Food alone will not increase energy

EATING WELL HC

September 03, 1991|By Colleen Pierre, R.D.

Tired people want to know: "What should I eat to get more energy?"

For most people the answer is: "Nothing."

Surprisingly, each of us is carrying enough stored energy to run several marathons.

Grown men expend about 100 calories per running mile, women about 80. That means a marathon, at 26.2 miles, requires 2,620 calories for men and 2,096 for women.

Our bodies store up to 2,000 calories worth of carbohydrate and an endless amount of fat. Fat contains 3,500 calories per pound. So for every pound of fat on your body, you have more than enough energy to complete a marathon.

Then why can't you do it, and why do you feel so bad? Because your body needs to be tuned. If you are a sedentary person -- that is, if you do not exercise regularly at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more -- then your body just isn't working right.

Regular exercise, even walking, tunes your body to burn carbohydrates and fat the way a mechanic tunes an engine to burn high octane fuel.

When you begin to exercise, everything changes. Your heart muscle gets stronger and pumps more blood with each contraction. Your arteries increase in diameter and capillaries multiply. Your bones retain more calcium and become stronger. Your muscles relinquish their fat and become stronger and harder. Your tendons lengthen and become more flexible. You become a lean, mean, life-living machine.

And you have more energy.

The tough part is that you have to decide to exercise when you least feel like it. So decide now. Then just do it!

Other reasons why you might feel tired:

* Iron Deficiency Anemia: Results from iron lost through menstrual bleeding and inadequate dietary replacement. Treatment: See your doctor for blood test and iron supplements. See your dietitian for diet recommendations.

* Sugar "low": Actually results from eating sugary treats, highly refined foods or dieting too hard. Treatment: Don't skip meals. Replace sweets with high-fiber fruits, veggies and whole-grain foods.

* Caffeine "low": Results from drinking too much caffeine. When the pick-me-up wears off, the bottom falls out. Treatment: Gradually wean yourself from beverages containing caffeine. You'll feel great all day, even without the usual morning "jump start."

* Stuffy building syndrome: Results from working in a sealed building where windows are never opened and you breathe old air all day long. Treatment: Get out and go for a walk.

* Tension: Results from too much work to do in too little time, tight schedules, too much pressure. Treatment: Eat right, exercise, find a new job.

* Lack of sleep. Treatment: Delegate chores. Sleep more.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

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