Slow Down to Speed Up

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“Coffee is a language in itself.” — Jackie Chan

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As a coach, athlete, and writer, I need to be energized in both body and mind the whole day. And my favorite way to increase my energy, increase productivity, and burn more fat is to have a strong, warm cup of black coffee!

Our energy is a precious resource. Our performance at the gym, the workplace, at home, as well as our mood and overall well-being are directly affected by our energy or the lack of it. The twenty-four hours in a day are never enough to accomplish everything we need to do. Oftentimes, we struggle to manage our energy and end up spreading ourselves too thin as we take on more and more. As the papers pile up, deadlines approach and meetings extend, our power source gets depleted. We then go into “survival mode” and find ourselves disinterested, distracted, or simply fatigued. As a coach, athlete, and writer, I need to be energized in both body and mind the whole day. And my favorite way to increase my energy, increase productivity, and burn more fat is to have a strong, warm cup of black coffee!

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” — Honore de Balzac

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Many recent researches on coffee and caffeine show the vast benefits of coffee ranging from preventing diabetes to lowering chances of developing Alzheimer’s and liver disease.

Now, depending on who you ask, coffee may be the most wonderful beverage in the world or the worst. Is coffee good or bad for you? The question is simple, but the answer, not quite. My response? It’s not the coffee, it’s the person. Many recent researches on coffee and caffeine show the vast benefits of coffee ranging from preventing diabetes to lowering chances of developing Alzheimer’s and liver disease. On the other hand, it is also argued that coffee can be addictive and can mess with one’s stress hormones. Amidst the varying takes on coffee, one thing is for sure, the effects of coffee are not the same for everyone. If you have adrenal fatigue, restlessness, and are getting a hard time sleeping at night, coffee may not be a good idea. Consulting with your physician to know more about how your body responds to caffeine would be a wise thing to do but so is cultivating the ability to listen to your own body’s response to the things that you ingest. Knowing thyself also means listening to your body especially when it responds negatively to certain substances. It will be wise to keep track of your biological stress levels.

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Whatever is your relationship with coffee, the timing that you take it ultimately makes all the difference.

Coffee may not be for everyone but I have to say that I can’t live without it. If you’re having an “on and off” relationship with coffee, Daniel Pink’s take on coffee may be helpful. The saying “Timing is everything” holds true not only in life but also in coffee (coffee consumption that is!). For some, coffee may be their lifeblood while for others, coffee may just be an occasional energy-booster. Whatever is your relationship with coffee, the timing that you take it ultimately makes all the difference. In his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink wrote that “The moment we awaken, our bodies begin producing cortisol, a stress hormone that kick-starts our groggy souls. But it turns out that caffeine interferes with the production of cortisol—so starting the day immediately with a cup of coffee barely boosts our wakefulness. Worse, early-morning coffee increases our tolerance for caffeine, which means we must gulp ever more to obtain its benefits. The better approach is to drink that first cup an hour or ninety minutes after waking up, once our cortisol production has peaked and the caffeine can do its magic.”

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Not all coffee beans are made equal. According to Dr. Josh Axe, coffee one of the most pesticide-sprayed plants in the US. So buying organic or pesticide-free single-origin, high-altitude beans is the best. 

Coffee is chock-full of antioxidants. It can help fight and stave off the toxicity we are regularly immersed in. Also, caffeine is a stimulant that can boost energy and help you burn more fat. Caffeine can also improve athletic performance by reducing muscle fatigue and increase overall strength.

“A study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2001 found that coffee has significantly more total antioxidant activity than either cocoa, green tea, black tea, or herbal tea. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition in 2004 looked at the dietary records of 2,672 Norwegian adults and concluded—much to the surprise of the researchers themselves—that coffee was the single greatest contributor to their total antioxidant intake.” — Jonny Bowden, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why

I usually start my day at 5:30 in the morning with a nice cup of coffee. (Given Daniel Pink’s research, I think I myself should make some adjustments to the timing that I take my cup of Joe in the morning! Instead of taking it at 5:45, it would better to take my cup of strong, black coffee at 6:30! It’s all about timing and the cortisol too!) Then, I bike off to work to train some clients. In the afternoon, to get the most benefit out of my workout, I drink another cup of coffee, 30-minutes prior. I have found that with 200-400mg of caffeine or around one to two cups of coffee, I can go longer, harder and put in more intensity, which can translate into better results in my overall performance.

