UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
The energy you feel each day is not a mystery—it's actually pretty easy to understand. Look under the microscope to see the ins and outs of how your body gets enough energy to do everything you do in a day.
Calories are neither good nor bad. A calorie is a just a measurement of energy. 1 Calorie = 1 Unit of Energy. In fact, we can’t function or stay awake without them. If you don’t have enough calories, you can be tired—on the other hand, if you eat more calories than your body needs, you can gain weight and feel sluggish or run-down. Balancing your calories is part of your energy equation each day.
What gives us energy and helps us grow and repair our bodies? Nutrients! They provide our body with exactly what we need to stay healthy. Since our bodies don’t make nutrients, we must get them from food. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins/minerals provide our insides with what we need to stay healthy and strong. These nutrients are found in the foods you eat and are absorbed in our body during the digestion process so we can access them as energy.
Some foods give you a quick energy surge while other foods take their time. Here is a breakdown to help you get and stay healthy!
Simple Carbs: You might also call them simple sugars. They are found in candy and sweets, but they are also in nutritional foods like milk and fruit. The simple sugars enter your bloodstream immediately. When they enter, your pancreas releases insulin, which helps take the sugars from the blood to cells. This is a fast process, so you might find yourself hungry again soon after eating. Simple carbs don’t provide long-lasting energy and instead are a fast, temporary energy boost. The energy produced from simple carbs doesn’t last too long and can make you feel more tired than before you started eating.
Complex Carbs: You can also call these starches. These carbohydrates take a longer time to be absorbed and used as energy. They will fill you up and keep you full longer than simple carbs. Find your complex carbs in whole-grain breads, pastas, rice, and much more.
Gives you amino acids, the building blocks that help build, maintain, and repair cells. Find protein in meat, peanut butter, yogurt, cheese, and nuts. Protein fills you up so you’ll stay satisfied longer. It also helps you build and keep strong muscles.
Transports nutrients to the cells—just like cars, airplanes, and trains take us where we need to go. Fat also stores extra carbs and proteins that are not needed. This happens when you might eat too much, eat when you are not hungry, or aren’t very active. A lot of people think all fat is bad for you. But, we all need some fat in our diet. Without it, nutrients would have no ride to cells. The healthiest kinds of fats are found in fish, nuts, seed, olives, and some veggies like avocados. Try to limit the fat found in foods that come from animals—like dairy and meat products. So, drink fat-free or low-fat milk and eat low-fat, lean, or skinless meats.
This is the category that does not provide energy, but actually assists your body in using energy from the foods you eat. You get vitamins and minerals in dairy and meat products, fruits, and veggies. The vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat today are building your muscles and bones for the rest of your life. For example, calcium builds your bones and iron keeps you energized and your muscles hard and strong. If you’re worried about getting enough, you can also ask your parents about taking a multi-vitamin to get your vitamin boost!
HARD TO BELIEVE BUT TRUE!
Did you know you are mainly water?! More than half your body weight is water, so be sure to drink up. Sounds crazy, but there is water in fruits and veggies like watermelon and lettuce and in foods like soup as well. Water helps your body take nutrients to cells. Water also cleanses your system and helps your body get rid of waste. Carry a water bottle around with you in your backpack and drink up, especially before, during, and after physical activity. Drinking plenty of water will keep you from feeling dizzy, light-headed, and tired.
- Page last reviewed: May 9, 2015
- Page last updated: May 9, 2015
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