What terms do you associate with the word ‘energy’? Fuel? Vitality? Strength? Liveliness? We tend to have a positive association with the word energy, and food marketers love playing that word on us because of this. Energy in nutrition terms however, mean calories. If a packet of biscuits were labelled “high in calories”, would you buy it? How about “high in energy” which we associate with giving us the fuel to keep on going? Do you know the difference? Read more...
What is Energy?
Energy is a source of currency for our bodies. You earn it (eat), save it (store), and spend it (move). Energy is measured in ‘calories’ or ‘kilojoules’. You need energy to survive, but it’s all about keeping a balance. You may need more if you’re exercising more but wanting to maintain weight, or you may need less so your body uses up your existing energy stores (i.e. fat).
Why do I need energy?
We need a certain amount of energy to maintain our body which is our basal metabolism. This is about two-thirds of the energy you burn in a day. I relate this to an ember fire, where you need a certain amount of fuel to keep that fire going (i.e. your metabolism) - whether you’re sleeping, sitting, standing or walking. You also need energy to digest the food you eat (yes, it can take calories to store calories), and the rest is burnt through movement and exercise which varies depending on how much you do.
Where do I find energy?
Energy in our diet comes from four major food groups called macronutrients – these are fats, carbohydrates, protein and alcohol. For every gram of these macronutrients, they produce different amounts of energy.
How do I know what sources of energy to choose?
Each macronutrient has a different chemical process and metabolic pathway. For general healthy eating, you must have a good balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein as the food sources also provide an array of essential vitamins and minerals. The combinations of these macronutrients also determine your energy level and function. Hence athletes for example, may have a high carbohydrate snack such as a banana during exercise for instant energy release, and a flavoured milk drink for carbohydrates and protein for muscle recovery after exercise.
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