One of the major misconceptions about food is that it is a source of energy. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that in the nutritional sciences, the words "fuel" and "energy" are synonymous. But in Natural Hygiene, "energy" and "fuel" mean different things. Food is not a source of energy, but it is a source of fuel.
Food's Role in Energy Production
Let's clarify the difference between fuel and energy, and relate them to their non-Hygienic uses. We understand that the fuel in our gas tanks is completely different than the energy supplied from the car's battery. We need both in order to operate the car. It is no different in our bodies. Food functions as a source of fuel (sometimes referred to in Hygiene as biochemical energy) whereas your brain produces the low-voltage electrical energy that runs your body (often referred to in Hygiene as "nerve energy"). When you are awake, and going about your day, you use up this nerve energy, hence you eventually crash. You then go to sleep and, after an appropriate time period, you awake, fully recharged, refreshed, and full of nerve energy again. Your energy level, in this regard, has almost nothing to do with your fuel level.
Oddly, we also know that when we eat a lot of food we invariably lower our energy, as shown by the lethargy that follows a holiday meal. The digestion of large amounts of food is a drain on our nerve energy – it's a lot of work for the body. To gauge the amount of work that goes into digestion, you can monitor and keep track of your pulse rate before, during, and after your meals. The higher the pulse rate, the harder your body is working to digest the food you have just eaten.
Blood Sugar, Carbohydrates, and Energy
"Blood sugar" is the term used to indicate the concentration of glucose in the blood, measured in milligrams of glucose per 100 milliliters of blood. Everyone has a measurable level of blood sugar; we can't live without it. Whenever blood sugar levels go up or down out of the healthy range, one of the first symptoms is usually extreme tiredness. Glucose in the blood fuels every cell of the body, and many of our cells are fueled solely by glucose. The carbohydrates in our food circulate in the blood as sugar. If insufficient carbohydrates are consumed to meet our fuel needs, then fats and even proteins can be converted into sugars. These relatively inefficient conversion processes require the presence of carbohydrates, or they become even less efficient. When fats are converted to sugar in the absence of carbohydrates, ketones are produced. These molecules are very similar to acetone in their structure. They affect brain function in a fashion that is similar to alcohol, impairing our decision-making abilities, as well as our awareness and judgment.
Why Simple Carbohydrates Make the Best Fuel
When I was in school, the best nutrition teachers kept their teachings as simple as possible. They taught that proteins are used for growth (with repair understood to be a subset of growth.) They stressed the role of fat as an insulator (against vibration, shock, cold, and to keep the nerves' electrical impulses on course), and that it plays critical roles in hormone production and many aspects of nutrition and general physiology. They repeatedly drove home the point that carbohydrates are the primary fuel for all of the cells of the body. Protein, fat, and even complex carbohydrates must be broken down to simple carbohydrates in order to be used as fuel. While this breakdown is often an energy-intensive operation, sometimes requiring almost as much fuel as the consumed food supplies, simple carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose are absorbed without needing any digestion whatsoever. This energy-conserving quality is the primary reason that where physical performance is concerned, the simple carbohydrates found in fruit are a better source of fuel than protein and fat.
Energy Conservation and Fasting
Ideally, when we undergo a fast, we are enabled to attain the deepest possible state of physical, emotional, sensory, and physiological rest. But, even when fasting, sleep is still required in order to supply the body with nerve energy. It goes without saying that sleep is not the time for physical exercise; neither should we exercise during a fast. When we are in the state of deep rest while fasting, the body is free to focus more of its nerve energy upon the organs and processes of detoxification. In order to reach our desired health goals in the shortest period of time, it is essential that we obtain as much rest and sleep as possible during a fast.
The Value of Rest and Sleep for Optimum Energy and Health
The functions of every cell of the body depend upon adequate sleep. Compromise the body's requirement for rest or sleep and you reduce the body's overall functioning, including its detoxification and repair functions. This results in increased energy usage, leading to even greater needs for rest and sleep. In our high-stress society, many people are chronically sleep-deprived, and as sleep is lost, health withers.
Many people try to make up for lack of sleep through the use of irritating foods, stimulating drinks, strong-flavored condiments, supplements, or even drugs. Such attempts invariably fail, because there simply is no substitute for sleep. The use of coffee, tea, cocoa, herbs, or any other stimulant actually increases our need for sleep by draining our vital nerve energy. The false energy from such substances is simply a demonstration of how much real and vital energy is required by the body in order to neutralize their toxins.
When you feel as if you need more energy, rather than resorting to stimulants or drugs, apply the rules of healthful living. Eat simply, of whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic fruits and vegetables. Get sufficient rest and sleep. Remember that the time to fast is when you don't have time for it. Take the best possible care of yourself, it's not a luxury, but a necessity.