Why You Should Know How Energy is Produced in the Body

Why You Should Know How Energy is Produced in the Body

How your body is powered is important.

Energy is life. We may not always stop to wonder how our bodies use fuel to create, utilize, and store energy, but it is worth understanding how food becomes energy?

Let's start with the conservation of energy, which says that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply changes form. For the human body, that form is chemical energy. Everything we eat is turned by our body into chemical energy by first being converted into substrates, a smaller unit that includes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. These substrates chemically release their stored energy into our cells in packets called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and phosphocreatine (PC). ATP is a high-energy compound comprised of a number of chemicals including ribose (a sugar), adenine, and B vitamins, and it is the singular kind of chemical energy that we use to perform our biological functions. ATP is human fuel.

There are three type of energy systems utilized depending on requirement (each providing ATP in a very specific time and intensity range): the immediate system, where ATP and PC are stored in tissues and utilized immediately as needed; the glycolitic system, where glucose is broken down to quickly create ATP; and the aerobic system, driven by mitochondria, which we will focus on because most of our energy comes from this system.

Inside your cells, mitochondria (an organelle in most eukaryotic cells) take the 3 types of substrates and create ATP. Think of them as the engine for your steam train. In simplified terms, molecules of fat, protein, and carbohydrates are processed through metabolism, and as ATP is made and levels build, your body has energy for activity, just like coal being tossed into the train's furnace to build up steam pressure. When the chemical bonds holding ATP together are broken, energy is released for the cells to perform functions like muscle contraction. This process is aerobic because it requires oxygen, which is supplied by the cardiovascular and respiratory systems via blood flow.

So now we understand basically how the body converts energy, any problems you might experience in your daily vitality, any issues of fatigue or lethargy, can be considered on that level. Anything that interferes with production of ATP will be at the root of the issue. An improper diet can depress ATP levels, as can infection, hormonal imbalances, or even just not getting enough sleep.

Once you understand how energy is being produced, you quickly recognize that not only does the source of your fuel matter, but also your body's ability to supply oxygen for the process. Maximizing your ability to supply oxygen is fundamental to energy production. This is why it is critical to get enough exercise into your weekly schedule. By now you can start to see why knowing how it all works gives you an awareness of where a problem may derive from.

If you are struggling with fatigue, and are looking for a solution to low energy levels, you should address each area one by one until you have discovered the source. The first place to make improvements is in cardiovascular fitness and health. Proper breathing techniques can be practiced to enhance energy levels as well. Oxygen supply is the first consideration. Then after exercise, look at your diet and make sure you are putting in the right fuel to raise your energy; then your lifestyle; then make sure you have no infections, dysfunctions, imbalances, and finally environmental influences. It's all about the ATP. This is the only sure way to bring healthy energy balance to your body. 

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The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


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