Energy and vitality

How answering 4 short questions made me a bit smarter

Today is a good day. As soon as the alarm clock rings I’m wide awake and I feel wellrested and full of energy. I’m in a good mood as I enter the bathroom and then sit down for breakfast. On the way to work, I make great time on my bicycle and with very little effort, set a new record. As everything at work happens seemingly effortlessly, I take some time to reflect. “What a great day!” In high spirits, I set a date in the evening to get a beer with a good friend. The alarm clock will still ring early tomorrow, but hey, what does it matter? You only live once!

And the alarm clock goes off early the next morning...
“Oh, damn it, I have to get up.” Exhausted, I drag myself to the bathroom and look at the hollow-eyed person staring back at me from the mirror. Remembering the previous day I feel even more wretched, and I search desperately for the energy that made yesterday seem so incredibly simple.

As I take my first sip of coffee, my curiosity is piqued, and I ask myself...

  • ...Where does energy actually come from?
  • ..How is my energy used?
  • ...How high are my daily energy needs?
  • ...Which foods are best suited for covering my energy needs?

Since, compared to last night, I’m simply too lazy to search for answers on the Internet, I write an email to my friend Paul. After all, as a sports scientist, he should know about these things! Here are his responses:

Where does energy actually come from?

Well, macronutrients from foods such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins,(as well as alcohol) are metabolized into forming energy-rich compounds such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which are then available for physical and mental activity.

What is my energy used for?

Basically for almost everything. For example:

  • Getting up, brushing your teeth, speaking, working, etc.

In more scientific terms:

  • For maintaining body temperature,
  • For regulating metabolic processes,
  • For movement, and
  • For creating and renewing the body’s essential components such as cells.

How high are my daily energy requirements?

This varies from person to person. In addition to body weight and age, energy needs are primarily based on one’s daily activity (e.g. professional occupation, leisure activities, regular athletic endeavors). . For an approximate calculation, you should multiply your resting energy consumption (in kcal/day) by the PAL value (as a measure of physical activity). This will yield your energy needs in kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ).

If you consume less energy than your daily requirement, this is known as a “negative energy balance.” This balance becomes important if you want to lose weight. However, this process is often associated with fatigue or lethargy.

Which foods are suitable for covering my energy needs?

Depending on water or fat content, foods have various energy stores. A high content in water and fiber is equivalent to a low energy density, such as in fruits and vegetables. In contrast, processed foods and foods high in fat and carbohydrates are very energy-dense. This includes, for example, foods such as potatoes, sausage, or the tasty sandwich from the bakery around the corner.

An important note is that appropriate food selection is largely dependent on the type of daily physical activity. Thus, a construction worker needs a more nutritious diet than someone who works a sedentary desk job.

Now, somewhat more clever, I ruefully decide to take these valuable tips into account tomorrow. In the meantime, for today, there is only one solution: Hang in there!