Power Up: Understanding the Secrets of Human Energy
Have you ever found yourself feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and drained of energy? As humans, our energy levels can have a significant impact on our daily lives, affecting our mood, productivity, and overall health. In this article, we'll explore how human energy is produced and used, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to increase your energy levels.
How Energy is Produced and Used
Our bodies rely on energy to perform basic functions such as breathing, digesting food, and circulating blood. We get this energy from the food we eat, which is broken down into smaller molecules in our digestive system. The 3 primary nutrients (called macronutrients) are carbs, proteins and fat. These nutrients are broken down too:
- Carbohydrates > glucose
- Proteins > amino acids
- Fats > fatty acids and glycerol.
These molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to cells throughout the body. They are then metabolized into a chemical that our cells can use, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), through a process called aerobic respiration. Other vitamins and minerals help facilitate the chemical processes.
Once ATP is produced, it is used by our cells to carry out essential functions such as muscle contractions and nerve impulses. In fact, the majority of our energy is used to power our basic bodily functions, with only a smaller percentage going towards physical activity and exercise.
What is a Macronutrient?
A macronutrient is a type of nutrient that is required in large amounts by the body to support various physiological functions. There are three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Our body prefers to source its energy primarily from carbs, but reverts to the fat and proteins when there is an absence.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. When carbohydrates are consumed, they are broken down into glucose, which is used by the body for energy. Consuming carbohydrates before exercise or physical activity can provide the body with the energy it needs to perform at its best. However, consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
- Protein: Protein provides energy to the body, but its primary role is to build and repair tissues in the body. Protein is broken down into amino acids, which are used to build and repair muscles, organs, and other tissues. When the body is low on energy, it may use protein for energy, but this is not its primary role. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can help maintain muscle mass and support overall health and wellness.
- Fats: Fats provide the body with energy, but their primary role is to store energy for later use. When the body needs energy, it breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can be used as fuel. Consuming adequate amounts of healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can help support overall health and wellness. However, consuming excessive amounts of unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
It's important to note that each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) plays a unique role in energy metabolism, and consuming a balanced diet that includes all three macronutrients in appropriate amounts is important for maintaining energy levels and overall health and wellness.
Do vitamins and minerals build muscles and provide energy?
No; however, they do help lay the foundation for building muscle! They are vital for key functions, such as oxygen transport, muscle repair, and muscle contractions to help you build and maintain muscle mass. While vitamins and minerals are important for overall health and wellness, they do not directly build muscle or provide energy in the same way that macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats do.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is essential for energy production and helps the body convert food into energy. A deficiency in B12 can lead to fatigue and weakness.
- Iron: Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia and fatigue.
- Magnesium: This mineral is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and plays a role in energy metabolism. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to fatigue and weakness.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium and is important for bone health. It may also play a role in energy metabolism.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This antioxidant helps the body produce energy and supports cellular function. CoQ10 levels may decline with age, leading to decreased energy levels.
- Zinc: This mineral is important for immune function, wound healing, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A deficiency in zinc can lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is an antioxidant and helps the body absorb iron, which is important for energy production.
- B vitamins (including thiamin, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid): These vitamins play a role in energy production and metabolism.
- Chromium: This mineral is involved in carbohydrate metabolism and helps regulate blood sugar levels. A deficiency in chromium can lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels.
- Potassium: This mineral is important for muscle function and helps regulate fluid balance in the body. A deficiency in potassium can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue.
Basic Functions of Human Energy
Our body's energy is utilized for various basic functions, such as:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the amount of energy (measured in calories) that our bodies need to carry out basic physiological functions while at rest. BMR is responsible for around 60% of our total daily energy expenditure. Here are some of the functions that are supported by BMR:
- Blood circulation
- Cell production and maintenance
- Hormone secretion
- Temperature regulation
- Digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Nervous system function
- Muscle function and contraction
- Removal of waste products
- Repair and regeneration of tissues
- Physical Activity: The energy required for physical movement and exercise. This can account for up to 20% of our daily energy expenditure.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The energy required for digesting, absorbing, and processing food. TEF accounts for around 10% of our total daily energy expenditure.
How Can We Increase Our Energy Levels?
While our bodies are highly efficient at producing and utilizing energy, there are many factors that can affect our energy levels, from poor diet and lack of exercise to chronic stress and sleep deprivation. Here are some steps you can take to increase your energy levels:
- Eat a Balanced Diet- The foods we eat have a major impact on our energy levels. It is important not to eat too much, or too little, of anything, as it will unbalance the rest of your needs. Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods can provide the nutrients our bodies need to produce and utilize energy effectively. Aim to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and limit processed and sugary foods.
- If your diet doesn't cover all the nutrients you need, consider supplements! Certain vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron, and magnesium, can support energy metabolism and may be helpful for increasing energy levels.
- Get Regular Exercise- Regular exercise not only helps us maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular health, but it also helps to increase our energy levels. Exercise can help to improve circulation, increase oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells, and stimulate the production of mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells.
- Get Better Sleep- Sleep is essential for restoring our energy levels and promoting cellular repair and regeneration. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but many of us fall short of this target. To improve your sleep quality, establish a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and create a relaxing sleep environment. Consider using CBD products to help you relax and fall asleep more easily, in a natural and safe way.
- Reduce Stress-Chronic stress can take a major toll on our energy levels, as it causes the release of stress hormones that can lead to fatigue and burnout. To reduce stress, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, and try to make time for hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water can help maintain energy levels, assist in the facilitation of blood flow and prevent dehydration, which causes fatigue.
- Eat a balanced diet: Consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help support energy levels.
- Limit caffeine and sugar intake: While caffeine and sugar can provide a temporary energy boost, consuming too much can lead to a crash and leave you feeling more tired in the long run.