Food is fuel? Or is there a better food analogy?

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what food is, but what about our daily dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants? Some of the most common food items you may be missing out on are to be found in the many colorful fruits and vegetables that offer so many health benefits. Instead of just grabbing a handful of fruit or veggies and chowing down on them, consider eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day, not just for their color, but also for their unique nutrients.

Food is fuel? Or is there a better food analogy? That is the question I seek to answer in this post. I think food is more than just fuel, and I’m going to explain why.

Food is fuel? Or is there a better food analogy? Food is either fuel, or it is a creative expression of a culture, a way to express yourself, or a way to make a living. If you are a chef, a culinary instructor, a home cook, or an average home-cook, food is fuel. But food is also an art form and a joyous experience.

Fitness and nutrition experts often advise that you should consider food as “fuel” in order to become in shape. We disagree. This is why.

++ Something has been troubling us for a while now. This analogy keeps coming up:

“Food is a source of energy.” Like gasoline, for example.

And we’re always hearing:

“The human body is similar to a high-powered racing car.” Like a Ferrari, for example.

As a result, you must get sufficient gasoline to operate your vehicle. Of course, without going overboard. Otherwise, the Ferrari — er, you — will gain weight.

You must also choose only the highest-quality, highest-octane, and most costly gasoline. Otherwise, the Ferrari — yes, you — will clog up and break down.

This comparison — this tale — has been told to us many times. The list goes on and on.

And we believe this is a serious issue.

What’s your culinary tale?

We just shared this on Facebook the other day:

is a .

“Fuel” occurred 33% of the time among the widely diverse and frequently fascinating answers.

That’s when it struck me: “Fuel” is the only narrative most people, especially fitness enthusiasts, can tell about food.

That concerns us.

Food is considerably more than just “fuel,” “energy,” or “calories.”

For one thing, focusing on “energy” and “calories” only tells half of the story when considering food only in terms of its physiological consequences.

Sure, food contains “energy” or “calories” in the form of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats). Or, to put it another way, “chemical bonds that are broken to generate ATP.”

Micronutrients, phytochemicals, zoochemicals, water, and other substances are also found in food.

Consider them as supporting characters in a film. They may not be the show’s “stars.” They don’t really offer any “energy” (or fuel).

Their dynamic exchanges, though, are what ignites the fire. They’re essential for optimum energy, performance, mood, and long-term health. In other words, the program would not be able to continue without them.

Unfortunately, these crucial individuals are almost entirely ignored in the “food as fuel” narrative. So let’s have a quick look at them now.

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals are essential in our nutrition. Our body would break down if we didn’t have them. Calcium, for example, aids in:

  • construct a foundation
  • blood clots
  • control blood pressure,
  • keep our hearts and muscles pumping, and
  • keep cell communication going

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme systems and aids in:

  • synthesis of proteins,
  • function of muscles and nerves
  • regulation of blood sugar
  • blood pressure control,
  • generation of energy, and
  • Other minerals are transported.

Folate (vitamin B9) is beneficial in the following ways:

  • transform food into energy
  • function of the neurological system (including the brain),
  • Tissues develop
  • synthesis of red blood cells

We could talk about this all day.

The main conclusion is that none of these nutrients are “fuel.” As a result, the “food as fuel” narrative completely overlooks them. 

This may be one of the reasons for the high prevalence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It’s easy to forget that we eat for more than just fuel when we just think of food as fuel.

Deficiencies graph Your body will not function correctly if you are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. You’re in a bad mood. You also become ill. That is true regardless of the amount of gasoline in the Ferarri.


Let’s get to know the phytochemicals.

This is a large collection of nutrients (phyto = plant) that has a significant impact on your health.

There are a number of main categories to choose from, including:

  • flavonoids,
  • phenolic acids, as well as
  • stilbenes/lignans.

Many of the most well-known phytochemicals are included in the flavonoid group, such as:

  • Anthocyanins and anthocyanidins are two types of anthocyanins (found in berries and grapes),
  • isoflavones, which may be found in soy foods, and
  • catechins catechins catechins catechins cate (found in tea).

It’s been shown that these nutrients:

  • provide free radical protection for DNA,
  • protect yourself against cancer
  • reduce your chances of getting heart disease, and
  • lowering overall mortality

Other phytochemicals and their advantages are listed below.

