All organisms require energy to generate and sustain life. Although the term energy may seem elusive and often out of reach, our bodies actually can create usable energy from what we put in them. This is called biological energy.
When you think about the words biological energy, your mind may immediately jump to food. But have you ever considered how our bodies make energy from the food we eat?
Bioenergetics and Biological Energy
Scientists use the term bioenergetics to discuss the concept of energy flow through living systems such as cells.
When plants take energy from the sun, they convert it into sugars like sucrose, fructose and glucose as well as more complex carbohydrates. Humans then eat the plants and process the various nutrients into glucose, then break down that glucose into pyruvate, eventually becoming adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is a high-energy molecule used by the body to move materials and undergo basic metabolic processes.
ATP is created in our mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles, or sub-structures within cells that act as the powerhouses of cells, creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth.
When the mitochondria have problems, the energy our cells need to make our body work is diminished, leading to disease and premature aging.
How Do We Increase Biological Energy and Give Our Body What It Needs?
We now know that when we eat, our bodies convert glucose into a usable form of energy for the human body.
Our body also does an amazing job of breaking down nutrients into smaller components so our cells can absorb them to use as fuel. This process is known as metabolism, which has everything to do with biological energy.
You may have heard people talk about their desires to improve or “boost” their metabolism. When we think about biological energy, this takes on a different meaning.
Because metabolism is a natural process, your body has many mechanisms that regulate it to meet your individual needs. However, the human digestive system is generally conditioned to use enzymes and other substances like bile to break down or metabolize proteins, fats, and sugars into smaller parts to be used or stored by the body.
Nutrition and Energy
Unfortunately, not all food is created equal.
Carbohydrates are an example of a macronutrient that comes in two types: simple and complex, and both are converted to sugar (glucose). Our blood cells then use this glucose to provide biological energy for the body.
According to Harvard Health, different foods are converted to energy at different rates. Some — such as candy and other simple sugars — can give you a quick lift, while others — such as whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats — supply the body with reserves you’ll need to draw on throughout the day.
Why Choose Complex Carbs?
Complex carbs such as whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables are absorbed more slowly because they contain higher amounts of fiber. Consuming these types of carbohydrates instead of simple ones will help you avoid that afternoon crash and help your body make more biological energy that lasts.
In addition to giving you more biological energy, complex carbs also stabilize your body’s sugar level, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce less insulin. This gives you a feeling of satiety, which leads to fewer cravings.
What Other Foods Will Give Me More Energy?
Other energizing foods are those that are rich in protein, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Incorporating foods with a low glycemic index is also important for preserving biological energy. When you think of low glycemic foods, think of foods that are high in fiber, such as leafy greens, berries, seeds, legumes, and nuts.
Additionally, the actual energy content of food may differ based on the processing method and the meal composition. For example, some vitamins require fats to be absorbed in the body. Consider pairing foods like spinach and kale with a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil, or a sprinkle of hemp or other seeds or nuts.
Hydration and Energy
Water is also necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients for biological energy.
In 2013, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 43% percent of adults drink less than 4 cups of water per day, which is farbelow the recommended 8-10 cups per day. Although our individual water needs vary based on various factors (activity levels, climate, and diet, among others), the health benefits of drinking more water cannot be disputed.
Water carries helpful nutrients and oxygen to your entire body. Our bodies need an adequate amount of water to function properly and improve our biological energy. This study, in particular, looked at 25 women during and after moderate exercise. Mild dehydration produced during the study showed a fluid loss of only 1.36% after exercise-induced feelings of fatigue.
Sunshine and Energy
If biological energy starts with the sun, those warm rays must play a role in giving our body what it needs.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, vitamin D, a vital component of energy levels and mood, is best taken in through the sun. By exposing your body to sunlight, your body produces vitamin D naturally. Factors like age and the amount of melanin in the skin affect the rate at which this happens, so not everyone benefits equally from a given amount of time spent in sunshine.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for various biological processes that include everything from regulating your immune system to fighting off disease.
Clinical studies in humans indicate that low vitamin D levels are correlated with poor quality and short sleep duration. When sleep quality is poor, our energy levels suffer the consequences.
In short, getting a little bit of sunshine each day will help to boost your biological energy, helping you stay vibrant and invigorated.
Exercise and Biological Energy
Although it may sound counterintuitive, research clarifies that engaging in regular exercise may also help increase biological energy.
According to a comprehensive review of the literature, twelve population-based studies showed an association between increased physical activity and reduced fatigue risk.
The act of exercising allows the muscles in your body to produce more biological energy. Even short bursts of activity stimulate the circulatory system to supply oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. The more you exercise, the more efficient your heart becomes at providing oxygen at a quicker pace to your muscles, in turn allowing you to work out harder and longer.
Research even highlights the positive effects of low and moderate aerobic activity on biological energy. Simply getting outside and taking a short afternoon walk can help your body create the energy it needs for the rest of the day. So what are you waiting for — start moving!
Thankfully, there are various methods we can use to increase our biological energy. Doing so enables us to counteract fatigue and live healthy, dynamic lives.
Discover more ways to be happier and healthier with telmd.com.
Let’s Make Wellness Contagious!™
March 29, 2019
The split between food and medicine has been widened by the standard American diet and an overabundance of processed foods. But it’s not just what we eat, it’s how we eat that makes a profound difference.
September 26, 2019
Trying to live your day to the fullest without energy is like trying to chop wood with a dull ax. Here are some foods, supplements, and techniques that work as healthy energy boosters to sharpen your focus and endurance.