In this high tech information age we are being constantly bombarded with conflicting information regarding what foods we should eat and how much of them we should eat. What is good for you? What will raise or lower your cholesterol? What new miracle food will maintain our health and increase our longevity? How many of you have made that solemn personal commitment to begin eating right tomorrow? How many of you have failed on your first day? Amazingly, with all the information available today most Americans are significantly overweight and yet, malnourished. Eating right is not difficult in principle if the information available is sound. The difficulty lies in the daily application of this principle, so you must know now that it will take focus, discipline and effort to achieve your goals. I will try to simplify the principles of nutrition so you can begin to understand the balance required to achieve optimal nutritional health. Remember, YOU CAN DO THIS!
are six categories of nutrients, and they are found in most common foods.
Water is the most abundant nutrient. Our bodies are composed of at least
sixty percent water, so the amount of importance water plays should
be obvious. Carbohydrates, fat and protein make up the group of nutrients
that we receive our energy from and are considered major nutrients.
Vitamins and minerals make up a smaller but vital group of nutrients.
I will discuss each group in detail to clarify their importance.
I am sure that you are aware that a body can only survive a few days without water. All of our bodily fluids are mostly made of water. Water carries all the essential ingredients to nourish our body systems and acts to remove metabolic waste. Water also participates in many complicated chemical reactions required to maintain essential bodily functions. It lubricates our joints and protects our tissues and organs from shock. Water is definitely the most important nutrient for an athlete.
For an athlete to achieve optimal performance proper hydration must be maintained. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink water you are already dehydrating. Remember to drink 6-8 ounces of water every fifteen minutes during your workout. Here are a couple of ways to see if you are adequately hydrated.
Carbohydrates, fat and protein comprise the group which we gain our energy from. Most foods contain a mixture of these three nutrients but are usually classified by the predominant nutrient. The energy gained by these nutrients are used by the body as heat, to build and maintain its structures, to move or perform a function or to be stored as fat. I will discuss each of these nutrients briefly to clarify their importance. The caloric value for each of these nutrients are:
Carbohydrates are used by the body as an energy source. Carbohydrates are also the most abused and misunderstood nutrient that we consume. Your body uses glycogen as fuel for muscles to burn. Glycogen is produced by the body in two ways. The first is from the body's natural process of breaking down carbohydrates consumed, and the second is from metabolizing fat stores when available glycogen reserves are low, which is not desirable for long periods of time. "Carbo-Loading" is a term many are familiar with. Primarily, carbo-loading is a technique used by trained athletes to increase their store of available glycogen for long endurance sports. When the body's glycogen stores are not depleted by exercise theremaining energy produced from consumed carbohydrates are stored in the body as fat deposits. This is the main reason that so many people are overweight today. Only 400 - 500 grams of carbohydrates are required each day to maintain an optimal glycogen supply. This amount of intake can be varied based upon the amount of regular and sustained exercise you perform. Overall, carbohydrates should represent about forty percent of your total dietary intake.
Fat is a required nutrient of the body to perform very necessary functions. Dietary fats help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, triglycerides are the major energy fuel of the liver and skeletal muscles. Phospholipids are integral components of maintaining nerve structures (which are essential for brain function) and all cellular membranes. Total fats should represent about thirty percent of your dietary intake. Saturated (animal) fats should only represent about ten percent of your daily intake. The remaining twenty percent should come from unsaturated fats (vegetable) such as olive oil.
Proteins are important nutrients because they are the structural material of the body, some examples are skin, muscle and connective tissues. Dietary proteins furnish the essential amino acids required for protein synthesis in the body. Eggs, milk and meat proteins are considered complete proteins because they meet all the body's amino acid requirements for tissue maintenance and growth. Legumes, nuts and cereals are protein rich but their proteins are nutritionally incomplete because they are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Protein should represent about thirty percent of your dietary intake.
VITAMINS & MINERALS
Vitamins and minerals are organic compounds that are required by the body in minute amounts to support growth and health. Vitamins and minerals themselves are not used as energy or building blocks but are essential in helping the body use those nutrients that do. Most vitamins and minerals are provided in the foods that we eat. However, if you have been diagnosed by a physician with a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency you should follow the advice of your doctor. Also, If you have difficulty maintaining a healthy balanced diet then a multivitamin supplement with minerals may provide those components not acquired through your diet.
There is no magic bullet to proper nutrition. No one food or food group is the answer to good health, fitness and longevity. The key to optimal health and fitness is a moderate and balanced diet with fresh foods that are nutrient rich combined with an exercise program that will allow your body to utilize these nutrients for their maximum benefit.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
You need to find an optimum balance of protein, carbs, and fats. What is best for you? Hard to say. Keep records and compare results.
Most of us want to get lean or stay that way. For most of us this means limiting carbs to some degree and eating as clean as possible. No junk food.
Generally speaking 200 grams of carbs a day is enough for anyone and still lose weight. Eat 1 to 2 grams of protein for each pound you want to weigh, and keep fats at about 50 grams or less a day. This is just a general baseline guess, a place to start. From here you figure out what's best for you. Count calories. Figure out what it takes for you to gain or lose weight. 200 carb grams a day might be way too high for some people and too low for others. Find your balance.