The human body is an amazingly complex machine, far beyond even the most innovative technology that the digital age can come up with. But like any machine, the basic principles under which it operates are conceptually simple. To work properly and give optimum performance, it needs the right fuel in the right amounts. At its core, that is what energy nutrition is all about.
Whether you are setting out for yet another day at the office, preparing to run a marathon or looking forward to a trip out to the seaside with your family, your body needs the right ingredients and nutrients to keep you energised, focused and at your best to meet the challenges of the day ahead.
So much for the concept, but what does that really mean in practical terms?
Ingredients and nutrition
Just as a car needs petrol, a battery, oil, coolant and so on, the human body also needs different types of fuels that each have their own role to play in keeping the overall machine functioning efficiently:
The human body is more than 50% water, so regular fluid intake is vital, particularly before, during and after exercise. Dehydration is one of the biggest killers in the modern world.
These are special nutrients that the body needs to carry out a variety of essential functions. Most are not produced naturally, so need to be provided in our diet. Examples include Vitamin C, to protect the body from oxidative damage, and Vitamin B12, which is essential for staying energised.
Another energy provider, protein is also essential for the maintenance, growth and repair of cells within the body.
These comprise of dietary fibre, starchy carbohydrates and sugars. They fulfil a variety of purposes, including providing energy and maintaining digestive health. Some carbohydrates can also reduce the risk of potentially fatal illnesses and diseases.
We need energy not only to function well, but more fundamentally to remain alive, to grow, to stay healthy and to keep warm. Energy is provided directly by the fuels that we take on board, and different foods and drinks contain different amounts of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fat and so on. Energy is measured either in kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ).
One of the most common questions is: how many kilocalories of energy do I need on any given day? Again, if we compare the human body to a car, we can see why this can be a difficult question to answer. It’s a little like asking how much fuel you need in the tank tomorrow, without knowing what type of car it is or how far you are planning on driving it.
Maintaining health and wellness
If you are planning a “duvet and TV” day, or even spending your hours working at a laptop, you will not be burning as much energy as if you are planning to play sports or go for a workout at the gym. But unlike that car sitting outside doing nothing, you will still be expending energy. Even when simply ticking over, your body is working to keep all your organs functioning properly and maintaining an even body temperature.
Do not underestimate the energy requirements for remaining alert and mentally active, even if you are not physically active on a given day. A busy day in the office leaves you feeling tired out, and office workers will be well acquainted with the “2pm lull” when it can be hard to concentrate, and all you really want to do is put your feet up and have a snooze.
This is the moment when coffee lovers are likely to head for the espresso machine for a little pick-me-up, as caffeine is one of the most celebrated ingredients to help energise. However, the way it works alongside some of those essential vitamins is less commonly understood. Let’s find out more.
Caffeine and vitamins
Nowadays, sources of caffeine like coffee and tea are nearly as much an everyday necessity as water. Most people swear by a cup every morning to reduce tiredness and fatigue, and also take their daily multivitamins at the same time. What could be better?
That, perhaps, is the biggest question of them all. Caffeine certainly gives an energy boost, but it can be relatively short-lived, so simply drinking a cup of coffee first thing is going to be of limited help throughout the day. And using it to wash down some multivitamin tablets could be counterproductive.
Caffeine can inhibit the body’s Vitamin D receptors, and its mildly diuretic effect means water-soluble vitamins can be flushed through, rather than into, the body. The exception is Vitamin B12 – as caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid, it actually helps the ingestion of this vitamin.
Getting the right energising ingredients into the body at the right time is therefore a little more complex. By all means, enjoy two or three cups of tea or coffee throughout the day, but to remain energised, consider a supplement that is focused on caffeine and Vitamin B12 – particularly when that 2 PM malaise is due to strike.
The benefit of this kind of energy boost is that it contains more of what you need and less of what you don’t. Caffeine and Vitamin B12 provide the energy to keep you on the go, but each sachet contains just three calories and no sugar – which means you do not get the associated sugar crash 30 minutes later.
Let’s track back to the car metaphor for a moment:
It is one thing to make sure there is enough fuel in the tank to get you into work and back, and to be vaguely confident that the oil, water and tyre pressures are more or less correct. But if you’re planning to load up with passengers and drive 300 miles across the country, the chances are you will prepare a little more carefully to ensure your vehicle is ready for the challenge ahead and will not let you down.
The same applies when you put your body through more strenuous work. In today’s busy world, thousands of us head to the gym or go out for a run when we get the chance – and often after work when we are already feeling fatigued. How can you get your body ready for the challenge, to get the best out of your workout and avoid putting yourself through unnecessary discomfort, and potentially doing damage?
The right diet is, of course, crucial, and you will see everyone from footballers to long-distance runners extolling the virtue of carb-rich pasta dishes. These are great, but you will not want to eat a bowl of spaghetti immediately before a gym session and you’ll likely be planning on having a nice meal afterwards when you get home.
This is another occasion when a supplement that contains Vitamin B12 and caffeine can give you exactly the lift you need, right when you need it. As it comes in a handy powder form, you can literally let it melt on your tongue and it will be absorbed far quicker than if you digested it in the stomach.
Other functional benefits of Vitamin B12
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Vitamin B12 is just a handy supplement to keep you lively and energised between meals, or if you are having to cope with an early start or a late night. It is one of the eight essential B vitamins that the body needs to perform correctly:
- It is a key nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones – Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common cause of osteoporosis.
- It removes certain toxic amino acids from the bloodstream, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
- It is essential for maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.
- It has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of many allergies.
- It is often called “brain food” and is absolutely vital for keeping your brain and nervous system in tip-top condition.
Lack of Vitamin B12 has been strongly correlated with depression and other mental or psychological conditions. In fact, research has shown that many seniors initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia were found to be suffering from a Vitamin B12 deficiency, and when this was addressed many made remarkable recoveries.
Getting enough Vitamin B12
A shocking report found that some 90% of vegans are Vitamin B12 deficient. This is partly caused by the widespread myth that soy products and brewer’s yeast are good sources of the vitamin. This is, in fact, incorrect. They contain Vitamin B12 analogues, which are similar in molecular form, but actually block the intake of genuine Vitamin B12, making a bad situation worse.
For those with restricted diets, a vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free supplement is the perfect way to derive all the physical and psychological benefits of Vitamin B12, and to remain happy, healthy and energised from morning till night.