Food Phytochemical Possibile gain
Soybeans (beans, milk, tofu, natto) Isoflavones are a kind of isoflavone that is found in (genistein and daidzein) Blood pressure is reduced, and vessel dilatation is increased.
Colorful berries, red/purple grapes, and purple cabbage are examples of red/purple meals. Anthocyanins Improves eyesight, suppresses nitric oxide generation, promotes apoptosis, reduces platelet aggregation, and provides neuroprotection.
Grapes & grape products (red wine, grape juice & extracts); cocoa Flavan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins In the artery wall, it inhibits LDL oxidation, cellular oxygenases, and proinflammatory reactions.
Onions, garlic, leeks, olives, and scallions Sulfides and thiols are two types of sulfides. LDL cholesterol is reduced.
Colorful fruits and vegetables (such as yellow squash, tomatoes & tomato products, leafy greens, watermelon) Lycopene and beta-carotenes are carotenoids. Free radicals that cause cell harm are neutralized.
Broccoli and other members of the cruciferous family of vegetables (such as kale, cabbage and cauliflower) Isothiocyanates are a kind of isothiocyanate (sulforaphane) Free radicals that cause cell damage are neutralized; certain malignancies are prevented; and some hormones are balanced. Source:

Of course, like the micronutrients, phytochemicals don’t provide “fuel”. Which means that the “food as fuel” story totally ignores them too.


Phytochemicals’ animal relatives are called zoochemicals.

These nutrients, which are present in animal diets (zon = animal), have significant health implications.

Here are a few examples of zoochemicals and their advantages:

Food Zoochemical Possibile gain
Cold water fatty fish & fish oil (salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, trout) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (eicosapentaenoic acid) Reduces inflammation & blood clotting; protects against heart disease; may reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat, type 2 diabetes, cancer, & Alzheimer’s disease
Fatty fish from cold water, fortified milk and eggs, grass-fed animals, and fish oil DHA is a kind of fatty acid that (docosahexaenoic acid) Reduces the symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit disorder; essential for brain and eye development; may help with rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Dairy and meat products (especially grass-fed versions) CLA (Conjugated Linoleic (conjugated linoleic acid) Suppresses the growth of cancer cells; may decrease the risk of heart disease; strengthens the immune system; develops lean muscles; and reduces body fat.
Egg yolks Lutein & zeaxanthin Protects against macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as shielding the eyes from damaging blue light.
Pork, beef, herring, salmon, and tuna Creatine Provides cellular energy and support by replenishing ATP; improves muscle, brain, bone, and liver function.
Beef, pork, poultry, milk, and eggs Carnosine Antioxidant that fights glycation and diabetic nephropathy by scavenging alpha-beta unsaturated aldehydes produced by cell membrane peroxidation.

Many zoochemicals are fat-soluble, meaning they may be found in animal fats. As a result, eliminating (or restricting) animal fat consumption will likewise reduce zoochemical consumption.

Zoochemicals, like phytonutrients, do not offer “fuel.” As a result, they are also absent from the “food as fuel” narrative.

Food is so much more than just a source of energy. You’re also a lot more than a Ferrari.

So, here’s the deal: living beings aren’t machines. They’re far more complicated, self-regulating, and dynamically steering. They’re almost miraculous systems, to be honest.

If you’ve ever tried performing “calorie math,” you know how difficult it is to calculate exact inputs and outcomes.

Perhaps you consumed more calories than you anticipated… However, I became slimmer.

Or maybe you didn’t eat as many calories as you thought you should… as well as gaining weight (Or you didn’t shed those final ten pounds.)

Alternatively, you may have begun eating breakfast instead of skipping it… When you’ve lost a few inches off your waistline

None of this should be feasible, according to the simple “food as fuel” viewpoint. Nonetheless, it occurs often.

Because human bodies aren’t designed to burn fuel. They’re systems that are intricate, dynamic, organic, and endlessly responsive.

They resemble the whole cast (as well as the director and producer) of a great film rather than a vehicle. Even a high-end vehicle, such as a Ferrari.

For instance, new research suggests that not all food is created equal, and that what we consume isn’t always what we absorb.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of variables influence how we digest, process, and utilize the food we consume.

This implies that the calorie or fuel value of food outside the body isn’t always the same as the calorie value within the body. (See The greatest calorie control guide [Infographic] for additional information.)

Our bodies have their own set of requirements. For example, the body will extract nutrients in whatever manner required to keep you alive, frequently making difficult choices along the way.

This would be similar to a Ferrari driving itself to the petrol station and stalling the cashier until it obtains what it needs, or cannibalizing its own headlights for gasoline.

Furthermore, your body isn’t entirely “human.”

The billions of microbial organisms that live in and on us perform a lot of our digestion and nutrition extraction.

Our bacterial habitats reveal that each of us has a unique gut flora “microbiome,” similar to a fingerprint. Our digestion and absorption, as well as our body composition and health, are affected by changes in our microbiome.

We’re extremely complex, self-organizing, agenda-driven systems that are just kinda human. To be honest, the Ferrari should be envious.

