Basic Nutrition

Kevin Turner – Turner Strength & Performance

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Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Optimal nutrition is critical for achieving fat loss, developing lean muscle mass, attaining physical fitness and increasing sports performance, along with minimizing the risks of health issues such as; coronary heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity to name a few. Food consists of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements). These macronutrients and micronutrients have a profound impact on hormones and enzymes that we need to grow, survive and produce optimum performance. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water are the six major nutrients necessary for a healthy body. The body does not make these or makes them in insufficient quantities so they have to be included into your diet to maintain a healthy state.  A deficiency in any one of these nutrients can greatly impact your ability to reach your fitness or sports performance goals.

Carbohydrates 

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Carbohydrates are stored primarily in the muscles and liver as glycogen and is the most important energy source used during physical activity. In addition to a source of energy, carbohydrates provide fuel for the brain, nervous system, and blood cells. Cognitive function and exercise capabilities diminish when this important source of fuel is low.

Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates contain 1-2 sugar units per molecule. These are sweet tasting foods such as, table sugar, milk and honey. Complex carbohydrates consist of long chains of sugar molecules and are found in foods such as high fiber fruits, some vegetables and grains. Consuming a diet high in dietary fiber is essential to maintaining gastrointestinal health and preventing some cancers, particularly colon cancer.

During digestion, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose and is used for energy or converted to glycogen and stored for later energy demands. During exercise stored glycogen is converted back to glucose and used to satisfy the energy demands.

Protein

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Dietary protein is digested into amino acids, which are the building blocks for various tissues, enzymes and hormones that are required for the body to function. Protein is also necessary for the building and repair of muscle after exercise.  Compared to carbohydrates and fat, protein contributes minimally to the energy demands of the body. Currently the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Exercise may increase the demand for slightly more protein in an athlete’s diet depending on exercise type and frequency.

Eating excessive protein can increase fat storage, increase the risk of dehydration and possibly add more burden on the kidneys.

Vegetarian athletes should work with a dietician to make sure their protein intake is sufficient.

Fat

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Fat is an important component of your diet. Fat acts as a storage system for excess calories consumed, whether they be from protein or carbohydrates. Fat is essential for healthy skin and hair and acts as a carrying agent in the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Also, Dietary fat provides essential fatty acids which the body does not produce. These essential fatty acids aid in many bodily functions such as regulating blood pressure. Fat acts as a secondary source of energy when carbohydrate stores in the muscles have been depleted, making it a significant contributor to energy demands. Even though carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, fats are the most highly concentrated source of energy in the body. Fats have 9 kcal/gram as compared to protein and carbohydrates which only have 4 kcal/gram. This makes it easy to see why foods high in fat are also high in calories.

Saturated fats and trans fats are the only fats we should strive to eliminate through our diets. Replace these fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends that daily fat intake be less than 30% of your total calories, saturated fat intake to be less than 8-10% of your total calories and cholesterol be less than 300 milligrams per day.

Vitamins and minerals

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 Maintaining adequate levels of vitamins and minerals is necessary for bodily function and athletic performance. As activity levels are increased, the need for different vitamins and minerals may increase as well. By eating a variety of foods along with a balanced diet, this need can be easily met. Please click below for detailed chart.

Water

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Water makes up the largest percentage of the body at 60%. Water is vital for controlling metabolism, digesting food, delivering substances to cells, fostering communication among cells, and regulating body temperature. It is important to hydrate before any physical activity and be sure to replenish the lost fluids after. By routinely tracking pre and post exercise weight changes, sweat rates can be estimated. This allows for a more accurate assessment of hydration during exercise. Be sure to consume 16 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost due to exercise. It is also important to note that sweat rates will increase dramatically during hot and humid weather.  It is vital to maintain hydration in these conditions.

Conclusion

A nutritious diet is absolutely critical in achieving your desired fitness or athletic goals. Proper nutrition provides energy, prevents disease, and provides the essential building blocks for growth. Anyone wanting to start an exercise program, improve sports performance or simply begin living a healthier lifestyle, should first consult with their doctor and seek nutritional advice from reliable and qualified sources.

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