Your Body’s Energy Requirements

Understanding your body’s energy requirements can help guide you when making nutritional choices.

There are two ways to determine your energy requirements – the accurate way and the easy way. Both will give you an idea of how much is required of normal (sedentary) work or active physical exercise.

This is important to enable monitoring of needs, usage and replenishment.

Energy in the Human Body

All living things, plants and animals, require a continual supply of energy in order to function. The energy is used for all the processes which keep the organism alive. Some of these processes occur continually, such as the metabolism of foods, the synthesis of large, biologically important molecules, e.g. proteins and DNA, and the transport of molecules and ions throughout the organism. Other processes occur only at certain times, such as muscle contraction and other cellular movements.

Animals obtain their energy by oxidation of foods, plants do so by trapping the sunlight using chlorophyll. However, before the energy can be used, it is first transformed into a form which the organism can handle easily. This special carrier of energy is the molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is considered by biologists to be the currency of life.


Your Body’s Energy Sources and Uses

Our food digestion system (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine) helps us to absorb energy and nutrients from food.

Carbohydrate, fats and protein are each digested differently within the digestive tract, but surplus calories from these three micronutrients are ALL converted to body fat and stored as adipose tissue.

Malabsorption in the gut, bad eating habits, viral or bacteriological infections can cause a range of digestive conditions including: Indigestion, Constipation, Diarrhea, Gastroenteritis, and other digestion problems, including food poisoning.

The body follows an order of priority in fuel-burning. Our food fuel comprises the protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol we eat. But the exact mixture our body uses typically varies according to circumstances (eg. our physical activity, our last meal etc.).

There is an “order of priority” that dictates which fuels are burned first. Alcohol calories are burned first. This is because we cannot store alcohol energy.

Next, we burn protein, then carbohydrates, then fat. In practice, however, we typically burn a “mixture” of carbs and fat, with the ratio being dependent on meals. Just after meals we burn mainly carbohydrate, while between meals we burn more fat.


Your Body’s Energy Depletors

The body’s energy can be depleted through various foods or actions. These include consuming too much alcohol, refined sugar and other foods such as fats. Lack of sleep, insufficient exercise and too much stress can also be reasons for fatigue.

Finally the organs of the body such as the thyroid and the condition of blood can disrupt the body’s ability to maintain and control energy levels.

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