Have you ever felt like your “get up and go” has got up and went?
– You can’t focus.
– Your goals fall by the wayside.
– You get that weird jelly-legged thing whenever physical activity starts to get remotely challenging.
Over the years I’ve met countless people who have found themselves in a slump like this, and it usually had nothing to do with motivation, so stop beating yourself up about it. Here are the top six things which caused it for the majority of people.
Dehydration is the most common cause of zonkyness (word?), and it’s also the easiest to correct.
You see, we live in a crazy world where people are happy to spend hundreds of dollars/pounds per month on supplements, many of which are unproven, while completely forgetting about nature’s best “supplement”: Water.
I’ve spoken previously about the negative impact which dehydration can have on performance (a dehydrated muscle can lose up to 20% of its contraction force) and appearance (muscles are 79% water, so “filling them” inevitably makes you look more awesome), but what about life outside of the gym?
Well, in the long-term you can expect seizures, kidney failure and death, but you’d need to be severely dehydrated for any of those to happen. Most of us just experience the less serious, but still unpleasant, short-term side effects of dehydration which include zero stamina, mental fog, nasty headaches, snappy moods, and a mouth which is drier than a camel’s foof.
So yeah, drink more fucking water.
I recommend aiming for 3-4 liters per day. For those of you who think that sounds like a lot, let me put this into perspective:
- You will lose around 500ml of water through perspiration.
- Another 500ml will be exhaled as water vapor during breathing, taking the total to 1 liter.
- Your intestines and kidney will blast through about 1.5 liters, bringing you to a whopping 2 liters so far.
- Oh, and this is before we look at any exercise which you are performing, so those of you who go to the gym (i.e. all of you) will need to increase this by 1-2 liters to keep you hydrated during training, which takes you to 3-4 liters per day.
2. Not Enough Fruit And Veg
It is often said that you can eat whatever you want provided you stay within your calorie targets.
While this is true from a weight loss perspective, it’s definitely false from an energy perspective.
You see, the problem with saying “eat whatever you want” is that most people try to cram as much junk food into their numbers as possible. Junk food does not provide much in the way of nutritional content, so when the going gets tough these folks have an urge to eat everything in the hope that this will address their lack of energy.
This just makes them feel bad, like they’ve failed their diet, and it doesn’t actually address the problem.
Vitamins and minerals (aka micronutrients) are dietary powerhouses which are responsible for a whole raft of health benefits, including shinier hair, better skin, stronger nails, improved moods and, you guessed it, higher energy levels.
If you can make sure you’re eating foods which contain these (i.e. fruit and vegetables) you will notice an immediate energy boost – and this is why, even though you can technically eat whatever you want and still lose weight, the basis of your diet should still be good old healthy foods.
3. Insufficient Sleep
Have you ever forgotten to charge your phone overnight?
I’m sure you’ll agree there are few worse feelings than the existential dread caused by going to work on 18% battery.
But here’s the thing:
That’s what’s happening to your body when you don’t get enough sleep.
You see, shut-eye is literally CRUCIAL to your health. This is where your muscles will receive a full re-charge, so they can be trained more effectively in your next workout, and your brain gets a timely energy boost, making it possible for you to spend another day around humans without stapling their tongues to their foreheads.
Unfortunately, sleep is often the first casualty of a busy schedule, and to make matters worse, the human body is an incredibly adaptive machine – so if you continually give it just few hours of sleep each night, it will eventually figure out how to survive by shutting off any unnecssary processes, and you’ll become one of those annoying cock-toboggans who claims “I can function perfectly fine on barely any sleep, bro”, while pumping their second fifth coffee of the day at 10am.
Here’s what to do:
- Aim for 8 hours.
- Make sure bedtime is roughly the same time most nights.
4. Lack Of A Clear Goal
People coast when they don’t have a goal.
Case in point;
Many years ago, a friend and I were working in a call center. It was pretty unfulfilling, because we were dealing with complaints all day, but it paid the bills. Eventually a new boss arrived, and she began setting daily targets for all staff members to hit. The introduction of these targets made both of us much more productive, in a job where we previously felt like we were just going through the motions.
