Eating for Recovery

Most of the time when you think about eating to support rest and recovery, you think about protein. At school you learned that “protein is for growth and repair” so it makes sense.

It’s not as though this isn’t true. But, like so much with life and eating, it’s not that simple. When you’re trying to recover and rest, your body uses a whole lot of other nutrients and minerals in addition to the macronutrients. It will depend entirely on you and the specific situation as to exactly which nutrients you need. Honestly, it’s pretty likely you won’t be able to tell what you need. There are some foods that are good to eat for recovery, your body will do its best with what you give it.

Last week I wrote about eating when you’re tired. The post was really about using systems to help you stay on track while you’re tired or otherwise engaged. This very same system is what will support you in rest and recovery. If you’re supporting your body all the time by mostly eating a varied diet of foods that work for you, you won’t need to do anything in particular to help recover.

Timing and specific details on exactly what food to eat to recover from exercise could help athletes. But if your eating system isn’t working for you, what you eat to recover and support your rest won’t really matter to the big picture. To spend time worrying about the specifics is a detail distracting you from the main game.

Eating is about the strategy, not the tactics.

Working In

This month, I’m exploring the relationship between movement and rest.

Last week, I was recovering from an enormous amount of movement. It was also the first week of my new movement program, so I got to the end of the week feeling extrememly tired. So much for resting! That said, I only felt fully recovered once I was able to move fully again. So, this week I’m looking at ways to keep moving while still getting the required rest.

I found something you’ll love: I heard about the concept of ‘working in’ on a recent episode of the Onnit podcast. It’s about doing movements that bring more energy into the body rather than depleting the body. It’s resting movement! This working in article over at the C.H.E.K. Institute goes into a bit more detail about how to do a work-in. Essentially, it’s doing movements that don’t raise your heart rate or breathing above a rested state like gentle forms of yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.

Restful Creation

If you’re constantly bringing in information and not processing, you’re not taking action and the information is pointless. Information is addictive. We crave it. Lack of information isn’t the problem anymore. There’s always more to read, more to do, more to learn.

Think about what you do when you’re trying to get some down time - it’s looking at Facebook, watching a movie, or reading articles. Funny that you seem to ‘rest’ by taking in more information.


Try sitting down with pen and paper and writing for a few minutes when you’re tired. Or you could draw. Or play a musical instrument. Whatever! Create something. I’m not talking about quality here - just see what it feels like to switch the information flow the other way when you’re tired.

It’s a different kind of rest. You have so much inside you, let some of it out.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Eating When You're Tired

Packed lunches. Stacks of containers. 

Packed lunches. Stacks of containers. 

I told you I’d be very tired by the end of this week. It’s 3 days in and I wasn’t wrong. so far things are going okay, but I’m definitely seeing some things slip through the cracks.

I’m tired.

It’s when you’re tired that you’re most at risk of loss of motivation. It’s when you’re tired that you don’t have will power.

As I stuff the third sugary nut bar of the evening in my mouth I’m thinking of the work of James Clear on aiming for processes in your habits. James is talking about processes instead of goal setting which is really useful when thinking about how to eat well.

Create a process to help you eat well. Make decisions about what you’ll eat before you’re hungry.

Rest and Movement

I’m changing how I do things around here. Each month I will be working on a theme. Since I’m here to help integrate philosophy, eating, movement and a little geekery, I’ll be working through those aspects each week within the theme. I’m going to write here more often, but the posts will tend to be a little shorter than they have been. This will evolve as I go along, so I’m not going to explain much more in the hope that we’ll all figure it out together as I go along.

Rest and Movement

I’m on the bus on the way home from a Gymnastics Bodies Seminar. I’m bone tired but feeling good. This week is also the beginning of a new block of training in my standard schedule, so I expect to be very tired by the end of the week. A week of learning completely new movements will take it out of me. It’ll be a good week to focus strongly on rest even though I’m going to be working really hard.

So this month’s theme will be rest! It’ll be a short month since I’m starting a couple of weeks in so lets just roll with it.

Training and exercise is stressor on your body. The stress breaks down your body and signals it to improve. This improvement occurs during rest. But your body is lazy (you could say ‘efficient’) and doesn’t want to do anything it doesn’t have to do. You’re always looking for ways to make things easier, ways to avoid stress.

