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May 1, 2013
An introduction to exercise
March 5, 2015
An introduction to nutrition
March 5, 2015
Nutrients are an important part of any active lifestyle. Whether you are looking to build muscle, lose weight, or just feel better and have more energy, a basic understanding of how nutrients work in your body is a fundamental necessity for success.
The three types of nutrients you will no doubt hear referenced the most often are:
Carbohydrates or "Carbs"
Many diet plans have been created around each of these specific nutrients. Depending on your fitness goals, one may be slightly more important than the other, but really you need a working knowledge or all three in order to have a balanced approach. Here are the basic things you need to know.
Proteins are often referred to in bodybuilding and weightlifting books, and particularly in protein centric diets such as Atkins. While protein is necessary for building muscle, it is also necessary for maintaining and repairing muscle tissue, and is therefore just as important for a healthy body as it is for building new muscle. Anytime you exert physical energy, such as in running, working out, or even just working period, your body will begin looking for proteins to repair any damaged tissue and maintain the muscle tissue you called into action.
Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are necessary to a healthy muscle maintenance, and ingesting protein throughout the day helps our body to function at its peak levels.
If your body lacks the proper amount of protein it will begin breaking down tissue, which can be harmful to the body, ultimately leading to catabolism; a state in which the body will actively break down muscle for fuel, whilst storing bodyfat.
Proteins can be found in a variety of food sources. Some of these are:
Beef (Lean is Best)
Poultry (Chicken or Turkey)
When consuming meat as a source of protein, always choose the leanest cuts, as there is no need to consume all the excess fat in order to get the appropriate amounts of protein.
Another option is to add a protein shake to your daily diet. Be sure to do your research to get a good quality protein powder.
When you think of carbohydrates, or "carbs," think of fuel. When your body needs energy, the preferred fuel it seeks for is in the form of carbs. Carbs are essentially sugar molecules that are linked together. Some are linked together in a complicated manner (Complex Carbs) and some are linked in a simple manner (Simple Carbs).
Simple carbs are absorbed more rapidly into the bloodstream and provide a relatively quick "burst" of energy. Examples of simple carbs are:
Some Fruit Juices
Most of the things on the list above would be considered "junk food." While it is true that these carbs provide a quick temporary burst of energy, they also run out more quickly, leaving you feeling fatigued. Whether you are actually more tired than you were before is a debate for another time. What is true is that the quick energy you received from the simple carbs will soon deplete, leaving you needing to refuel again more quickly.
Complex carbs take the body longer to break down and absorb, providing you with sustained energy, although not necessarily the sharp boost you feel with simple carbs. Complex carbs allow you to go farther before having to refuel. Examples of complex carbs are:
Potatoes (with the skin)
These are only a few of the options. There are literally dozens of healthy food choices that contain complex carbs.
You might have noticed that the foods containing simple carbs were processed foods, while the list of complex carbs was more "natural." It is true that the closer to natural you get, the better quality carbs you will be consuming. There is nothing wrong with grabbing a candy bar if you need a quick boost of energy, but nothing beats a diet rich in complex carbs for sustained energy production.
I know…that sounds like a bad word right? Aren't we trying to keep from being fat? The truth is that we all need a certain amount of fats in our bodies to be healthy. The proper term for having too much fat is "obesity."
Fats are actually an energy source. In fact, in the absence of carbohydrates, the body will go looking for fat to burn. Some more recent diets (such as Paleo) have conjectured that fats were part of primitive man's survival system.
There are actually three types of fats:
Saturated - Found in animal and dairy products
Polyunsaturated - Found in corn, soybeans and some oils like sunflower oil.
Monounsaturated - Found in vegetable oils and nut oils. (Olive, peanut, canola)
Each of these fats has an essential purpose to play in a healthy body. Saturated fats are used by the liver to make cholesterol and produce hormones like testosterone. Polyunsaturated fats can be used to lower cholesterol. Be careful with this however, since these fats do not discriminate between good and bad cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to help lower LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins) cholesterol, which is considered bad, but does not seem to touch HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) cholesterol.
Ultimately, it is important to limit the amount of fats you consume. Of course transfats should be avoided completely if possible.
Okay, so that should give you a quick overview on the basics of nutrients and the importance they play in maintaining a healthy body. If you are unsure of what type of diet is best for you, start by simply eating as much of a nature based diet as possible. Natural is always better, and it is a good place to start. And of course our team of experts Personal Trainers are on hand should you require a more personalised approach to nutrition.