Tired? Understanding how your body produces energy will help

This is an excerpt from our eBook “Food for Work” that details how busy people can maximize their health and productivity without wasting time. 

It’s easy to gauge whether a person understands how to manage their own physical energy by watching what happens to them around 3pm.

Caffeine and sugar may get you through the 10am slump and lunch, but at some point (usually around 3pm) that physical rollercoaster catches up to you and leads to the inevitable crash.

In order to stay focused, attentive and have the physical capacity to show your passion and do your best work, you need to feed yourself the foods that your body needs (and deserves!)

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The science behind energy

Energy comes from the macronutrients in our diet. Macronutrients are those nutrients required in large amounts that provide the energy needed to maintain body functions and carry out the activities of daily life. There are 3 macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

All three macros provide our body with calories, although each one has a different process for breaking the food down into calories, storing them and getting those calories to the muscles, brain, heart, liver and other organs so they can function efficiently.

Each macro is better at some functions than the others so balancing all three is crucial. Choosing high quality ingredients also makes it easier for your body to break them down and get them to where your body can use them. 

 

 

How carbohydrates provide energy

Complex carbs give your body easy-to-access energy that fuels muscle contractions. When you’re eating healthy grains for example, the carbohydrates break down into glucose that get absorbed and immediately used as energy.

Small amounts of extra glucose from carbs gets stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. This is an emergency reserve in case you need the energy to run away quickly or other short bouts of energy you may need. Once these glycogen stores are filled up, any extra gets stored as fat.

 

 

How fats provides your body energy

 

Fats provide your body with a different kind of energy. If you need longer, more steady and sustained energy, eating fats is important. While carbs may provide immediate physical energy needs, fats give you long-term mental energy and fuel for your organs to run smoothly and efficiently.

When a person goes on a low-carb diet, or fasts, the stored carbohydrate reserves in the liver run out and the body’s fat reserves are metabolized for a new supply. This is why low-carb diets are so effective in decreasing excess body fat, but aren’t sustainable.

 

How protein provides your body energy

Protein provides four calories per gram. So, not as much as fat, but more than carbs. It’s primary function is rebuilding muscle, organ tissue blood, nails, hair, skin, and replacement of old cells. It does a lot of the heavy lifting in the body.

 

Our bodies don’t have a lot of space to store extra protein, so we either use it immediately or our body is forced to break it down (which takes a ton of effort) and store it as glucose. That process of breaking down the protein into amino acids can produce harsh bi-products like ammonia that can wreak havoc on our bodies.

 

Eating too much protein can be problematic, but it is also necessary to providing our body with the best building blocks for our muscles, bones and organs. In a worse case scenario, if you’re not eating enough healthy carbs or healthy fats your body can use calories from protein for energy to run your muscle contractions or long-term steady physical functions, but it is not designed to do that.

 

Your body works best when you are getting the right balance of calories from carbohydrates, fats and protein.

 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests getting 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-35% from fat and 10-35% from protein. Those percentages vary based on the person’s age, gender, weight, BMI and activity level.