Secret of Vigor – Intro

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s an excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
Lose Weight
Get in Shape
Reduce Stress
Get Healthier
Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

What Is Vigor?
Chances are, if you’re like most other people living in any industrialized country anywhere in the world, your daily routine is hectic and stressful. You may suffer from constant fatigue, rarely sleep well, or continue to gain weight, and you’re at least occasionally moody. In fact, you may be experiencing what we often refer to in psychology research as “burnout.”

But what if things were different? What if you could reverse burnout—or avoid it altogether? Suppose, instead of fatigue, you felt energized? What if you enjoyed a restful eight hours of sleep every night, maintained a healthy weight, and generally stopped feeling tired, stressed, and depressed? If you achieved such a level of wellness, your condition could only be described as being the antithesis of “burnout.”

This state of well-being—the opposite of burnout—has also received a name from psychology researchers: “vigor.”
Outside the research community, however, very few people have heard the term “vigor” used as a measure of health. And in your own vocabulary, the word may only turn up when you’re talking about vigorous exercise or reading cookbook instructions that tell you to shake liquids vigorously.

But “vigor” actually has an official definition in scientific circles: “a three-tiered sustained mood state characterized by physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being.” The chart below may help you see this definition a little more clearly—and it also underscores the differences between vigor and burnout.

Vigor vs. Burnout

Vigor is a true measure of wellness, because it encompasses much more than simply feeling “energetic,” being in a “good mood,” or having a “sharp” mind. People with high levels of vigor are those “can-do” individuals who feel like getting things done—whether they are running a marathon or just cleaning out the garage. They’re motivated and have the capacity to accomplish what they set out to do, because they’re not weighed down by feeling sleep deprived or exhausted all the time. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, “vigor” is a state that they have not experienced in many years, but that does not mean they cannot reclaim it. These are the people I wrote this book for—because I know from my research and experience with countless clients that people can build and maintain the vigor that may be missing in their lives.

The Secret of Vigor: Biochemical Balance
When it comes to improving your well-being, you often hear limited “one-dimensional” advice that focuses on a single aspect of health. You know: “…eat this super-food!” “…do this special exercise!” “…take this pill!” Many aspects of Western medicine, in fact, address isolated symptoms instead of the overall condition of your body. To understand how to improve your level of vigor, it is important to appreciate the intricacies of the human body as a whole system. Biochemistry can help you gain this appreciation, because it is, essentially, the study of those intricacies—the processes going on within your body that make it possible for you to live. And, crucially, your biochemistry holds the key to your level of vigor.

To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, take a moment to imagine the most complicated, beautiful machine that you can think of. Did you envision a supercomputer? An automobile? A satellite? The International Space Station? Certainly, these are all very complex machines, and perhaps they’re even beautiful from an engineering point of view. But their complexity pales in comparison to that of the human body. The body is a dynamic, ever-changing, always-adapting collection of intricate structures and systems.

Sometimes it works perfectly on its own—your lungs fill and empty, your heart beats, and your eyes blink—all without your having to remember to “work” them. But sometimes your body breaks down. In most circumstances, the damage is only temporary, because your internal repair mechanisms jump into action to fix the damage and get you back to full function.

Sometimes, however, the damage persists. You accumulate little bits of damage and dings and creaks over the years, and you find yourself waking up one morning with physical ailments, such an aching knee, a stiff back, or a generalized pain through your entire body.

Sometimes the ailments are more “psychological” in nature, such as depression, fatigue, brain fog, lack of motivation, or outright burnout.

Whether physical or mental, all these ailments have their roots in problems with the biochemistry of your body. Specifically, I’m referring to the biochemical activity among hormones, blood-sugar levels, brain signals, and the other internal interactions that take place below the surface of your skin that you are hardly aware of—until something goes wrong. When the balance between hormones, such as cortisol and testosterone, or between neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, is disrupted, you can be left feeling “blah” or even burned out. If internal imbalances lead to burnout, then reestablishing biochemical balance has the opposite effect—it produces vigor.

Quite simply, the “secret” of vigor is to balance your biochemistry.

Or, as I sometimes say to people who want a simple way to remember this idea: Balance your biochemistry to beat burnout!
In my years of research on this subject, I have found four basic biochemical processes that need to be brought into balance for anyone who wants to improve their health and vigor. I’ve labeled these processes the “Four Pillars of Health.”

Let’s take a brief look at them in the next post…

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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