Biological debt

Saw this interesting take on the body’s energy levels. At the moment I am working nights to supplement my writing income, so energy is something I always struggle with.

I generally don’t drink caffeine, but sometimes when I’m desperate to make quick progress I do. When I wrote the first draft of On the Holloway Road in a month, while working full-time, needless to say I drank a LOT of coffee! It worked well then, I think, because it was a limited time and I could keep myself going. In general, though, I relate to what this article describes – caffeine and refined sugar giving short bursts of energy but building up a “biological debt” which makes you more tired and needing more caffeine/sugar all the time to keep your energy up to the same level.

That’s why most of the time I avoid the coffee treadmill. Sometimes it’s a struggle, especially when I take my laptop to a cafe and am trying to write while the aroma of fresh coffee wafts over me. It’s so tempting to get that instant buzz. But what this article makes clear is that there’s always a pay-off later on. I will try to remember this article and its useful distinction between “two types of energy: one obtained from stimulation, the other from nourishment.” Nourishment definitely seems like the way to go.

How do you cope with swooning energy levels? From what I’ve read and heard anecdotally, coffee seems to be as much a part of writers’ lives as a laptop and dictionary. Does anyone else notice this growing feeling of fatigue or “biological debt” from too much coffee, though? What about energy drinks, Pro Plus, Red Bull, etc.? How do you find the right balance between being productive and staying healthy?

3 thoughts on “Biological debt

  1. At the risk of sounding like some kind of angel (it’s probably worth mentioning that I do drink alcohol and, horror of horrors, smoke cigarettes) – I don’t drink caffeine. Precisely because of the crash I get from it. Because I’ve never really drunk it, I am not addicted, but I see how other people can’t start the day without it. I am sure I am more alert when I wake up because my body isn’t expecting or hoping for any help. The other things I believe in: 1) energy breeds energy – the fitter you are, the more you can do – mentally and physically 2) Eat little and often and fruit and nuts are key 3) Powernapping is very effective, as is a brisk walk http://www.kinforms.org/index.files/MRIJ4(1)2009(3).pdf

  2. Great post! I love candy and soda, but try not to consume them often. Chocolate is a big downfall, but if I stick with the higher-percentage cocoa ones the sugar content isn’t too bad. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t have a problem there. Whenever I’m feeling particularly tired and need a pick me up I’ll drink ice water and have a snack of carbs (like pretzels or something). That usually gets my blood sugar back up.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions and ideas. Liked the link to the sleep deprivation article, Helen! I’ve never been able to power-nap unfortunately – once I’m awake I’m awake, and I might feel sluggish and low-energy but I can’t actually sleep (or if I do, I sleep for HOURS!). But I’ll try the other suggestions. Ice water and a snack is definitely a better idea than espresso and millionaire shortbread!

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