Acute vs. Sustained Energy

Energy types and their fuel sources are important things that affect you every day. Both acute and sustained energy are essential, and how you prepare your body will determine your success in using either type.

Acute, or “quick,” energy: This is the energy that you use when you are exerting yourself to a peak level. When in this energy-burning state, you will definitely be breathing heavily and sweating. We often don’t realize that we don’t have enough fuel for this type of energy output until it is too late, and we crash and burn during a workout or a hot day.

Acute energy fuel sources: The key source of fuel for acute energy use is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the most quickly accessible type of fuel for your cells and, because of this fact, your body stores glucose (a simple sugar) in your liver and muscles just in case it needs it. If you don’t get enough carbohydrates to maintain acute energy output (e.g., during a workout) you can experience weakness, dizziness, lack of focus, and many more symptoms of a decrease in glucose, or blood sugar. You want to avoid low blood sugar, especially when exercising. To fuel properly, eat a balanced meal about 1–3 hours before a workout and, if really working hard, consume carbohydrates throughout your exercise (e.g., with your electrolyte sports drink).

Sustained energy: This is the energy that keeps your body and mind going at a steady pace. We often take this type of energy for granted and don’t consider the fuel sources needed for this type of energy. When we don’t have enough fuel for sustained energy, we begin to feel lethargic and less focused. It is typical for people to get food cravings during this time.

Sustained energy fuel sources: To give yourself enough fuel for a day’s worth of sustained energy, you need to eat a good balance of all fuel sources: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Another key point is that these fuels need to be consumed at regular intervals. The goal for maintaining sustained energy is to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. Your blood sugar naturally changes continuously, based on the foods you eat and other factors, to meet the needs of your body and brain. Did you know that when you are stressed, your blood sugar trends slightly higher than normal? And that’s one of the reasons you can crave “sugary” foods when you are stressed. But instead of choosing a high-sugar food or drink, a better option is to choose fuel that will help keep your blood sugar balanced. That goes for both days when you are stressed and those when you are not. The fantastic foods that help balance your blood sugar won’t come as a surprise. Choose foods that are rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and pair them with a healthy protein and fat.

Whatever the energy type you are planning for your day, you should fuel accordingly. Doing so puts your body and brain in the best position for a goal performance, no matter if that’s a new personal workout record or getting through the afternoon lull.

Kelly Gosse

Wellness Coach

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