You Are Energy, Personified
From a biological standpoint, energy maintains a continuous cycle of regeneration throughout one’s life cycle. Our bodies consistently work to create energy every minute of every day, and—if managed correctly—it has virtually unlimited potential.
In his book The Chemicals of Life, the former and famed biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov stated that each day, the average person uses up enough energy to bring at least 35 quarts of ice water to a boil. That book was written in 1954, but today, Asimov’s statement further reinforces that every one of us has the natural potential to renew and restore lost energy.
People as Personified Energy
In fact, according to some physicists, our bodies are nothing more than a conglomeration of dynamic force fields full of boundless pulsating energy. In practical terms, this means you—your body itself—is energy, personified. Energy and its unlimited potential are intertwined with the chemical principle known as the law of thermodynamics. This principal has taught us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed—it can only be converted or transferred from one form to another.
This is the idea behind photosynthesis, a biological process that occurs in the green pigments of plants where energy is captured from the sun and stored for later use. When humans then consume plants (think raw veggies or super-potent wheatgrass), specific structures within your body’s cells—namely, mitochondria—convert the sun’s energy to a usable form of human energy. Mitochondria could be described as your cells’ electrical power plants, much like the power companies that generate the energy that sustains your home or city.
The main molecule produced in our tiny cellular power plants is called adenosine triphosphate—or, simply, ATP. This is what we know as human energy. Just as the green pigments convert the sun’s energy for use by the plant, our bodies extract and convert stored energy to ATP by breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. When energy is needed by the body to power muscle movements, ATP is broken down to release the energy it has converted from food. An important difference between ATP production in the human body and photosynthesis, though, is that ATP must be created on a continuous cycle. The body constantly works to manufacture this vital molecule, and its diminishing efficiency is now known to be a major cause of human aging.
Based on this overview, it is easy to understand why striving to energize mitochondria to thus re-energize bodily systems is the new foundation of rebuilding a compromised energy system. In fact, mitochondrial restoration is now used to regenerate energy for damaged hearts and brain cells, or even to fight cancer.
Recharging a Low-Voltage Battery
The secret to maintaining the health and function of important mitochondria is via the long-term input of essential nutrients—not consuming substances that focus on quick bursts of energy and ultimately alter the normal biomechanics of ATP generation. Our metabolism plays a role in this concept.
According to Edmund Burk, PhD, director of exercise science at University of Colorado, when our body is “full” of ATP, it will provide energy at maximum intensity for about 10 seconds; consequently, ATP vanishes mere seconds after it is generated. As a result, cells must constantly recycle ATP to sustain the energy continuum. The faster the body can extract chemical energy from incoming food, and then turn around and release that energy to power movement, the more efficient your body will be at maintaining ATP levels.
Toxic by-products naturally form during these metabolic processes within mitochondria and must be neutralized; this is where a healthy diet comes in to play. Foods packed with antioxidants, such as green, leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits, work in combination with proper nutritional practices to assist in neutralizing these toxic by-products. Fitness guru Bill Philips states that food and fitness may seem like natural born enemies—after all, if you buy into today’s diet dogma, food is the devil and dieting the salvation—but the fact is, that is not so. Food is what software is to hardware, what rocket fuel is to rockets. The two don’t just work together; they are inseparable.
We must recognize that food sustains our life force—and then choose what we eat wisely. The right fuel ignites and cleanses our internal energy system; this complex sequence, from ingestion of nutrients to the formation of energy, is known as the citric acid cycle. Don’t forget that nutrients work to build and maintain healthy cells, tissues, glands, and organs. Thus, food satisfies three fundamental metabolic needs: energy, new tissues and tissue repairs, and chemical regulation of metabolic/energetic functions. A growing amount of evidence supports the idea that metabolic changes and impaired mitochondria can be effectively managed with both nutrients and growth factors that perpetuate healthy cellular activity.
A Great Starting Place
A balanced diet is a good place to start rebuilding your energy: Aim for 30 to 40 percent complex carbohydrates, 30 to 40 percent lean proteins, and 20 to 30 percent healthy fats. Daily calorie intake varies based on height, weight, age, activity level, and other factors, but according to exercise physiologists William McArdle and Frank Katchithe, the average maintenance level for women is between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day; for men, the average ranges from 2,700 to 2,900.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or maintain body structure, establishing your individual calorie needs—based on how many calories you need to maintain the body’s internal metabolic processes—should be your first priority. Overall caloric requirements, then, are based on the need to maintain these basal metabolic activities plus added voluntary activities. Your basal metabolic rate is the rate of energy expenditure when your body is at rest; voluntary activities would include exercise, household chores, shopping, etc.—activities that you don’t necessarily need to do but that are nonetheless part of your routine. Basal energy needs are based on an individual’s weight (in kilograms) times the number of hours in a day. To determine your approximate calorie or energy needs—and understand the process—follow the steps below.
