Are you aware that the food that you put into your mouth can greatly influence your body weight and composition? The human body requires proper nutrition with balanced macronutrients and micronutrients to grow muscles, repair tissues as well as maintain good health. Serious athletes rely heavily on proper nutrition to improve their energy, performance and physique.
Hence, for the fitness enthusiasts out there, there is no reason for you to not understand the basics of nutrition. Having a good understanding on nutrition not only brings you closer to your fitness goals, but it helps you establish a healthy relationship with food. Here we look at two broad categories of nutrients, namely macronutrients and micronutrients.
The word “macro” suggests that macronutrients are nutrients that the human body needs in large quantities. Macronutrients are simply nutrients that provide calories or energy. There are three types of macronutrients and they should be quite familiar to most people – carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy as it is the most efficient fuel for the body to utilize. This is why the more active individuals such as hard training athletes will require larger amounts of carbohydrates to provide them with the necessary energy to perform. On the other hand, sedentary individuals such as office workers will require fewer carbohydrates as they burn fewer calories. Examples of food containing carbohydrates include simple sugar, rice, fruits and potatoes.
Protein is our body’s building block. The human body requires protein to build and maintain almost everything that makes up the body including our skin, hair, tissues, bones and skeletal muscles. It is not uncommon to hear fitness enthusiasts talk about the importance of consuming a high protein intake to build muscles. While this is true and scientifically proven, regular folks may still benefit from consuming adequate amounts of protein as protein will aid in slowing down the aging process and the breaking down of body tissue. Examples of food containing protein include eggs, dairy, nuts, fish, poultry and meat.
Fats are probably the most misunderstood macronutrient and are seen as the number enemy for weight-conscious individuals. The truth is that ‘fat does not make you fat’. In fact, healthy fats are far more important than you could imagine. Healthy fats are responsible for the proper functions of the body. For instance, fats lubricate our joints, maintain body temperature and promote healthy cell function. There are certain vitamins that are fat-soluble such as vitamins A, D, E and K. This means that fats are required for the proper digestion of these vitamins. Examples of food containing good fats are nuts, butter, olive oil and coconut oil.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, represent the nutrients that the body needs in small quantities. The more common term for micronutrients is “vitamins and minerals.” While only needed in small amounts, they are crucial for our bodies – including helping with our immunity, as well as the optimization of physical and mental functioning such as the regulation of metabolism, heartbeat, cellular pH and bone density. Examples of vitamins include vitamin B complex, C, A, D, E and K. Examples of minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and copper.
Take home message
Natural, unprocessed foods are your best bet because they contain better quality macronutrients and micronutrients. The protein quality in a McChicken is not the same as the protein quality found in unprocessed eggs, even though the protein quantity might be the same. Processed food usually contains little to no micronutrients because the processing destroys them.
Understanding the different kinds of macronutrients and micronutrients available in food is the first step in aligning your nutrition plan with your fitness goals. Fitness enthusiasts must understand that ‘you are what you eat. Hence it is important to start feeding your body with quality food.