The Energy Solution

Last week we spoke about ways that our food, exercise and lifestyle can have a negative effect on our energy and vitality as well as on our waistline.

In my case this resulted in lower energy, less motivation and a lack of interest in life that bordered on symptoms of depression.

Apart from the fact that this didn’t feel great for me personally, it also had a negative effect on my family and business.

It was for these reasons that I decided that I needed to sort myself out and that I’d need some help with it. I enlisted the help of Eoin Lacey, the co-owner of Irish Strength Institute, and we agreed to put a programme in place to get me back to my physical and mental peak.

Over the years I’d prided myself on “talking the talk and walking the walk”. I maintained a regular training programme, played competitive sport and ate a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables, meat and fruit with the occasional sweet and alcohol treats. Most importantly I slept well and felt energetic.

However, more recently, these habits were starting to slide as the demands of work and family made it more challenging to maintain the so-called work-life balance.

Something had to give, and this time, it was me. The following action items are similar to what I’d been recommending to clients for years. However knowing what to do and doing it are 2 very different things, but by having a Coach to report to, I was ensuring that I’d a much better chance of reaching my goals.

During the time that my energy levels were deteriorating, I’d found myself craving junk food to a greater degree. As often happens in these cases, I’d convinced myself that I “needed” the sugar fix to keep me going. Actually the exact opposite is true (and I knew it!). Excess sugar in the form of sweets, chocolate and most processed products cause massive blood sugar imbalances leading to cravings and energy and mood swings. This in turn leads to further cravings, “sugar hangovers” and a general feeling of mental and physical fatigue.

A slightly extreme measure was called for and I decided to go “Cold Turkey”. I went on a 14-day protein and fat adaptation diet. This meant that I was going to eat only green vegetables and salad, with some unprocessed, lean meat and fish (preferably organic) at EVERY meal for 2 weeks.

The purpose of this is to improve Metabolic Flexibility. People who are metabolically flexible can use either carbohydrates or body fat as energy, and therefore, they can maintain more consistent energy levels while also having improved exercise capacity and generally lower body fat levels.

Metabolic inflexibility means there’s an over-reliance on carbohydrates as the main fuel source, and this in turn makes it harder to lose body fat.

The first 3 or 4 days on this programme was hard going. Initially I felt hungry all the time and then, on day 4 I was very sluggish. But as the fat adaptation began to take place and I started eating a LOT more meat and veg, I started to feel really good. And more importantly those dreaded sugar cravings were becoming a thing of the past.

In my case I actually had to reduce the intensity of training. The problem was that I was training very hard but I wasn’t recovering from it. Pure ego and stubbornness meant that I kept going until I crashed. Therefore I saw no improvement from my efforts, which reduced the enjoyment and increased my stress levels.

By reducing the intensity of my sessions and only training when I felt fully recovered, I began to enjoy it more, ended up working out more regularly and this in turn lead to reduced stress levels.

Most of my stress came from feelings of not having enough time. But this was due to a lack of planning. By putting more structure on my work, meals, training and study, I found I was able to free up a lot more time to enjoy with my family and friends. I also began a very basic meditation routine which allowed me to switch off my brain for 10-15 minutes at a time. And I started walking the dog again! Less stress and more regular, enjoyable exercise also had me sleeping much better.

If you decide to start a New Year Health plan, I would suggest that you try the steps outlined above. In my opinion, having the physical and mental energy to enjoy life should be top of your New Year Resolutions.

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