Energy is something that everyone wants more of, but unlike matter and its physical properties, energy eludes a concrete definition in terms of size, shape, or mass. Rather, the term energy implies a dynamic state, a condition of change, because the presence of energy is revealed only when a change takes place. Energy is the capacity of matter or radiation to do work. It is the exertion of power. It takes the form of kinetic energy, potential energy, chemical energy and electrical energy. The synonym for energy is dynamic force.
In physics, energy is defined as the capacity for doing work and overcoming resistance. In sports nutrition, an ergogenic substance is something that improves our capacity to perform work, like creatine for example. Use it right and your capacity to perform work will skyrocket! Energy is required not only to move matter and mass but also to hold it together. Energy and matter are one; they are interchangeable.
All matter consists of building blocks called chemical elements. Of the 92 that occur in nature, 26 are present in the human body. We are principally comprised of 4 basic elements, which include oxygen (65%) carbon (18.5%) hydrogen (9.5%) and nitrogen (3.2%); which add up to a total of 96%. The remaining 4% of our composition is a collection of minerals and trace elements.
Unlike matter, energy implies a condition of change rather than a constant of size, shape or mass. Weight is distinguished from mass in that mass is the amount of matter a substance contains, whereas weight is the force of gravity acting on mass. This is why “body weight” is less relevant to health and performance than “body mass” and why “weight” is a term seldom used correctly. The next time you here someone say, “I need to lose weight”, correct them (in your mind) and say to yourself “You don’t need to lose weight. You need to lose fat. But you also need to gain some muscle, so increase your protein intake, modify your intake of carbohydrates and get to the gym”.
Your weight can change simply by a change in altitude, but your mass remains the same. For instance, on the moon your weight would decrease by more than 80%, but your volume or occupied space would remain the same; meaning that you’d still look and feel the same. You’re “weight” may have dropped from 145 to 29 pounds, but you’re percentage of bodyfat would be exactly the same!
By the way, body mass is best determined through body composition assessment, such as DEXA, bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic, infrared inductance or a new air displacement technology called the BOD POD. Standing on a bathroom scale doesn’t tell you what you’re made of or reveal how functional and energetic you are. This is an archaic and outdated habit of convention that actually misleads people into thinking their health is okay because their “weight”, as opposed to their “mass”, is in order. Meanwhile, lean mass continues to disappear as adipose tissue accumulates, increasing risk of mortality from all causes.
Plants and animals possess the ability to extract energy from their environments and use it to carry out activities such as growth and development, movement and reproduction. This energy merely changes from one form to another as it passes through us. In essence, we are beings of pure light, as all livings things harness energy directly or indirectly, from the sun.
Energy is to our lives and performance as athletes, what the sun is to the solar system or the atom is to the make-up of matter. Energy is what propels us. Its absence is the greatest limiting factor responsible for hindering strength, endurance, stamina, growth, recovery and state of mind. Energy is also the secret behind true motivation and vision.
Dr. Emanuel Cheraskin, a personal mentor who recently passed away, was a very strong proponent of orthomolecular medicine. He gets credit for one of my favorite quotes “Health is the ability to do what you need to do, and what you want to do, with energy and enthusiasm”.
Energy is the key to personal success and progression. Understanding how it works, where it comes from and where it goes is the primary work of science. All the forces of nature and the principles of life simply reflect energy in its purest form.
Through a complex process involving enzyme-mediation, reduction/oxidation cycles and hundreds of multiple-step chemical reactions, our cells extract, convert and transfer energy from the raw materials provided by nature. An energetic and enthusiastic disposition is reliant on the acquisition of adequate quantities of light, air, water and food. These are the fuels from which energy is supplied. In essence, the formula for life is simple. Supply your biological demand!
But how can you possibly supply your biological demand if you don’t know what your biochemical demands are? Everyone is unique and requirements vary from one individual to the next. This is why education in the science of nutrition and exercise physiology is so vital, so absolutely necessary! The great failure of the public school system in Canada is revealed in the ignorance of our high school graduates when it comes to knowing how to eat, exercise and take dietary supplements with skill and precision. In most cases, I have to start from scratch with adults looking to get well, because most of them, regardless of income or social status, have no idea how to take care of their own body. They are incognizant of basic principles which when applied compress morbidity and provide a functional state free of pain and degeneration.
Another form of energy associated with any object because of its position or internal structure is called potential energy. Potential energy has the potential of becoming kinetic energy when it’s released, such as the energy stored in a battery.
It takes energy, namely mental and physical energy, to initiate the release of potential energy. Millions of North Americans claim they have “no time” to work out, but lack of energy is right up there as a big reason and a common excuse, depending on how you look at it. It’s very difficult to exercise if you suffer from chronic fatigue, because you probably feel tired and “run down” all the time. But the paradox is that anyone in this state will never have more energy unless they move their bodies and expend some energy in motion.
A large snowball resting on top of a mountain slope is analogous to the chemical energy stored in a molecule. If the snowball were to roll down the slope, its potential energy would be converted into kinetic energy. But the snowball, firmly nestled in a depression on the slope, cannot roll down without an initial push. This “push” represents the activation energy necessary to commence a chemical reaction.
This is where a coach, training partner or personal trainer can be helpful. Sometimes we need a highly motivated friend to “activate” our senses to the point of arousal, to push us through a temporary slump, and to remind us of why we need to train, exercise and be active. Some days you just won’t feel like training. You’ll look for any excuse to justify your absence, even though deep down inside you know you should go.
This is where the mind and body seem to resist each other in a kind of mental “tug-of-war”. It’s almost like there are two people inside of you, one trying to convince you to go, and the other trying to convince you to stay. But if you do “outsmart” yourself and manage to overcome the body’s natural tendency to conserve energy, you may be surprised by the experience. Some of my best workouts and most productive hours in the gym started out this way.