By Kirsty Duffield
What underlines good nutrition?
So we have all at some point in our lives had a go at healthy eating and probably heard so many different theories as to what is the best way to go about applying nutritional principles to your lifestyle.
This can leave people confused and not knowing which way to turn, especially when in an era where spending a lot of hard earned cash on healthcare and supplements seems to be the norm.
What I want to try and do with this blog is to help you understand the different components of nutrition and when to apply it.
The human body needs raw elements to be able to function effectively, these are made up of oxygen, food and water, seems straightforward enough right?
But the biggest factor to think about is the proportion of what raw elements are input into your system and nutrition is the delivery of these raw materials to your body’s cells.
Healthy eating is a pattern of all of these good foods taken into the body in proportion to promote the best possible state for your body, this includes breaking down the diet into the 2 main components, micro and macro nutrients. I know that you will have heard this term; we all have at some point or other but let’s be honest, unless you have actually sat and done some research into these you are really just guessing at what you think are the right amounts?? True? This is why I want to take the opportunity to just break them down for you and make them a bit more digestible (excuse the pun).
Macronutrients are the larger groups what we need to intake in bigger amounts for our body to be able to function and acts as a fuel.
These are made up of proteins, carbs and fats, now I do know that you will have heard of all of these. To make this even easier to understand I will break these down a little bit further for you and give you an idea of what they are and why we need them:
Proteins – These are the building blocks of life, the body needs proteins to repair and rebuild itself as well as promote growth and development and needs to be eaten in bulk to ensure that the body runs well. Proteins are made up of amino acids which help to break down food and some of these amino acids are essential to a balanced diet as the body just simply doesn’t produce them. This is where some supplements are beneficial because they input the amino acids that we need to repair and rebuild after training. Protein should be the bulk of every meal and to work out how much protein you should be taking in daily depends upon your weight and activity levels but on average between 1-2g of protein per kg of body weight.
Carbohydrates – Carbs….. to most this is a big scary word that just means weight gain, to others this amazing word that means weight gain! Carbohydrates are the biggest source of energy that the body will use because they are easily converted into glucose which is what the body needs to run but only if eaten in moderation. Carbs are split into 3 categories, simple, complex and NSP (non-starch polysaccharides). Simple carbs are referred to as sugar and can only be converted to energy and used when combined with certain vitamins. Complex carbs generally aren’t sweet and are also known as being starchy and once eaten they are quickly broken down and absorbed into the blood stream. The final carb is the NSP and this is known as Fibre, which aids transportation of food and also helps with digestion but doesn’t actually produce any energy.
Fats – Fats are also a massive energy source. Yes they are good for you! Yes you need to eat enough of them, not just a quick smell of coconut oil once a day. Fats help with vitamin absorption and also make the food taste a lot better and can actually aid with fat loss and lower cholesterol. There are many different sources of fats in their different forms, these naturally occur in foods such as meat or dairy but also occur in man-made oils such as olive oil and peanut oil.
You then have the micronutrients which are basically a collection of vitamins and minerals which we only need in small amounts to aid metabolism and normal growth and development. Vitamins we need are:
VITAMIN FUNCTION SOURCES
Vit A Stimulate digestion/Aid bone building Butter, liver, seafood, cod liver oil
Vit D To absorb calcium/
Aid formation of bones & teeth Butter, liver, seafood, cod liver oil
Vit E Aids blood circulation/
Helps with tissue repair / Unrefined vegetable oils, butter, Slows ageing process organ meat, raw nuts and seeds
Vit K Plays a role in blood clotting/ Butter, liver, whole grains,
Aid with bone formation dark leafy green vegetables
Vit B Promotes healthy skin, nerves, hair, Fresh fruit and vegetables, raw
complex eyes and muscle/ nuts, seafood, organ meats
Formation of red blood cells
Vit C Helps to run immune system/ Fresh fruit and vegetables
Aids tissue repair and growth/ and some organ meats
Supports adrenal gland function/
Helps healing of wounds
So those multi vitamins that you overlook on the shelf while doing your weekly shop might actually be a valuable purchase in the long run. Most multi vitamins have most, if not all of these vitamins included in them and for the sake of taking one tablet a day you can help your body to maintain all of the above functions.
The other main micronutrient is mineral, these help to build teeth and bones and turn the food that we eat into energy so as you can imagine, also an important part of a balanced diet! Not only that they actually make up 4% of our body mass mainly in the bone and although we need many minerals to function well there are 7 main minerals which our bodies need, these are:
These are all found naturally in meat, cereals, fish, milk and dairy products.
So how much should you eat of each I hear you ask? This question has a simple answer – it all depends upon your own personal goals. The national guidelines set by the food standards agency follow the Eatwell plate model which states that each meal should have roughly 35% starchy foods, 35% fruit and veg and then the remaining 30% divided into meat, dairy and fats. We should also be eating the average amount of calories per day, 2500 for men and 2000 for women and the calories should be split across the macro nutrients:
Minimum 50% carbs (4 calories per gram)
Max 35% fats (9 calories per gram)
Minimum of 55grams of protein which should be 9-12% of the total calories minimum (4 calories per gram)
So based on a 70kg fairly active female you should be eating 1.5g of protein per kg of weight. This would equate to 105g of protein. This is where the maths comes in handy – or a calculator.
105g of protein at 4calories per gram = 420cal
2000 – 420 = 1580cal remaining
50% of total cal should be carbs = 1000cal
1000+420 = 1420
2000 – 1420 = 580cal in fats = 29%
This would total:
CARBOHYDRATES 1000 calories 50%
FATS 580 calories 29%
PROTEINS 420 calories 21%
So next time you wonder what you are actually paying your trainer for, just think about this. They know what they are doing and the fact that they have this kind of knowledge and know how to apply it is why you pay the dollar.
Once you have this down you can alter your own calorie intake to take into account of any new goals that you might have. This could be an increase of carbohydrates if you are looking to build your muscle and gain weight or lower carb intake when looking to lean down.
FINALLY….. hydration. Water is what makes up the massive majority of our bodies therefore, it makes sense that we should really be drinking more than one or 2 glasses of water a day. The recommended amount is 6-8 glasses but depending on weight it can vary from 1.7L to 3L and this is basically because the heavier you are the more water there is in your body.
So all in all, moderate your eating to make sure that you are taking in all macro and micro nutrients in their recommended amounts according to your goals and weight and drink lots and lots of water. Simple as that really.
If your goals change and you are wanting to achieve a target within a desired time frame it is a good idea to research local PT’s and find one that has experience in the area you are training rather than going it alone.
If you need any advice or want information on supplements or nutrition please give me a shout.