The entrainment of coarse sediment particles under the action of fluctuating hydrodynamic forces is investigated from an energy perspective. It is demonstrated that the entrainment of a grain resting on the channel boundary is possible when the instantaneous flow power transferred to it exceeds a critical level. Its complete removal from the bed matrix occurs only if the impinging flow events supply sufficient mechanical energy. The energy-based criterion is formulated theoretically for entrainment of individual spherical particles in both saltation and rolling modes. Out of the wide range of flow events that can perform mechanical work on a coarse grain, only those with sufficient power and duration or equivalent energy density and characteristic length scale may accomplish its complete dislodgement. The instantaneous velocity upstream of a mobile particle is synchronously recorded with its position, enabling the identification of the flow events responsible for grain entrainment by rolling at near incipient motion flow conditions. For each of the entrainment events, the energy transfer coefficient defined as the ratio of the mechanical work performed on the particle to the mean energy of the flow event responsible for its dislodgement obtains values ranging from 0.04 to 0.10. At the examined low-mobility flow conditions, the majority (about 80%) of the energetic structures leading to complete particle entrainment have a characteristic length of about two to four particle diameters.