How to Have More Energy – The Quintessential Guide
Executive summary: People nowadays tend to complain about not having enough time or that they easily run out of time etc. That’s BS. It’s not time that you lack, but energy. Learn to properly manage your energy levels and the world is your oyster. I’ll show you how.
Apparent but quite neglected realization: It's not time that we lack but energy. Manage your energy levels and the world is your oyster.
— Adrian Iliopoulos 🏴☠️ (@theQSLmind) September 24, 2015
Readability: 3261 words, Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 61.8/100, Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Time is one of the most controversial human constructs.
Since time was universally acknowledged as a concrete notion, everything changed. We entered a fourth dimension and this reprogrammed our whole thinking patterns.
Before that, everything was simple. We just got by with ordinary things. Your average forager would go hunting during the day and would eventually return to his cave in the evening to celebrate his success with his tribe.
Every day he followed the same routine unless there was an attack by a huge animal or some severe weather conditions, or an invasion by another tribe. The thing is that time back then wasn’t an issue. I assume that people didn’t get obsessed with the time they would wake up or the time they would eat dinner or if they would be late for the occasional orgy.
Time measurement was presumably introduced with the dawn of the agricultural revolution almost 10,000 years ago for practical reasons . In his seminal book “Sapiens: A brief history of humankind,” Yuval Harari mentions that people started writing for record keeping purposes. The first texts of history were humdrum economic documents, recording the payment of taxes, the accumulation of debts and the ownership of property.
A clay tablet with an administrative text from the city of Uruk, c.3400–3000 BC. It reads: “29,086 measures barley 37 months Kushim.”
I assume that time was invented for the same reason. To keep record of when specific transactions took place. Of course this idea, like everything else, evolved dramatically, but its basic premise is stuck with us till today.
Time is such an integral part of our paradigms that even the mere thought of a timeless life confuses us. However, we all know deep inside that time is just a human construct and its only purpose should be to bring more order in our intrinsically chaotic lives.
So, let’s be realistic for a second. We all know that time isn’t your problem. Energy is your problem. The average person has almost 16 hours at his disposal every day to do shit. The problem isn’t that those 16 hours are not enough. The problem is that you have no idea what energy is and how to properly regulate it to get the most out of those 16 hours.
And that’s what I am going to attempt to scrutinize today.
As a side note, I’d like to mention that in this article I am going to make use, one more time, of the awareness-action principle. It was first introduced in the procrastination article and I endeavor to keep using it extensively. The reason is quite straightforward:
When people say knowledge is power, what they actually mean is awareness is power. When you understand something you can have power over it.
— Adrian Iliopoulos 🏴☠️ (@theQSLmind) January 6, 2016
So, first I am going to raise awareness by explaining the fundamentals of energy and then I am going to propose some actionable advice to ingrain into your day.
At the end of the post, you will also find a suggested energy-friendly daily schedule that you are more than welcome to emulate.
Why do we need energy anyway? There are actually four basic functions that energy helps with:
1. Basal metabolism. Basal Metabolic Rate or most commonly known as BMR is the amount of energy consumed while at rest. This includes, sleeping, chilling, sitting etc. BMR uses about 60% to 65% of your daily energy stores  and it supports functions such as blood circulation, respiration, digestion, excretion and other functions performed by vital organs.
2. Muscle growth and functioning. When you workout, what you actually do is that you damage your muscles. After workout, your body repairs damaged muscle fibers and during this process your muscles grow. For this process to be effective, you require a lot of energy that comes mainly from protein. Additionally, muscles aren’t solely for the purpose of weight lifting – muscles are essential in order to keep any human body alive. The cardiac muscle in the heart, for example, keeps the heart pumping, while muscles also line the digestive system and other organ systems in the body.