“Coffee came to be regarded as the very antithesis of alcohol, sobering rather than intoxicating, heightening perception rather than dulling the senses and blotting out reality.” — Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses

 

One good technique I recommend to those who tolerate coffee well and who regularly exercise is Bulletproof coffee. The term coined by Dave Asprey, Bulletproof coffee is blended coffee, MCT oil and grass-fed butter. MCT or medium chain triglycerides is a fat that does not get stored in the body. On the contrary, it provides a long lasting, non-crashing stream of energy! Grass-fed butter, on the other hand, contains anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids which can help you heal faster from your training. Lastly, caffeine as already mentioned, is a fat burner. Add in MCT oil and grass-fed butter to your coffee and you get an aromatic triple-whammy concoction to increase physical and mental performance, burn fat, heal and get results faster!

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Coffee may not be for everyone but I have to say that I can’t live without it.

Here’s a bonus hack/pro tip to increase productivity—the Nappuccino, made popular by Daniel Pink. Napping plus coffee equals ultimate focus and productivity! Napping, according to a University of California-Berkeley study, expands the brain’s capacity to learn. Also, nappers easily outperformed non-nappers on their ability to retain information, solve complex problems. So if you want to boost your energy, work faster and be more cognitively efficient, slowing down, taking a break and retiring to a nap may just be the perfect solution.

Coffee, the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain, which unlike other spirits, heightens purity and lucidity; coffee, which clears the clouds of the imagination and their gloomy weight; which illuminates the reality of things suddenly with the flash of truth. —Jules Michelet, French historian (1798-1874)

 

Upon drinking, it takes 20-30 minutes before the caffeine in coffee kicks in. Guess what? This is the perfect window for a power nap! Naps that last no more than 25-30 minutes are the best. This is because of the phenomenon called Sleep Inertia. An Australian study published in the Journal of Sleep found that five-minute naps did little to reduce fatigue, increase vigor and sharpen thinking. Ten-minute naps, however, had positive effects. But naps that lasted beyond the 20 minute mark causes the body to feel confused and sluggish, otherwise known as Sleep Inertia.

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When your beans are from a trusted farm, grown in the right altitude,  and prepared and roasted properly, the amount molds found in the beans drastically decreases. Lesser molds equals lesser gut irritation and immune response.

 As you can see, coffee, Bulletproof coffee and the Nappuccino can work wonders for our fast-paced and demanding lifestyles. However, be wary because not all coffee beans are made equal. According to Dr. Josh Axe, coffee one of the most pesticide-sprayed plants in the US. So buying organic or pesticide-free single-origin, high-altitude beans is the best.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” — T.S. Eliot

I’ve visited Chapter Coffee Roasters, a third-wave coffee shop in Maginhawa to learn more about coffee and bean quality. I asked Earl Queron, one of the baristas, to teach me a thing or two about coffee and how it is farmed, roasted, and brewed. 

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By the aroma and fragrance of the beans, a good barista can immediately tell whether they have been sprayed with pesticides!

Single-origin beans means that the beans are harvested from a single farm, locality, or country. When your beans are from a trusted farm, grown in the right altitude,  and prepared and roasted properly, the amount molds found in the beans drastically decreases. Lesser molds equals lesser gut irritation and immune response. Molds also can’t survive in high altitudes, that’s why Earl recommends buying higher altitude beans. He and his team of baristas and roasters also have a way to know whether the beans that have been bought from the farmers are organic. By the aroma and fragrance of the beans, they can immediately tell whether they have been sprayed with pesticides! Now that is true skill! I couldn’t be more honored and pleased to be learning from of the the best! Thank you, Earl! Make sure you visit him at Chapter Coffee Roasters and Cafe!

 

Energy does not always translate into productivity. We need to develop an awareness on how to produce, harness and allocate our energy if we want to thrive and function well in our daily lives. There are times, however, that we tend to rush and spread ourselves too thin. In exercising, we tend to get greedy when we know we can lift more but might end up hurting, injuring ourselves. We end up confused, fatigued, and more unproductive than ever. There is wisdom in proper timing. Sometimes you just need to slow things down, take a break or even have a nice cup of Nappuccino. In training and in life, recover first and then grind. Having the patience to slow down can actually speed you up.

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There is wisdom in proper timing. Sometimes you just need to slow things down, take a break or even have a nice cup of Nappuccino.

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.” —Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

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