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Natural Sources of Energy for the Body

author image Sandi Busch
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
Natural Sources of Energy for the Body
A bowl of chopped kale. Photo Credit: lauraag/iStock/Getty Images

When lagging energy brings you down, the problem could be your diet. Carbohydrates, fats and protein -- the macronutrients that provide calories -- are the primary sources of natural energy. You also need certain vitamins, minerals and water to metabolize macronutrients. Exercise is another good source of energy. In addition to improving your strength and endurance, exercise can boost your body’s ability to produce energy.

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Calories Equal Energy

The only way to sustain optimal energy is to consume the right number of calories. Depending on your age and activity level, women need about 1,600 to 2,400 calories daily, while men should aim for 2,000 to 3,000 calories each day. The right mix of macronutrients is also essential. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, so 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy carbs such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Fats should account for 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories, and protein makes up the remaining 10 to 35 percent.

Nutrients for Energy Production

Calories are only converted into energy when you have a sufficient amount of certain nutrients. The B vitamins are vital for normal metabolism. A deficiency of just one B vitamin can interfere with energy production, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Iron is also essential for synthesizing energy. To ensure you get all the nutrients you need for energy, consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole grains, vegetables, nuts, legumes and proteins such as lean meat, fish, chicken and low-fat dairy products.

Exercise Builds More Than Muscles

You’ll have more energy as exercise builds your overall fitness, but that’s not the only benefit you’ll gain. Regular exercise also increases the number of mitochondria in your muscles and in your brain, according to an October 2011 article in the “Journal of Applied Physiology.” Mitochondria are the structures inside every cell that produce energy. As their numbers increase, your energy goes up. As long as you exercise regularly, you only need low- or moderately intensive activity to increase energy, report researchers in the February 2008 issue of “Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.”

Fluids Are Essential

Water doesn’t provide energy, but lack of water is a surefire way to lose energy because it’s needed to transport nutrients and produce energy. Even mild dehydration affects your energy, as well as your mood and brain power, report researchers from the University of Connecticut. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because by then you’re already dehydrated. Women should drink 9 cups of water or other decaffeinated fluids daily, while men need 12 cups.

Herbs Are Temporary

Ginseng can increase your energy, but most likely because it contains carbohydrates, according to a study published in 2009 in the “American Journal of Chinese Medicine.” Because ginseng contains active ingredients that can cause side effects, consult your health care provider before using it for energy. Caffeine and herbs such as ephedra, guarana and licorice act as stimulants that temporarily make you feel more alert, but they don’t produce energy.

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