3. Physical activities. The most usual physical activities that are supported by energy are work, play and sex. The more active you are in your day to day life, the more energy you will need in order for your body to support the movement required. 1 Moreover, energy is required when your body fights invading organisms like viruses. This process uses massive amounts of physical energy. Fever, for instance, drains energy stores to restore and maintain normal temperature balance.
4. Mental activities. Neurons expend about 20% of the total energy consumed by the body each day , and nerve transmission across the synapses accounts for one-half of that expenditure. The most common mental activities that cause this consumption are reading, writing, pondering, internet related tasks etc. This category includes also worry and stress, which drain significant amount of mental and physical energy.2
Now, the main source of energy for humans is food . Each food contains calories, and a calorie is a unit of energy. Calories as a metric system, is predominantly used for counting food energy, whereas when it comes to counting energy consumption from other sources, Joule 3 is usually preferred.
The amount of calories required by the human body varies depending on your lifestyle. The average man requires 2,500-2,700 calories per day and the average woman 2,000-2,200. The more active your lifestyle, the more you need to consume, especially if you want to grow in size.
The thing is that what you eat, determines to a great extent the way your body will react to the macronutrients provided. Macronutrients are carbs, protein and fat. I won’t go deep into their science but as a general rule have the following in mind:
|Carbs are the body’s main source of fuel||Growth||Normal growth and development|
|Carbs are easily used by the body for energy||Tissue repair||Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)|
|All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy||Immune function||Absorbing certain vitamins|
|Carbs are needed for the central nervous system the kidneys the brain the muscles to function properly||Making essential hormones and enzymes||Providing cushioning for the organs|
|Carbs can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy||Energy when carbohydrate is not available||Maintaining cell membranes|
|Carbohydrates are important in intestinal health and waste elimination||Preserving lean muscle mass||Providing taste consistency and stability to foods|
As you can see, carbs are the main source of energy for humans and are strongly associated with glucose. Most of what we eat will be broken down to glucose. It is our fuel that is needed by all the cells and organs of our bodies and also keeps our brains awake and alert. So at all times, we have a certain glucose level in our blood, kind of like gasoline in a car. I will discuss glucose in a bit when I will explain the role of nutrition in our energy levels.
For now, I think you get the general idea about energy and why it is needed. The awareness part is partially covered and will be completed while I add some more bites of awareness in the action section.
For the sake of practicality, I will divide the action section into “how to manage physical energy” and “how to manage mental energy.” Both are equally important in the way you experience your day-to-day processes, so both need to be nurtured.
What struck me while I was doing my research on the best ways to regulate your energy levels, is that most of the advice is targeted at mental energy. Physical energy is all about resting. The less you move, the more you allow your muscles to regenerate and perform. However, there is one form of exercise that can significantly impact the amount of tiredness you experience throughout your day – Cardio.
I used to underestimate the importance of cardio in a healthy lifestyle but since I started experiencing symptoms of fatigue, especially when I was going clubbing, I decided to give it a try. As it turned out, cardio is a huge deal for three reasons :
- Heart rate. Cardio gets your heart pumping and as your heart adapts to the demand of cardio, it grows stronger, meaning that when you are resting your heart doesn’t have to beat as often to circulate blood. Thus, your resting heart rate lowers, reducing the demands on your body and leaving you with more energy. This becomes a positive feedback loop where increased energy boosts your workout so you build more endurance and have more energy to spare.
- Oxygen uptake. Cardio trains your body to use oxygen efficiently. It helps your lungs become better at absorbing oxygen from the blood and this helps you get access to greater oxygen reserves.
- Endorphins. It’s not a secret that when we exercise our body releases endorphins, which lift our mood and release stress. Endorphins are an important source of energy boost even for a short period of time (I elaborate more below).
The way I have incorporated cardio in my daily schedule is that I replaced it with my morning workout routine. I used to do 100 pushups, 100 squats, and 100 sit-ups the moment I woke up (Check “30 Challenges-30 Days- Zero Excuses” for the whole morning routine). Now, I get out of bed, wear my running outfit and run for 1-1.2 miles.
