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Burning through excess energy - late night musings

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  • Burning through excess energy - late night musings

    I was rereading Gary Taubes "Why We Get Fat" tonight. I was on page 105 where he is discussing marathoners and how they are "...driven to expend those calories...because they are wired to burn off those calories and be lean". And I got to thinking, maybe some of us are driven in other ways to burn off calories. And the most calorie-using organ in our bodies is our brain. Most information I've seen says that the brain uses 20% of the body's energy. And intense thinking/learning can up that by 90-110 calories an hour according to this site: Crosswords and Sudoku (I am still looking for a real study to back this up).

    I've noticed when my eating is good and clean, I have much more energy. But in addition to being more physically active, I am driven to be more mentally active as well. It is during these times that I long for mental stimulation - urges to learn a language, or take up a new hobby, or just obsessively do puzzles. In fact, I'm off work for the summer, and I've been restlessly purusing the internet and trying to find a new mental outlet. So perhaps this is my body's way of using up stored energy.

    So anyway, I wondered if calories burned this way might account for some of the differences we see in caloric needs for different individuals. And maybe we all have different ways to expend those "extras". Maybe even insomnia (as I sit here unable to sleep) is the body's way to fidget away a few more.

    Okay, so here's an outlandish theory: According to the (what I remember reading awhile ago) book Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham, when man began cooking his food it led to much more caloric availability in the food. We were able to digest more calories from food and it freed up time for pre-humans to engage in more cerebral pursuits - language/maths/storytelling etc. Perhaps the extra calories not only freed up the time, but the inclination as well. Maybe our brains were driven to more learning because we had extra fuel for them to do so.

    So what do you think?

  • #2
    This sounds reasonable to me. In fact, being a history buff, I often wonder why our ancestors managed to know so much about their environment, wellness, astronomy and we just let it all slip away somehow. I mean look at ancient societies like the Incas that built amazing structures without proper iron for tools yet had the world's most exact calendar and could predict comets and eclipses and who knows what else thousands of years down the line. Or the Druids and whoever actual made all the stone megaliths, the Egyptians built the pyramids and we are still trying to figure out how they did it , etc. These people paid detailed attention to the world around them. True they did not have the distractions or TV or the internet. They accomplished amazing feats of construction, mathematics, literature, art, tracked the heavens and all with limited tools and none of the technology we have today. And now that you mention it, it makes me wonder if the fall of Rome was partly to do with the heavier reliance on grains and sugars. As society became more affluential they indulged more in breads and cakes and sweets and next thing you know there are crazies on the thrown and manic depressants randomly sending armies here there and everywhere and the societies who are still eating and living more cleanly and are more primal in their connection to the environment are able to stand up to the organized armies and start taking over. (somewhere there is a thread that gladiators were fat due to eating grains and so only good for bash each other around and not so much for the strategy?) It seems to me the "dark ages" or middle ages when all the knowledge of the golden era was lost or forgotten were hugely reliant on bread as their main staple. And that is when european society when to pot, they stopped bathing, forgot about all the architecture, medicine, literature etc that existed a thousand years earlier and basically slid backwards a bit in civilization's evolution.
    The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease. - Thomas Edison

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