Energy Levels and Diet – Tufts

A new year is upon us, and it’s going to take plenty of energy to make good on all those resolutions! If you’re looking for more energy to be healthy and active, or simply to feel your best—your plate is the perfect place to start.

What Powers Our Bodies? “The food you eat supplies your body’s energy needs,” says Sai Krupa Das, PhD, a scientist on the Energy Metabolism Team at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Photo by Jane Doan on

Macronutrients: Foods (and most beverages) contain chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When you eat, digestion breaks down these macronutrients into smaller molecules that are absorbed from your digestive system into your body. Once absorbed, these molecules enter cells and—through a multi-step process—are transformed into metabolic energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or stored as fatty acids. These are the fuels we use to maintain our bodies and move about the world.

Micronutrients: Foods also provide essential vitamins and minerals—referred to as micronutrients. “Micronutrients serve as important agents for harvesting energy from foods,” says Das. Magnesium, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), biotin (vitamin B7), vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10 are required for the chemical reactions that produce ATP. Other micronutrients are necessary for energy in different ways. Iodine is needed to form thyroid hormones that play an important role in metabolism. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which causes fatigue and weakness. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to megaloblastic anemia, which also causes fatigue (see page 3 for more on vitamin B12 deficiency). A healthy dietary pattern supplies all of these micronutrients in adequate amounts.

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