Who saw the cat?
This lasts for about 10 minutes and it is enough to give me a great endorphin boost and kick off my day quite energized.
On top of that, I have noticed that my stamina levels have increased dramatically and I tend to stay awake till late during the weekend without any substances apart from a cup of coffee.
Weightlifting is actually an energy draining process. Make sure to work out at the end of the day to avoid energy depletion throughout the day.
Mental energy is the real deal and apparently the main area you have power over when it comes to energy regulation.
A simple Google search on how to get more energy will showcase articles that share the same old advice: Sleep well, eat well, exercise. None of them, however, manage to deconstruct, decode and demystify 4 the real essence behind all three, so I am willing to give it a go.
I have discussed sleep extensively in the “Everything You Need to Know about Sleep and 10 Sleep Hacks to Help You Get the Most out of Your Sleep” article but understanding its importance in optimizing your energy levels is paramount.
When it comes to sleep there is one thing you need to have in mind. Sleeping doesn’t really affect the recovery of your muscles. Your muscles recover because you don’t need to move, so they have enough time to rest and regenerate. What sleep does is that it works as a tool to clear the brain’s short memory storage.
In a study conducted at UC Berkeley in 2007 , the researchers found that fact-based memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus before being sent to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which may have more storage space.
During sleep hippocampus is cleaned up and this allows you to think better and tackle everything from a fresh perspective. Without a clear mind, you unavoidably lose control of your abilities, you end up panicking and this consequently takes a toll on your energy levels.
So, sleep affects your energy more on a mental level rather than the physical.
A good 7.5 to 8-hour sleep during the night and a 20-30 minute nap around 3pm is all you need to maintain high cognitive performance levels till the end of the day.
As Illimitable Man suggests:
Not many people work at Google, so the nap is optional, but if you are creative you can find a way to treat yourself to a 20-minute nap in the office. One of these can help.
Here is where things get really interesting. One of the most fascinating things about eating is how various ingredients enter your brain through your blood stream. Whichever elements make it through to power your brain will help you to either focus or lose focus.
As I explained above, glucose is our fuel, keeping our brains become awake and alert. Glucose, however, is released in our brains in different levels. Certain foods release glucose quickly, whilst others do so more slowly, yet sustainably.
That’s where the term glycemic index comes into play. The glycemic index measures how fast and how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with higher index values raise blood sugar more rapidly than foods with lower glycemic index values do.
Foods with a low glycemic index number gradually release glucose into your bloodstream. This gradual release helps minimize blood sugar swings and optimizes brainpower and mental focus .
As a rule of thumb, have in mind that when it comes to carb intake from your meals, you should focus on foods with a low GI (<50). Harvard Health Publications has an analytical table of more than 100 common foods and their GI.
That’s something epic my GF cooked for me. Not sure about the GI but I felt like sharing it.
I recently stumbled upon this awesome book called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey.
This book explains in clear terms the role exercise plays in our mental processes. Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes. Ratey says, “thinking is the internalization of movement.” He illustrates this with the story of the sea squirt that hatches with a rudimentary spinal cord and 300 brain cells. It has only hours to find a spot of coral on which to put down roots or die. When it does put down roots, it eats its brain. According to Ratey, only a moving animal needs a brain.
I can totally attest to that.
As mentioned above, cardiovascular exercise helps in the release of endorphins. According to Webmd:
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Roy Baumeister, who is a psychology professor at Florida State University and co-author of the book “Willpower: Rediscovering our greatest strength,” after years of research in the field, concluded that we actually have a finite amount of willpower every day that becomes depleted as we use it. The way he reached that conclusion was by observing people while fighting with their desires.
After conducting a study in 2012 he realized that we fight with our desires all day long. Desire turns out to be the norm in our lives, not the exception. More specifically, the five most common desires we fight on a daily basis are eating, sleeping, sex, taking a break from hard work and checking email and social web.
