Jan 23 • 5M

How to find and bring the energy

Plan Your Next #93

Nate Kadlac
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I'm Nate Kadlac, designer of Plan Your Next. A weekly newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.
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👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #93 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.

How to find and bring the energy
Illustration by Nate Kadlac. That’s me!

Imagine Play-Doh being poked by an index finger. This is me nudging myself to get up out of bed every morning. 

Sometimes I spend the first few minutes scanning my phone notifications to the dismay of every article titled, The Ultimate Guide to Productivity. When I do roll out of bed in a zombie-like state, my body is full of potential energy even if it doesn’t feel like it. Potential energy is stored energy, waiting for an external force to push it around.

But I need more than an index finger. 

To do any type of real work, a transfer of energy needs to happen. A force to push my fingers into these keys and make words seemingly appear. Most days this feels more difficult than Luke Skywalker trying to use the force to lift an X-Wing from the swamp. But a right hook from our nine-month-old daughter certainly helps. 

Since we don’t have Sci-Fi superpowers at our fingertips, we need to plan ahead to have a sustainable energetic platform to wield. Things like making time to exercise for 20-30 minutes, eating healthy, going for walks, and not drinking every night.

And if you’re like me and have kids, you need more horsepower than the average human. To do work before the kids get up, during naps, and after they go down, you can’t fill those precious minutes watching Netflix while not exercising, going for walks, and drinking every night.

The play-doh-like state I find myself in crept up over the past 18 months. My energy feels low. I get tired easily, my mind drifts, and the small things like watering all 30 plants in our house make me want to intentionally kill them off. Not surprisingly, I’m quickly becoming a daily connoisseur of the wines of the world and siphoning my wife’s stash of brownie crisps. 

Somehow, Alie has incredible moderation. I’ve joked I should have a lockbox to store all of her sweets in it. Sneaking them behind her back and hoping she doesn’t notice isn’t fooling anyone except for my in-the-moment shame.

If I’m being honest, I replaced cooking with take-out, my 45-minute banger Peloton rides became 20 minutes, my drinking went from 1 to 3 glasses a night, and I found a new habit of slamming Trader Joe’s licorice bags in a single setting. 

3 teeny-tiny extra pounds suddenly became 15. 

Just 2 years ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was cycling, taking daily walks, eating well, springing up from bed, and not buying Trader Joe's licorice.

During Alie’s pregnancy, I read an article that blamed the #dadbod on having a child, somehow making up another excuse that it wasn’t my fault for doing everything I just listed. Fuck that. 

We’re always on the lookout for hacks and ways to be more productive, but the more I reflect on what’s holding me back, it’s less about the tools and more about how much energy I have during the day.

The best work I’ve done has come from the moments I feel energized to work on a project. My best writing has come from the times I laugh while writing, overflowing with energy. My best workouts come from when I feel limber and energized to immediately jump into that HITT session. And sex is better when I wouldn’t rather be napping. 

I’ve read enough books and listened to enough podcasts to know what to do, but finding that perfect energy state is elusive. Even if you do have it, it can sneak out the door without notice. Your weakest point can come when you feel the strongest.

Monitoring my blood sugar 

Like I imagine what takes place in AA, part of the solution is admitting there’s a problem. 

I decided to stick a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) in my left arm to start understanding the fluctuations in my energy. Having this in your arm is like forcing yourself to stare at the calories on a Mcdonald's menu in real-time. 

Glucose is the scientific term for blood sugar, and your body needs it for energy. The Greek word for glucose is, “sweet.”, which is my vice. Just hearing that word makes me crave a cookie. So understanding which foods and activities spike your blood sugar helps you know why you’re suddenly reeling from a lack of energy. (Or craving that cookie.)

Even having a few glasses of wine might feel good at the moment, but your liver doesn’t process it for a few hours. While your liver is working overtime at 2 am, your heart rate speeds up, keeping your body up even though you think you’re sleeping. Reading any online article about your liver is much different than looking at last night's spiky graph.

Levels Health CGM graph
Rendition of my Levels Health CGM graph showing early AM and late night blood sugar spikes

The main takeaway from 5 days in—outside of how important alcohol moderation is—is by taking a 15 min walk after eating will help clear up most spikes in your blood sugar. You can even splurge a little and a walk will suppress your spikes. Keeping my blood levels steady keeps my appetite at human levels and my cravings for sugar to a minimum.

Levels Health CGM graph #2
(Just 3 days later) A rendition of Levels Health CGM shows my blood sugar in check and under 120 mg/dL. (The goal of the challenge)

So far, I’m finding my afternoons filled with more energy and my mornings are slowly catching up. I want to get back to my best self. My goal is to lose 20 lbs, lift 3x a week, read and write more often, and stop watching Netflix every day. 

These steps are just the table stakes to fulfill my real goals: To execute every day on the most important projects in my life: Approachable Design and being a father, and whatever is next. 

And none of this will get done by trying to push Play-Doh around with an index finger.

:Thanks to Florian and Charlie for feedback:

⚡️ Two creative hits for next week

The 5 stages of fasting
I love this simple breakdown of how your body reacts the longer you fast. Fasting starts at around 8 hours, but significant benefits like ketosis, mental clarity, and fat burning start between 12-18 hours. For the record, I’ve done plenty of fasting in the past, but didn’t really dig into the details much until now.

Levels Health and how to monitor your glucose (blood sugar)
I linked to the challenge I’m doing last week, but the CGM mentioned in my essay is called Levels Health. It’s about the size of a quarter and sits on your arm. It’s not cheap, but I only plan to wear it for a month to experiment and test while doing the challenge.

One other insight I had: Taking apple cider vinegar before a meal suppresses your blood spike. This is useful to help blunt any potential energy swings later in the day, or usually right after a meal.

One last serendipitous podcast I listened to this week was between Tim Ferriss and Chef Marco Canora. Marco helped Tim Ferris with the 4-Hour Body years ago, and just talked about his own experience wearing a CGM. Found it timely and he also endorsed walking after a meal.


👋 See you next Sunday

If you’ve forgotten who I am, here’s a little bit about me. As always, my calendar is open to chat about your next adventure, crazy idea, or if you’re feeling creatively stuck.

Have a great week,

Nate

p.s. If you enjoyed this letter, would you please let me know by tapping on the heart below?