherwise your body will break down your muscles. If you’re an athlete and you got lots of athlete shit to do get carbs immediately after your work out so you’re replenished for your next work out – or your job or parenting or whatever. But mostly working out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Up Fitness Routines

My first fitness routine was running 5 days a week and resting 2.

Followed immediately by having braces on both knees and taking two weeks off.

Lesson 1: Sticking To The Plan isn’t Noble If It’s A Bad Plan

My second fitness routine was running Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and resting in between. So some lessons were learned right there.

Then my fitness routine looks like this when I branched out into strength training to help with running:

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Are you even working out if you don’t have notebooks full of indecipherable hieroglyphics, bro?

 

 

 

That’s 17 planned work outs (of which I skipped 2 so far) in a week plus swimming laps whenever possible before work. It becomes like shifting puzzle pieces around; need a lot a space between back work outs, oh can’t put leg stuff before sprints, rest on the weekends or use the extra time to do longer work outs, what do I do before breakfast vs after work… it’s an eternal process.

So Lesson 2: Write It Down And Move It Around

Except for the breakfast thing – the answer is before breakfast.

I guess the key of both pieces of advice is have a plan but don’t stick to it. Sounds a bit weird but having a plan sets an expectations, it signals what your goal is so you know if you’re hitting it or not. Improvising with no plan you won’t know if you’re coming up short.

Variety is key. Not just for all the legit training reasons like differing stimuli but because the boredom factor is a real factor. Thinking that athletes are immune to boredom, or that fighting-through-boredom is a gift they have that you don’t, is plain stupid; stop thinking that immediately.

You’d never say I love movies so I watch the same movie everyday at the same time ’cause I’m hardcore. Enjoying movies means enjoy lots of different movies and shows and even reading about movies or other auxiliary things. That’s what it means to be into something.

Even with running there’s tons of variety to build into a routine. Long run, sprints, outdoor or treadmill, time trial or form focused, you can have a totally different running experience focusing on your footfalls or your breathing.

You can do all the same work but it’s never the same work out twice.

Working out is a big, big, big world and you’ll never be able to do all of it but don’t think that you can break off a teeny tiny piece like 15 sit ups every day and then dust your hands. Take a big fucking bite. In fact I think when starting out looking for a daily routine is poison, we don’t like doing things we’re not good at, it’s a perfect recipe for hating it and giving up. Instead pledge to try 3 new exercises everyday for a week, never repeat yourself, you’ll be forced to learn a lot and do a lot, find what you like and what you need to work on (answer always: external rotation), and I promise you you won’t get bored.

And take a second to be notice how it feels not just during but also after, notice that it gives a structure to the day that makes you do things like eat breakfast and shower in a timely fashion and not lose your whole morning to scrolling.

If the search for the perfect fitness routine keeps you working, learning, organizing, experimenting, etc, then it is the perfect fitness routine. The Search is the Destination. Mind Blown.

Get your search on and Leave No Doubt.

The Final Run Before The All Conditioning, No Running Month Of Training

I did my usual 90 minute run on January 31st.

I did a little warm then started the clock.

I did 11.5kph for the first 20 minutes, that’s slower than my normal start because I was still worried about my legs. And they were a little shakey but okay.

At 20 minutes I switched up to 12.5kph which is a comfortable place for me.

Then I went up to 13.5 from 40 minutes to 60 minutes which was a bit of push. It’s just over my threshold and I can feel it right away that I can’t sustain this pace forever. No pain though and my form had tightened up and I felt physically good.

I went up to 14kph for til 70 minutes then down to 13kph til 80 minutes and then just cranked it up as hard as I could bare trying to get as much distance as possible by 90 minutes.

Which turned out to 16kph in the last minutes and my limbs were going cold. But I blasted through the finish at 19.33K in 90 minutes. Which is not my best (which is 19.5K) and it’s because of the slower start.

So now it’s four week of the same morning workout every week day: Minute of toe raises on the stairs (30 seconds straight leg, 30 bent knees) then three barbell back squats with about 60 pounds. With no rack this means deadlifting it, cleaning it, overhead pressing it, back racking it, then squatting it 3 times and reversing that process so it’s a good full body thing. I do that superset 3 times then I cap it off with 75 kettlebell swings with the 45lb KB.

I throw some other things like lat raises in there too but that is the core daily morning work. At the gym I’ll be doing a speedwalk, deadlifts and box jumps superset, and bike intervals 3 times a week. Plus some long rows and some swims.