What an astonishing finding. We all know that this is actually the norm, but not many of us try to reflect on that realization.
Our needs/desires have become our most powerful opponents in our attempt to preserve our willpower and use it for bigger things. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it is like a muscle that tires. What is in your control is with what you will tire him.
That is one of the trickiest and most powerful concepts known in the personal development sphere.
The reason, that is, is because resisting desire can also work as a way to deplete your willpower. When you try to work and you have a desire to stop and you resist it, you are actually draining energy from your willpower reserves. The distractions drain the finite pool of willpower until you can no longer resist.
When you try to work and you have a desire to stop and you resist it, you are actually draining energy from your willpower reserves. The distractions drain the finite pool of willpower until you can no longer resist.
Becoming aware of that fact helps you actually become more strategic in the things you focus on. The more you remove your focus from negative and futile activities, the more stamina you will end up mustering.
Strategic doses of meditation can help dramatically in that respect.
A great tip I can give you is something I have been experimenting with recently. Whenever I want to take a break from work, instead of abusing my Facebook and Twitter news feed or reading the news, I meditate. I just use 10-15 minutes of my break to meditate and this occurs almost every 3-4 hours.
The amount of presence and serenity I develop by adopting this habit is unimaginable.
Coffee and Tea
External substances can also prove their merit when it comes to regulating energy levels. The trick here is to strategically coordinate your dosages.
Caffeine is a very addictive substance and it has been proven that the more caffeine you inject in your body, the more you increase your tolerance levels.
The video below explains it perfectly:
I used to drink a lot of coffee and I was unaware of how it was affecting my mood and stamina levels.
I knew I had to reduce the doses, but I had to find a good alternative. This led me to my latest discovery – Matcha tea.
Matcha is premium green tea powder from Japan used for drinking as tea or as an ingredient in recipes. The health benefits of matcha exceed those of other green teas because matcha drinkers ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water. One glass of matcha is the equivalent of 10 glasses of green tea in terms of nutritional value and antioxidant content.
Apart from the fact that it is an antioxidant powerhouse, matcha tea helps with your focus and stress levels, thus helping with the areas we covered above.
My suggestion is this:
Drink a cup of coffee the moment you wake up to eliminate any sense of grogginess left.
Prepare a matcha tea or Latte around 11am.
My favorite brand is this one. You can order a 30gr package to get started. You use 2gr of matcha powder for one cup of water or milk, so this will last for almost 15 days if you drink daily.
Drink another cup of coffee around 4pm or 5pm .
This strategy has served me well and I feel quite energized throughout the day. I also drink one more cup of coffee around 10pm if I decide to go out on a Friday or Saturday night.
Here is the sample daily schedule as promised:
|5-7am||Run for 1-1.2 miles.|
|8 am||5 minutes meditation|
|1pm||10 minutes meditation|
|3.30pm||30 minute nap (optional)|
|5pm||5 minutes meditation|
|9pm||5 minutes meditation|
There are more areas I thought could delve into while writing this piece like longevity and nutrition, singularity and how technology will help us increase our stamina and transcend the limits of our abilities, and quantum theory and the notion of time.
For the sake of brevity I decided to focus on advice I find more relevant for the time being.
If you want me to cover the above topics in detail in the future let me know in the comment section below.
If you keep thinking that you don’t have much time, I leave you with the opening lines of Richard Dawkins’s “Unweaving the Rainbow,” which I found incredibly inspiring:
We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.
Till next time.
p.s. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get our epic articles in your inbox on a weekly basis.
 The Paleolithic Era to the Agricultural Revolution.
 Wikipedia: Basal Metabolic Rate.
 A default mode of brain function.
 What are calories? What is a calorie?
 Does cardio give you energy?
 An afternoon nap boosts brain’s learning capacity.
 How the food you eat makes you more productive.
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