Food is… knowledge.

So, if the “food as fuel” narrative is constrained, unimaginative, and ultimately false, what is food?

Food is, in part, a source of information. 

It’s a little like a script. It instructs our bodies’ “actors” on how to behave.

We’re really sending signals while we eat.

  • Do this.
  • This should not be done.
  • This hormone should be released.
  • Don’t let that one out.
  • This protein should be expressed.
  • Don’t say anything about it.

In essence, we’re giving instructions to start a chemical chain letter.

It’s really extraordinary. Each food molecule contributes to a magnificent chain of events that sends various messages throughout our bodies.

Produce hormones! Activate immunological cells! Genes may be turned on and off. Tell the construction team to tidy up and the builders to prepare!

Lights! Camera! Action!

It’s like the busiest, most crowded movie set you’ve ever seen. And, unlike many movie sets, it operates nearly flawlessly.

Every year, our bodies digest millions of calories and (let’s be technical) zillions of chemical molecules with near-perfect efficiency. (By contrast, gas-powered engines, such as our Ferrari, would be content with 30% efficiency.)

Even better, our thoughts, emotions, and surroundings may all have an impact on these processes.

If we smell a delicious meal, have a good or negative food (or other) thinking, feel pleased and calm or anxious and hurrying… It has an impact on nutrition processing.

But first, let’s take a look at what occurs when we eat food.

As we eat, our bodies detect arriving nutrients and send messages to our brains informing them of their presence.

message in a bottle

Here are a few instances of the many signals that food conveys.

The carbohydrate tale

Our blood sugar rises when we consume carbs, regardless of the kind. Almost all carbs are reduced down to the same thing: glucose, which includes sugars and starches.

Glucose sends the “carbohydrate message” to your pancreas, telling it to release molecules including gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

Your pancreas is subsequently instructed to release the hormone insulin by these molecules.

Insulin grabs the chemical note and runs with it, preparing the rest of your body for the glucose soon to arrive. Muscle, brain, and fat cells all open their mailboxes and prepare to accept glucose.

Your pancreas then produces additional hormones, such as somatostatin and amylin, to alert your brain that food is on the way.

The more signals you get and the longer they remain raised (i.e. the higher these chemicals rise and/or stay elevated), the more your brain thinks you’ve eaten enough food. (It’s similar to when you’re drowning in e-mail and want to scream, “Enough!”)

Food is information in this case. It’s all about communication. It’s a set of instructions you offer your body to help it achieve incredible results.

Here’s another illustration.

The story of protein and fat

Proteins and lipids are also excellent yarn spinners.

Their “messages” instruct the stomach to produce a hormone called cholecystokinin when they’re broken down (CCK).

CCK instructs the pancreas to produce enzymes that aid in the digestion of the chicken wings now lodged in your small intestine.

CCK, on the other hand, is a chatty creature that enjoys sending messages.

It instructs the gallbladder to discharge bile (which helps with fat digestion and absorption). It signals to the brain that you’ve gotten your fill of food.

CCK also remains in the brain for a brief conversation with other neurotransmitter systems, such as the endocanabinoid system, which is involved in pain control and mood regulation.

Cells, talk amongst yourself.

Digestion is just the beginning of the tale. The communication racket begins when these digested food components reach our cells.

Protein components (peptides and amino acids) are used by cells to make hormones, enzymes, structural proteins, and, of course, muscle.

Triglycerides and free fatty acids are components of fat that are utilized to produce hormones and are incorporated into our cell membranes. They are in charge of the inflammatory pathways.

Carbohydrate components (glucose and fructose) are utilized to keep hormone levels in check (such as thyroid, testosterone, and leptin to a degree).

These are simple reactions to incoming macronutrients.

Micronutrients, phytochemicals, and zoochemicals all carry their own signals and provide the body with additional information.

  • Some supplements instruct the body to enhance its own natural antioxidant defenses.
  • Others assist our antioxidant defense systems in doing their duties.
  • Some instruct the body to produce cancer-defeating enzymes.
  • Others go straight for the cancer.
  • Some of them remain in our intestines, protecting us against harmful chemicals.
  • Others bind the harmful substances and transport them out of the body.

Yackity yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak You won’t be able to silence these chemical messengers. (This is a positive thing.)

Food is astute. Your body is as well.

The point is that the “food as fuel” narrative reduces food to gasoline, our bodies to inept machines, and you to a calorie counter.

And that’s a shame since you’re so much more. Food and your body are deserving of a lot more respect and admiration.

The more we study, investigate, and coach at PN, the more astonished we are by food’s power. It’s jam-packed with information, meaning, and communication.

