Energy and Food

Humans need energy for basic survival. All the functions a human performs require energy.  That includes breathing, heart beating, and blinking. Our body consumes energy even if we are sleeping all day. Our muscles use it whenever we talk, look, walk, sit, carry something or even when we move our hand from one position to the other.

Our body remains constantly warm because of the energy present inside it. This means that we would not be able to survive without energy. Let us see the concept in detail.

  • Where do we get our energy from?

three girls exercise on the beachWe receive our energy from the food we eat. Three different sources of energy inside our body are carbohydrates, fats and proteins, all of which we get from the food we consume.

  • Carbohydrates

There are two different types of carbohydrates in our body: complex and simple. Complex ones have simple sugars, present as long chains termed polysaccharides. Simple carbohydrates are disaccharides or monosaccharides, also known as glucose or fructose. Polysaccharides contain starch which the body takes longer time to break down. So, the quickest form of energy gained from food is simple carbohydrates, commonly found in fruits.

  • Fats

Fats not only help in utilizing other nutrients in a better way, they also help in transporting certain vitamins to different parts of the body. Some fats may even contain vitamin A, E, D and K. Fats have double the calorie amount than carbohydrates. That is why, if taken in excess, they can lead to weight gain. If taken in adequate amounts, they can provide sufficient energy to heat and fuel the body.

  • Proteins

These are essential for the growth of our body cells and for the performance of all the biological and metabolic processes inside the body. These are essential for the growth of our skin, muscles and connective tissues. They are burned only when no fats or carbohydrates are remaining inside the body.

  • Exercise

Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not make us tired, but it can literally create more energy for our body. This happens when our body becomes stronger and rises up to meet the challenges for more energy. Exercise releases endorphins in our bloodstream, and as a result we feel more energized for the rest of the day. According to a study, we may feel tired initially after exercising, but in the long run, exercise can create more energy in our body, even after immediately finishing the exercise. The tiredness we feel after exercise is different from everyday fatigue. As soon as our body starts adjusting to the exercise routine, we feel more energized than ever.

  • How does our body turn food into energy?

Food is metabolized and broken down into energy in three primary steps: digestion, glycolysis and ATP production. Digestion is the process in which large polymeric molecules are broken down into their respective monomer sub-units.

  • For example, lipid is broken down into fatty acids, proteins into amino acids and polysaccharides and glycerol into sugars. These smaller molecules are now ready for glycolysis, which usually takes place inside the cells containing cytosol. Once the smaller molecules reach cytosol, a slow process of oxidation begins, termed as glycolysis.

This is a process in which glucose and other molecules of sugar are converted into pyruvate, which then enters the organelles for the production of energy. The final step of metabolism is ATP production. ATP or adenosine triphosphate is used by all cells in our body for energy. Roughly, one billion molecules of ATP are present in each body cell, which is entirely used up every 1-2 minutes.

  • How much energy do we need in a day?

Jump into the sky (series)Our energy requirements depend largely on our body weight, gender, body size, age and our physical activity level. This means that if we sit at a desk and work at our PC all day, we need fewer calories everyday than a person who runs every morning. BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate is the required amount of energy we expend at rest phase. Rest is the phase in which we do nothing, not even open our eyes.

The energy required in this state should be sufficient to perform vital organ functions only, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, muscles, skin, sex organs, nervous system and intestine. We need to consume all the energy our body produces. Otherwise, it will turn into fat and lead to weight gain and other health related problems.

  • Top foods that can increase energy levels

  • Coffee

It is widely reputed to be an instant energy booster. It helps in fighting against fatigue by triggering the Central Nervous System. Coffee can keep us active and energized throughout the day.

  • Beans

Loaded with iron and mineral, these help the body to generate red blood cells, which carry oxygen to muscles while exercising, thereby building stamina.

  • Oatmeal

It is an unprocessed carbohydrate which slowly gets digested due to high complex carb content, thereby keeping us feeling full for longer. This power-packed cereal can provide sustained energy for several hours.

  • Banana

Apart from being a great source of carbohydrates, they are also effective in increasing energy by releasing dopamine in the body.

  • Green veggies

Rich in micro-nutrients, they are essential to improve Red Blood Cell count and to build stamina. These vegetables are rich in fiber so they digest slowly, thereby maintaining blood glucose levels.

  • Peanut butter

It has high calorie content and digests slowly. If taken together with complex carbohydrates, they can be excellent to build stamina.

  • Beetroot juice

If a glass of this juice is consumed right before exercise, a person will be able to work for several hours without feeling tired. Beetroot is a rich source of vitamin A & C, both of which are helpful in reducing fatigue and building stamina.

  • Red grapes

Resveratol in these grapes are effective in providing increased energy. Sugar in them gives an instant energy boost, thus helping to build stamina.

  • Quinoa

It contains 8 essential amino acids, minerals, fiber, and vitamins. It can keep us active and give us an instant energy boost.

  • Fish, eggs, chicken and lean meat

Rich sources of protein, these foods are essential for the development and growth, muscle repair and muscle building. Meat is digested for longer, thus keeping us feeling active and full for several hours.

  • Healthy ways to boost energy

If we feel low at any time of the day, here are some sureshot ways of giving us an instant energy boost:

  • Drink water

Staying hydrated is a fast, inexpensive and easy way to increase our energy levels. Squeeze the juice of a lemon, lime or orange, or actual pieces of these fruits can be added to the water for added taste and vitamins. Sports drinks and vitamin water do nothing other than add extra unnecessary calories.

  • Eat breakfast

Breakfast is a meal that sets the stage for an entire day. A healthy breakfast helps in keeping us alert, starting our metabolism, and keeping us satisfied till lunch.

  • Eat proteins

Protein rich foods give fuel to the body to build and repair tissues. Proteins take a longer time to break down than carbohydrates, thus providing the feeling of fullness for longer.

  • Have some snacks

Whenever we feel hungry between meals, our blood sugar levels fall and we begin to feel lethargic. During these times, we can instantly boost our energy by having a snack. Choose from the list above for healthy, energy boosting snacks.

It is important that we consume the right amount of fats and carbohydrates as per our body needs and BMR. We should not over-eat, as it may lead to weight gain and other health related issues.


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