Because I work with busy men and women,

one common question I’m asked is: “What do I eat for energy?”

While popular media frequently alludes that one, magic food can offer the cure to everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer and make us young again to boot, it’s no surprise that many are looking for one food that gives all the energy we need.

But …

Energy doesn’t come from a single food.

The amount of energy we get from our food depends on many things: the kinds of foods we eat, how much  we eat, when we eat, where we get our food from, and the combinations of food we eat.

It may seem like a lot to grasp. And it can be, which is why I wrote a book to help readers easily understand it. For now, I’m going to give you the 30,000 foot overview. To address what  gives us energy, we need to get grounded in our understanding about what energy is and is not.

What is energy?

Energy, as defined, is the ability to do work. That being said, energy for the human body and brain is provided by fuel.

I can explain this easily by comparing the human body to a car.

Just like a car runs on fuel, humans run on fuel too.

  1. A car uses gas for fuel; a human uses carbohydrates, protein and fat for fuel.
  2. Gas is measured in gallons; human fuel is measured in calories.

Even though popular media might say that calories don’t count, that’s not the case. Calories are the scientific measurement of human fuel that nutrition professionals use today. And while we usually estimate calories (because we don’t eat a perfectly medium-sized apple every time we eat one), we can get a good enough idea of the amount of energy (fuel) that we need to survive and thrive, as well as how much we’re taking in.

Another misconception instigated by media these days, is that all nutrients give us energy.

But, not all nutrients do.

There are eight major nutrient categories today:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Antioxidants
  • Phytochemicals
  • Water

We only use three of these nutrients for calories (fuel). They’re called macronutrients because they’re the nutrients we need to eat the most of in order to survive and function. Macronutrients are the top three on the list above: protein, carbohydrates and fat.

The other nutrients don’t give us fuel, (energy), but they can offer other big benefits just the same. They’re like “building blocks for the body.” Going back to the car comparison, the building blocks of a car are things like metal, leather, rubber, oil, windshield washer fluid, and the like. The car doesn’t use these for fuel. A car is not only made out of these things, but a car  runs best when all of these are at their optimal levels. Likewise humans use these other nutrients for other than fuel.

A good example of this is the fact that you can’t take a vitamin, or an antioxidant drink, and expect it to give you much energy.

In my upcoming book, Eat to Lead, I take you step-by-step to find out which foods offer the most energy and brain power to optimize your leadership, your career and your life. Check out the book here.