Every dietary choice we make sends a signal to our bodies.

Every dietary decision we make has the potential to shape, influence, and remake our health. The makeup of our bodies. Our performance was outstanding. The state of our health.

It’s not only about science when it comes to food.

At PN, we have a lot of physiologists and biochemists. We do, after all, look at food through a scientific lens.

But it isn’t the only viewpoint we have.

We also understand that sharing meals is a basic human behavior. Our past includes breaking bread (or whatever other meal is on the table).

Our way of life. As humans, we have left a legacy.

Yes, food is information in and of itself. Communication. This is a tale. 

However, we all have our own personal tales that we tell around and via food.

With how we eat, we want to convey information to ourselves — and to others. We eat here. What we consume is important.

  • I’m a sophisticated individual. I’m a self-proclaimed “foodie.”
  • I’m a conscientious shopper. I go to the farmer’s market on a regular basis.
  • I’m proud to be from Mexico/Italy/Nigeria/Laos/[insert region/origin/ethnicity]
  • For my large family, I serve as the social center. Come over for supper on Sunday!
  • I’m a risk taker. Once, I’ll eat anything. When I was traveling, I once ate…
  • I’m picky about what I buy. I try to stay away from processed foods.
  • My fridge is empty because I’m low-maintenance. Let’s get a quick bite to eat.
  • I’m a gastronome. I like dining at fine establishments.
  • I work as a caregiver. I’m in love with you. As a result, I prepare meals for you.

And so on.

This is vital information about ourselves, our families and friends, and our customers. It’s important. Crucial. Knowledge that can change your life.

That’s why we’re more than simply dietitians at. Alternatively, nutritionists.

(And we aren’t gas station jockeys assisting you with the task of filling your tank.)

Through the perspective of food and nutrition, we help you learn about — and appreciate — who you are.

We assist you in developing innovative food narratives. More tales that are inspirational, cheerful, and fascinating. Stories that go beyond “filling the tank with gas.”

Let’s begin with the science. Finally, we’ll talk about our common humanity.

It’s time to start writing your food narrative.

So, take a few moments to ponder the following question: What exactly is food? Is it for you?

Is it a source of energy? Is it knowledge? Is it a question of personal liberty? Is it a matter of shame? Is it a matter of self-esteem?

Then ponder this: What kind of cuisine would you want to eat?

We urge you to consider the broader picture. Use your imagination. Get a better understanding of physiology. Get a better understanding of mankind. Learn why food is one of the most fascinating tales ever told.

Because food tells a narrative at. A tale on the wonders of biology and evolution. A great epic of our humanity as a whole. A chemical tale told in molecules rather than words.

It’s a tale that has an impact on your everyday life, health, and function.

Is food used as a source of energy? No, we don’t believe so.

Do you want to be the healthiest, fittest, and strongest version of yourself?

Most people are aware that getting enough exercise, eating properly, sleeping well, and managing stress are all essential for looking and feeling better. However, they need assistance in putting that information into practice in the context of their hectic, often stressful lives.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why, via our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs, we educate health, fitness, and wellness professionals how to coach their own clients through similar difficulties.

Interested in becoming a coach? Join the presale list to save up to 54% and get a seat 24 hours before the general public.

On Wednesday, July 14th, 2021, we will be accepting applications for our upcoming Coaching.

If you’re interested in learning more about coaching, I recommend signing up for our presale list below. Being on the list provides you with two distinct benefits.

  • You’ll get a better deal than everyone else. We want to reward the individuals that are the most engaged and driven since they always create the greatest customers. If you join the presale list, you’ll save up to 54% off the general public pricing, the lowest we’ve ever given.
  • You’ll have a better chance of getting a place. We only offer the program twice a year to ensure that clients get the particular care and attention they need. We sold out in minutes the last time we started registration. By signing up for the presale list, you’ll be able to register 24 hours before the general public, boosting your chances of getting in.

This is your opportunity to transform your body and your life with the assistance of the world’s finest trainers.

[Note: If you currently have your health and fitness under control but want to assist others, look into our Level 1 Certification program.]

Food is fuel (or is there a better food analogy?) I have been on a diet for a few months now and I’m happy to say that it has become a habit. I jog at least 5 times a week and I do not eat a lot of processed beverages. When I go out for dinner I order homemade grilled chicken and veggies. I still have not met my goal of losing weight but I have come far. So far that I can see the finish line. Thank you for reading this post.. Read more about food as fuel mindset and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you view food as just fuel or does it mean more to you explain your answer?

I view food as fuel.

Is food more than fuel?

Yes, food is more than fuel.

What does food as fuel mean?

Foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein can be used to fuel your workouts.

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Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.