It’s a lesson which I took with me into my fitness career, teaching clients how to set primary goals and min-goals to make themselves more productive, but it’s something which I’ve noticed many people fail to do in the gym.
Seriously, if you ask a hundred people in the gym about their training goals, the vast majority of people will either say something unrealistic (“I want to get like Arnold Schwarzenegger without using drugs”), or something really vague (“I just want to lose some fat and build some muscle”).
These are both examples of poor goals, because they encourage us into a state of just going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym, and not really pushing yourself to accomplish anything – even though you are more than capable of doing so, and even though, deep down, there is probably a transformation you’d like to make.
So if this sounds like you, I recommend writing down a S.M.A.R.T. Goal. This is where you set a specific goal, then lay out how you’re going to measure progress, and set a deadline to achieve it. It’s a technique which WORKS, and one I’ve used with more men and women in the gym than I can even remember. Start by making it around your fitness routine, and once you’ve seen how impressive the results are, you can apply the same technique to any other area of your life which you feel de-endergizes you.
5. Financial Stress
I love having it, of course, but I hate the stress it brings.
Financial stress can be all-consuming. It causes people to feel worried all the time. You can’t really think of anything else. It zaps the life out of you the the point where you can just want to pull away from your social circle, which usually makes it worse.
I’m wriing this article for you in 2023, and all around my neighborhood in the UK there’s talk of “the cost of living crisis”. It seeems like everybody (at least to some degree) is feeling the effects of it.
So this one is a little different.
Because unlike the other things on this list, where I have explained how to address the situation, I can’t really do that with regards to financial stress. After all, I do not know anything about your finances – nor am I an expert, heck, sometimes I’m a total mess! The reason why I still included it, albeit in bottom place, is because I just want you to be aware of it and to not be too hard on yourself, because feeling the strain of financial stress often creates a negative knock-on effect for everything else on this list:
- Sleep takes a massive hit.
- You eat crappy foods because you’re not focused on preparing healthy meals.
- Water intake significantly drops because you forget.
- Goals go out of the window because you’re just worried about right now.
Make sense? Good.
6. Too Many Energy Drinks
My original list only had five things on it, but I decided to come back and add a sixth, because I’ve seen this one increasingly more in the last couple of years.
Fucking energy drinks.
I bet you could reel off the names of at least five friends who drink multiple cans per day.
Now, I’m just going to answer the big question which most readers will be thinking right now:
How in the holy mother of fuck could an energy drink (or lots of them) leave you feeling a lack of energy, considering they’re pumped full of caffeine? Surely that defeats the purpose?
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not give you more energy. You read that correctly: caffeine does not give you more energy. The reason you feel so wired is because it temporarily changes the way in which your brain cells interact with a compound called adenosine.
Adenosine is responsible for regulating our sleep and wake-up cycle. Adenosine levels increase when you perform activities throughout the day, eventually reaching a maximum threshold. This max threshold is kinda like the filter which sits at the top of your bathtub, preventing you from overflowing the tub by accident. When adenosine reaches the max threshold, it will bind to a receptor (part of the brain cells which can receive a signal), informing your brain that you are wrecked, and it then tells you to slow down by making you feel drowsy and tired.
But here’s where it gets crazy…
Caffeine has a similar structure to adenosine, so when we consume caffeine it binds to the same receptors in the brain, making it impossible for adenosine to do so. That’s why you don’t feel tired (even though you probably are, otherwise you likely wouldn’t have reached for caffeine in the first place). Now, the benefits of caffeine are short-lived, so when it un-binds from the receptor you’ll have a fuck-tonne of adenosine ready to rush into the brain and bind to a receptor. This is commonly known as the caffeine crash.
And that brings me to energy drinks.
Energy drink consumers often inadvertently make the problem worse for themselves, because when this lull arrives they simply reach for another can. In doing so, this puts their body back to square one and the process begins again.
After a prolonged period of consuming multiple cans per day, they’re dealing with such a big build-up of adenosine that they are constantly in the red, and feel like they can’t function at a normal level without a can of luminous rocket fuel in their hand at all times.