As I sit here, tired and sore from a huge amount of exercise, learning, and socialising; I’m looking forward to a stress-free rest day tomorrow. I knowingly walked into a very stressful situation this weekend, which is only possible because I know I can rest for a few days afterwards.

Embrace the rest in your life. Use rest to move more.

Why I Switched to Physical Notebooks

I reviewed Day One on this site when it came out in early 2016. Back then, I was using Day One multiple times a day to record all sorts of things. I kept an occasional journal of interesting things, a daily gratitude journal, a daily planning journal and I recorded one thing I was grateful for about my partner every day for 450 days. The app made all of this really easy, helping me to keep the daily journaling habit for a long time.

But I don’t use it much any more. What gives?

The app has only improved since the release I reviewed. I still record the occasional quote, interesting thing, or photo in there. Now I keep a book journal in Day One with some notes about each book I read (I read 22 last year, and only 14 this year so far - I have some catching up to do!). But I’m not doing any of the many daily journals there any more. Now I use Day One approximately once a week.

I still keep a daily journal, but in a move that surprised me, I now write in a physical notebook with a pen.

I had been resisting this for years. I espoused the benefits of digital writing. Digital writing makes a lot of things easier - you can search it, so you can find things you’ve written more easily. Many of us digital natives (including me, but I acknowledge not everyone) can type faster than we can hand write. You can add photos to a digital journal. You have all this extra metadata about location, specific time, music you were listening to, your step count or mood for the day. A digital journal is significantly more feature rich than a physical notebook.

And yet, it stopped working for me.

It came down to one main thing.

Writing in an digital form means that you can search it. It means you can delete things easily. It means you approach the whole process of writing differently. You’re writing something that you will find again. You’re writing for future you to read. You’re able to easily edit to make what you’ve written just right. You’re creating a piece of writing. You’re not keeping a journal anymore.

I found the difference so subtle that I couldn’t put my finger on it for years. Over time, my journals became formulaic nothings that I didn’t feel. I was writing it for Future Tom, not for now.

Writing with pen and paper takes that away. You’re spilling your thoughts directly onto the page. You leave a mark if you make a mistake. It’s hard to search, so there’s less performance required in your writing. You might not ever read it again. You can let go and write.

I feel it’s important to point out that I know it’s possible to fight this without turning away from digital writing. This is about attitude towards journalling more than the app itself. When I started out using Day One I felt things. I got a lot out of it. But the subtle differences very slowly moved me away from the reason I started journaling in the first place.

So, I have started writing in a notebook with the express permission to myself to just write. Let it flow out of me with no regard for Future Tom. I write creatively and from the gut. It’s sometimes indecipherable later, but that’s not the point. The point is that it helps me think. It helps me work things out. And it has worked its way back into my other writing, helping me write more and get my thoughts down digitally more effectively.

Do this now. Go get a notebook, open it up to any page and just start writing. Write whatever comes into your mind. Don’t stop for 5 minutes. You could start by writing about the state of politics, move to that itch on your foot, the way your Mum talked to you last weekend, your idea for an app, or the irritating sounds of construction next door. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. This type of journalling is about making a connection with your stream of consciousness and getting it on paper.

It can be helpful to read back over your ramblings later, but you don’t have to. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s not. Honestly, it’s not the point. Sure, maybe you’ll lose a couple of ‘good ideas’ in your writing but chances are the good ones will stick. If you come across something really profound that you want to remember, try putting it into you digital journal. But give yourself permission to miss things. It’s okay. If my experience is anything to go by, the number of ideas you’ll have and things you’ll work out will far exceed the number you’ll ‘lose’.

I will write very soon about my full journaling process. To summarise for you:

  • I keep a digital journal (still in Day One) for things I want to remember and search later. It’s a bit more formal so Future Tom can understand (hopefully).
  • I keep a hand written journal for just writing. Distracting myself. Getting away into my writing and thinking things through.

This month I’m doing a ‘life systems’ review. I’m going to write about the various ways I keep things on track, places I can find improvements, and things that are working for me. The key topics will be:

  • journalling
  • exercise
  • eating
  • getting work done

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