Energy Source

Energy Source

The types and the amount of food you eat, play an important role in your daily energy levels. The key to long lasting energy is food that is rich in protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. To stay alert all day, you need to start making smarter choices about what you're using to fuel your body.

So what exactly is energy? Energy is defined as "the capacity to do work". Energy is the basic requirement of a living organism, and the energy needs of our body are vital for our very survival. Energy is required throughout the waking and sleeping hours for body functions. It is essential for carrying out the chemical reactions that synthesize and maintain body tissues, electrical conduction of nerve activity, the mechanical work of muscles, and heat production to maintain body temperature.

The three macronutrients - Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins, are broken down and assimilated to provide energy when we eat plants or other animals. The National Institute of Nutrition states that, "A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from both visible and invisible fat." Calories are the standard unit measure for energy.

A diet rich in complex carbs and fiber is necessary for high energy, because what you eat can help you stay energized, or lead to fatigue. The very foods you rely on for quick energy such as sugar, sugary drinks, caffeine and "fast food" are high in fat and actually leave us feeling tired. This is because these simple carbs tend to break down so fast that they only provide a short-lived burst of energy. Therefore, you should cut down on sugar and refined grains to elicit a state of hypoglycaemia i.e. low blood sugar. Instead, load up on complex carbs such as cereals, millets, pulses and root vegetables. Choose whole grains and their flours, and whole pulses. Millets and traditional cereals like barley and bajra make for healthy alternatives as well. Note: Don't zap fat. You need fat to absorb some key antioxidants which fight free-radicals, keep your cells healthy and are important for energy.

If you're tired of being tired all the time, balance out your carbs with protein and healthy fat to combat fatigue. A balanced meal takes care of your energy requirement from various sources. Wondering how to plan a balanced meal? Here's help.

1. Carbs: 1 serving of rice, whole wheat flour, ragi, bajra, quinoa, amaranth, etc.

2. Proteins: 1 serving of pulses, poultry or meat. You can also include 1 serving of dairy or soy.

3. Fat: 1 tsp of healthy oils from peanut, olive, grapeseed, mustard, sesame, rice bran, sunflower. You can occasionally add mustard oil as well.

4. Vegetables: 1 serving of seasonal vegetables. Choose leafy greens in at least one meal daily.

5. Fruits: 2 servings of fruits per day, in-between meals.

How much energy do we need to consume?

Energy needs are determined by the age, sex, body size, activity level and body composition of a healthy individual. Children, pregnant & lactating mothers have a higher demand to meet their growth and physiological needs respectively. Here's an easy way to calculate energy needs of healthy adults:

Activity Level Energy Requirements (Kcal/Kg Ideal Body Weight/Day)
  Obese Normal Underweight
Sedentary 20-25 30 35
Moderate 30 35 40
Heavy 35 40 45-50
Williams SR: Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 6th ed. St. Louis: Times Mirror/Mosby, 1989

The best energy boosting foods include oatmeal, quinoa, berries, honey, bananas, apples, salmon, spinach, oranges, dark chocolate, almonds, walnuts, brown rice, eggs, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, crab and melons. Since fatigue can be a sign of dehydration, water is the best energy drink. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. You can even add slices of cucumber or lemon to water for added flavour, or drink coconut water.

Go on, load up on healthy fats, iron-rich foods and snack smart to fight fatigue and boost your energy levels!

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