YOU can’t hear, see, touch or smell it, but when you don’t have it, your body feels it immediately. You’re tired, listless and weak. If you’re still guessing what it is, the answer is energy.

Nobel laureate Albert V. Szent-Gyorgyi once described energy as the “currency” of life. He couldn’t be more right.

From eating, walking, exercising, working and to everything you do, you need energy. Even at a cellular level, energy is needed to fight off infections and break down toxins in the body. Your body also needs energy to produce hormones, enzymes and other molecules that are essential for survival.

Energy is basically obtained from the carbohydrate, protein and fat we consume. Your body converts or metabolises energy from these dietary sources through a complex process.

Excess energy is converted into adipose tissue (fat) and is stored for later use. A small amount of carbohydrate is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for quick release when needed. This energy is normally released when needed for, say, physical activity.

How much energy a person needs depends on their level of physical activity, gender, age and body size.

Intake also varies if someone has special requirements such as being pregnant, recovering from cancer or even surgery. Everyone has his own energy requirement and all of us want to be sufficiently energised so we can be productive throughout the day.

“Energy is very important when you’re leading a physically active lifestyle. Having high energy levels allows you to be more productive, do and achieve more, and get the most of out life,” says Teresa Chian of the Dance Space studio in Kuala Lumpur.

Surech Kuppusamy, an Alpine and Himalayan climber who has climbed several peaks including Everest, Ama Dablam and aiguille des Pélerins, shares: “When you know you have the energy to conquer a task, you’re more motivated and confident to go on. Apart from rest and training, nutrition is important in giving you the energy to perform well. Vitamins also constitute essential regulative and protective substances that your body needs. So, it’s not just about calories but also vitamins and minerals.”

The answer could be as simple as getting more calories from your food. But many times, energy intake is not the problem. After all, too much energy-rich foods could lead to other problems such as weight gain.

Another factor is your body’s ability to convert energy from your food intake. Consuming the right vitamins and minerals in the right quantities is vital.

Power boosters

Studies have indicated that there is a relationship between micro-nutrients, energy metabolism and an individual’s well-being. Further research also shows that vitamin and mineral supplements can alleviate the risk of inadequate micro-nutrient intake. However, nutrient deficiencies can only be addressed if the supplements are taken for an adequate period of time.

So, what vitamins and minerals can boost your energy levels?

They are the Vitamins B group and C as well as iron, magnesium and potassium. A well-balanced diet should give you sufficient quantities of these, but even in developed countries, people often fail to eat healthily due to poor food choices, improper eating habits such as skipping meals, and following faddish diets.

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are also culprits. But sometimes, you may just need more nutrition if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or an elderly person.

A good health supplement can make a difference. The B Vitamins support energy metabolism from protein, carbohydrate and fat. They help in the release of energy from foods. Except for Vitamin B12, the others cannot be stored in the body and need to be replenished daily. So getting adequate quantities daily is very important. Specifically, Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is directly linked to carbohydrate intake and the metabolic rate.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is also needed for the utilisation of energy from food. It also aids in the utilisation of protein, fat and carbohydrate for energy.

Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin, which is a substance in our blood that carries oxygen to tissues. If you are constantly fatigued, lack of iron could be the reason. Severe lack of iron can lead to anaemia. Magnesium and potassium are required to break down glucose into energy in our bodies. When magnesium is low, our body produces more lactic acid which makes us tired. In fact, magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 enzyme reactions, particularly those involving metabolism of food components. Potassium is also necessary to convert sugar in the blood into energy.

Rounding it off is Vitamin C, which is needed as it increases iron absorption; this means it needs to work in tandem with iron.

There are probably times when we all want to feel a little more energetic to get us through the day. Well, besides looking at your caloric intake, do also look at the quantities of vitamins and mineral in your diet. Follow this formula (calories + vitamins + minerals = energy) and fatigue and lethargy would be a thing of the past.

Note:  Article courtesy of Wyeth Consumer Healthcare