STEP ONE: The base weight for women is 58 kg; for men, it is 70 kg. Take that number and multiply it by 24—the number of hours in a day—to calculate the baseline number of calories necessary to keep your heart beating, body temperature stable, and other important metabolic processes going. For women this number is 1,392 calories; for men, 1,680 calories.
STEP TWO: Determine your weight in kilograms by taking your weight in pounds and dividing it by 2.2. Then, take that number and multiply it by 24 to determine your individual caloric needs. This is the number of calories you must consume each day to maintain your body weight and structural integrity. So, if you weigh 160 pounds—that’s 72.7 kilograms—you would have an individual basal energy need of 1,745 calories.
STEP THREE: Establish caloric needs for physical activities—20 percent represents very light activity, 50 percent represents light, 70 percent moderate, and 100 percent heavy activity. Take the percentage that represents your regular level of activity and multiply it by your total calorie needs (from step two). This number represents additional energy calories you need, which helps ensure you don’t disrupt your internal system’s ability to regenerate ATP. If your basal energy need is 1,745 calories, and your activity level is light, you would multiply .50 x 1,745 = 872.5. This brings your total daily calorie intake to 2,617.5.
STEP FOUR: Get started on a consistent eating plan. Forget all the little idiosyncrasies concerning nutrition and start using the following nutritional guide by M. Ted Morter, DC:
40 PERCENT cooked fruits and vegetables
30 PERCENT raw fruits and vegetables
25 PERCENT grains, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and poultry
LIMITED saturated fat intake, sugar, salt, and sweets
The Mitochondrial Energizers
Current and emerging data has conclusively shown that several supplements are gaining international recognition for their ability to promote the ATP process within mitochondria. Here’s a quick breakdown.
COENZYME Q10: CoQ10 plays an intimate role in cellular energy production and is found in every living cell in the body—95 percent of the body’s energy is generated within mitochondria using this antioxidant. Without certain mitochondrial enzymes, ATP can’t be formed—so, without adequate levels of CoQ10 present within the mitochondria, those mitochondrial enzymes can’t produce ATP. CoQ10 is also involved in cellular respiration; it speeds up the body’s metabolic rate, which amplifies fatty acid synthesis, ultimately resulting in increased fat burning.
Organs that require the most energy to operate—such as the heart and kidneys—tend to have the highest levels of CoQ10. Thus, as cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, points out, CoQ10 has become one of the greatest medical advances for the treatment of heart disease. The suggested dose varies widely, but for general health and preventative care (not treatment) you should aim for 100 to 200 mg per day. For better assimilation, take CoQ10 with a fatty substance (such as peanut butter or olive oil), in the ubiquinol (reduced) form, and/or with meals.
CREATINE: Manufactured from amino acids primarily in the kidney and liver, this organic acid is then transported by our blood to muscle cells. Though not an essential nutrient, creatine contributes to an increase in the creation of ATP; it then helps to supply this energy to other cells. Because of this ability, researchers have found that creatine supplementation may improve heart and brain function.
Most notably, creatine supplementation works to boost muscle mass. Further research has shown that creatine supplementation is actually able to increase our muscles’ ability to store the acid, thus increasing the muscles’ ability to produce ATP. This is why some athletes, bodybuilders, and others hoping to “bulk up” may take creatine supplements. The suggested dose is 2 to 5 g per day; if you want to increase athletic results, take half of your dose in the morning and the other half immediately after your workout.
D-RIBOSE: This naturally occurring carbohydrate is best known for its ability to increase cellular energy in heart and skeletal muscles—thus alleviating symptoms related to chronic fatigue. Essentially, D-ribose jumpstarts the body’s metabolism. In addition to feeling fatigued, those who are D-ribose deficient may experience muscle pain, stiffness, and cramping. In a study conducted at the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Center in Dallas, Texas, scientists found that patients taking D-ribose supplements showed significant improvements in all five categories measured via a visual analog scale that addressed perceptions of energy production efficiency: energy stressors, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity, and sense of well-being. In the study, 66 percent of the patients who took D-ribose supplements experienced an average 45-percent increase in energy and a 30-percent improvement in overall well-being.