Plus some bench pressing and my usual flurry of pull ups which is outside of the run training.

So that’s the set up and I’ll check in mid month and do a month end 90 minute run and report how I feel.

 

Book Review: How Bad Do You Want It? By Matt Fitzgerald part 2

As promised, picking up from where we left off with Siri Lindey’s over active internal criticism.

Siri’s childhood home was emotionally desolate and she wanted to achieve things in order to feel seen, to be valued.

I can relate.

Unfortunately this meant that when she put tons of pressure on herself at big events and it caused her to make mistakes or to just plain panic and when she didn’t achieve her goals it confirmed what she really believed about her own value.

Again, I can relate.

Positively, I can also relate to the fact that she eventually got fucking sick of it and decided to be fueled by that anger. I wrote about this before (There Is Room For Negative Self-Talk In Fitness) and now I feel validated.

It’s a shift from thinking I’m a loser, no one loves me unless I’m perfect, I’m letting people down, everyone knows I suck and the more they encourage me the more it means they see that I suck because only babies need such patronizing (like I said, I related intimately to this story)  to thinking I’m just not going to let myself down anymore. That’s it, single priority, and everything else is a by-product I can’t control. And of course she goes on to be a champion. But more importantly she stops caring about being a champion. She let’s go of the idea that she has to be better than good enough to be loved or that other people have to love her in order for her to love herself and she retires young and takes up coaching to help other young people see that.

This chapter was called The Art Of Letting Go and I have another book mark a page later about how fantasizing about desired outcome – winning the race, losing the weight, finally being loved, whatever – actually decreases the amount of effort people put in to the task at hand. You get the micro dopamine hit of imagining it and then don’t want to put in the suck to truly get there.

So much of my depression came from comparing my life to my fantasies, to real self to my perfect self, and that’s why I was helped so much by losing everything. Dream dead and I’m still here, sun still comes up, I started living in the real world. Or at least stopped obsessing about how things were supposed to be and how they weren’t.

Again my race mantra of I’m merely here comes in handy. Rehearse the race not the victory lap, rehearse the suck not the celebration.

Luckily in all my rambling I covered the ideas behind a bunch of bookmarks and we’ve only got two left. I’ll do the shorter one first because it ties in a bit to what we just talked about – the effect of past wins.

On the one hand past wins build confidence, we love doing what we’re good at even if the test has been rigged and we’re artificially good at it. People shown they’re doing well at a game keep doing it – and by continuing to do it they do actually improve – more so than people who were merely allowed to suck.

This doesn’t work however on people with big egos, like big wins in other areas. You get a beginners luck dopamine hit by being surprisingly good at a new task. You don’t get it if you take for granted you’re great at everything. If your ‘greatness’ is a confirmation you then don’t practice because, obviously, you don’t need to.

So thinking about past wins can give you a boost but past wins aren’t future wins. You have no future wins, you just have your level of effort right now.

And finally, The Group Effect.

I have a problem with training partners because I find it always becomes a Mutual Excusing Society, a mes.

We decent people want others, especially those we care about, to be happy and safe. Training, real training, doesn’t bring that out. We also don’t like to be seen suffering and straining so we don’t push ourselves as hard in public (even a public of one) either.

But interestingly in the book I learned that we actually work harder while projecting, while reporting, quite possibly while feeling, less discomfort when we work out with a group.

So there is something to be said for training with a partner, or in groups, or in public but – firm pause – there’s a caveat I want to add. I think we should train alone in order to feel more strain, to get into the pain cave by ourselves and have only ourselves to rely on. Because that’s how you’re going to feel when it really, really, counts, the only time it counts.

When you’re really running a race, when you’re really doing something that matters, that puts you at your best now or never, everything you hear sounds far away, everyone you can see feels far away. If you always train with your friends, and your headphones, on sunny days, when you’re well rested, then you haven’t really trained for anything. Every hindrance, anything that’s sub-optimal, will just be overwhelming annoying and disappointing. You won’t have built any Resilience.

I train alone. In a silent concrete room. So that I know that the core of my strength comes from me. Sunny days, music, company, anything more than just me is a beautiful bonus and I’ll use it, I’ll love it, but I won’t need it. I won’t depended on it. I won’t depend on anything but me.

And that’s how bad I want it.