Remember that ATP is your cellular fuel—it allows your body to carry out physical work as well as biological processes. D-ribose continually reignites this process. When muscle cells cannot make and regenerate ribose fast enough to keep up with the demands of these processes, fatigue-related symptoms set in. Current data show that there are no specific food sources that can assist in replenishing D-ribose stores, so without supplementing D-ribose, your ability to make sufficient ATP is severely hindered. Furthermore, those who are significantly active may want to supplement for other reasons—to maintain optimal muscle strength and performance, your ability to maintain adequate pools of ATP becomes paramount. Exercise physiologists report that speeding up the metabolic processes that aid in the recovery and re-synthesis of ATP can increase muscle recovery time by three to six times. The suggested dose of D-ribose supplements is 3 to 5 g, two to three times per day. If exercising, take one dose right before your workout and one dose immediately after.
L-CARNITINE: This compound is primarily responsible for transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria for the purpose of oxidation—burning energy to reform ATP. Without L-carnitine, fatty acids can’t cross the mitochondrial membrane; this is an important step toward meeting the daily energy demands of various organs and their metabolic processes. Additionally, L-carnitine improves the activity of both the mitochondrial enzymes and electron-transferring enzymes that are instrumental in making biological energy.
Recall that harmful by-products and acids are produced when energy is created inside the mitochondria; L-carnitine helps to remove these toxic by-products. The suggested dose varies from 500 to 2,000 mg per day—to improve absorption, take 30 minutes before eating or a couple hours after eating. If you want to enhance athletic performance, take your dose right before your workout, gradually increasing from 500 mg to 1,000 mg (and up to 3,000 mg daily as your workload and body mass increase).
PYRROLOQUINOLINE QUINONE: A variety of specific nutrients—now commonly called nutraceuticals—have the ability to protect and regulate the chemical reactions that energize mitochondria. The micronutrient known simply as PQQ works to protect mitochondria from stress, regulate genes that main the health of mitochondria, and initiate mitochondrial biogenesis—i.e., generate new, younger mitochondria.
Other ways to initiate mitochondrial biogenesis aren’t always feasible—this includes intense aerobic exercise, strict caloric restriction, and certain medications—making the discovery of PQQ’s mitochondria-related properties increasingly significant. Nutraceuticals like PQQ don’t regenerate aging, worn out cells but are, in fact, able to create new, powerful, energized mitochondria. The suggested dose is 10 to 20 mg per day.
The Overall Goal
For our purposes, your nutrition and fitness goal here is to make sure your body gets more of what it needs to continue to ignite the chemical processes that generate ATP. Knowing what your individual caloric needs are will help to both address issues and reach goals—as long as you understand the foundation.
Additionally, I recommend that you move beyond the three meal concept and consume smaller, more frequent meals—four to six—followed by nutritional snacks between those meals. This prevents overeating in one feeding. Michael Murray, ND, the author of The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, reminds us that overeating causes the brain to rush extra blood to the digestive system, which leaves us feeling foggy, drained, and fatigued. Eating more frequently helps stabilize blood sugar and keeps your metabolism revved up by providing a constant supply of energy to your brain and body. It’s important to avoid sugary snacks, such as candies and cookies. Also, staying well-hydrated is critical—dehydration is a major cause of fatigue.
If you plan to implement a nutrition or supplement plan that coincides with your fitness routine, remember to use a variety of foods and nutrients to naturally boost the body’s ATP production capabilities. Learn how the body uses energy to sustain workouts, and engage in proper muscle recovery.
“When ATP output slows or is interrupted you have personal energy outages that can result in mild fatigue,” writes Sheldon Hendler, MD, PhD, in his book The Oxygen Breakthrough. “This continued sensitivity is expressed in aches and pain, confusion and finally, a chronic state of fatigue and possible illness. Imagine what reduced ATP production could do to a body if it were allowed to persist over a lifetime.”
To avoid this personal energy outage in your own body, it’s crucial to focus on rebuilding the efficiency of the mitochondria that make your body’s fuel. Energy not only enhances your growth potential and makes you feel strong and vibrant—it’s also your life force! If you make a plan to constantly replenish ATP, you’ll be able to work out, recover, and live with your inner battery fully charged.
George L. Redmon, PhD, ND, is a graduate of the Clayton College of Natural Health (ND), the American Holistic College of Nutrition (PhD), and he received a PhD in Administration and Management from Walden University. For 20 years, he has specialized in vitamins and holistic healthcare.