Nutrition is important to fitness and a little knowledge will therefore will help you be more aware of the fuel you put into your body. Our energy comes from calories in the form of:
These are called ‘Macronutrients‘.
- Protein provides calories which are used for maintenance, repair, growth of new tissues, organs & bones.
- Carbohydrates provide calories that are used for energy.
- Fat provides calories that are stored and used for cellular functions.
This refers to those calories that have little or no nutritional value, that is no protein, useful fat, or essential nutrients. Examples are refined white sugar, white flour, candy & soft drinks.
The human body needs many different nutrients but it produces many of these on its own. There are some the body does not produce….so it is ‘essential’ that we get them from food. Thus, they are termed ‘essential nutrients‘.
These are best known as enzymes which make chemical reactions happen. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories. The human body is constantly rebuilding itself, and the science is not quite clear here because each one of us is unique. Some cells regenerate faster than others and as we age it all slows down. We all know about growing fingernails, toenails and hair, but the rest of our body is constantly regenerating itself as well.
That’s why we need protein, it’s the rebuilding blocks. Each time a muscle works…it’s breaking down protein, and it needs to be constantly replaced! Eating the right foods contributes to this process so you can see that nutrition is important to fitness.
- Incomplete Proteins – do not provide all the amino acids that we need. Sources are fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts
- Complete Proteins –contain all the amino acids we need. Animal sources tend to be complete. (complete does not mean quality)
These are chemical compounds (sugars, starches and fiber) that store and transport energy. Each gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
They are often referred to simply as ‘carbs’, and they are the most common source of energy.
There are two kinds:
These are quickly digested carbs and come from fruits, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, molasses, honey and sugar. Most contain little in the way of vitamins and essential nutrients, but are quickly broken down and absorbed to give the body glucose.
While these take longer to digest, they are usually packed with vitamins, fiber and essential nutrients. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates include breads (not white bread), whole wheat pastas, beans, potatoes, bran, rice and cereals.
So, you can see that we need carbs in our food plan because they are critical to proper nutrition and nutrition is important to fitness.
These are organic compounds that store energy. Each gram of fat has 9 calories.
- Saturated – (bad for you) contained in cow’s milk, red meats & under the skin of animals
- Unsaturated – (good) contained in peanut, soya bean, sesame, olive and vegetable oils
- Trans Fat – industrially created through the process of hydrogenation. Crisco was the first. They are not beneficial to the diet in any way.
- Cholesterol – a classification of fat that builds and maintains cell membranes
- LDL – (dietary cholesterol)baaad cholesterol, builds up in the blood, causes heart problems, hardening of the arteries. Contained in animal fats, milk, eggs, beef & poultry
- HDL – (good cholesterol) produced in the body and only as needed, excreted from the liver in bile. It is the starting material for Vitamin D
Why do we need fats?
- Fats provide energy if and when blood sugar runs out, usually after 4-6 hours without eating
- Provides insulation under our skin and around our organs.
- Helps move nutrients around our bodies.
- Helps our bodies absorb fat soluble vitamins
- Used to add flavor in foods
Eating the right fats contributes to good nutrition and nutrition is important to fitness.
Micronutrients, Minerals and Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are referred to as micro-nutrients and we need lots of them for proper nutrition. Vitamins are complex organic substances found in plant & animal tissue that is needed to control metabolic processes. Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic substances with a specific chemical composition and characteristic crystalline structure. They play an important role in bodily functions critical to physical movement.
This is the ability to convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a useable form or biological energy.
It has two phases:
- Anabolism – Building of new cells & structures.
- Catabolism – Decomposition or using up of cells or the breakdown of cellular structure. The breakdown of protein amino acids during a muscle contraction is an example.
Now, nobody argues with any of the nutrition facts presented so far. What they argue about is the value of each macronutrient depending on where it comes from, how much of each we need and when we need it. For years the only source of information has been the food companies selling the food.
No nutrition facts there…they are a bit biased I guess! Anyone surprised? This is where you need to think for yourself.
This is another excellent example of marketing expertise and leading us to the cash register! There is very little ‘good science’ to support the claims made for these products. They are not regulated. We all want them to work, and so we continue to buy them year after year…even though there is no proven result.
I suggest you take this basic nutrition information, and think about how it ties to the Biological Signs of Aging, and then use the knowledge of nutrition facts to your own advantage. Remember that nutrition is important to fitness and is likely at least 75% of fitness.
If you’ve been in a book store recently you’ve probably seen The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, The Zone, Eat Right 4 Your Type, The Flat Belly Diet, The Eat Clean Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Eat More – Weigh Less Diet, Brown Fat Revolution, The Protein Plan, Eat for Your Blood Type, What Would Jesus Eat? (I’m serious!) The Devil’s Diet! (Yes, they really are in the stores) The Paleo Diet, The Vegan Diet, The Fast Diet and of course, The Slow Diet! ...and on and on and on.
I recently found over 100 different diets listed on the internet. The marketing language distorts the nutrition facts in order to lure you to the cash register. You can use the information here to learn more and make better life decisions.
If you aren’t tired, constipated or half-starved by these ‘quick fix’ plans, your head is spinning from the many unanswered questions: Is the problem too many carbs? Not enough carbs? Do carbs really make you fat? Is it protein? Is it fat? Should you be more concerned about the total amount of fat you eat, or just saturated fats and trans-fats? What is a Trans-Fat anyway? Is there a correct ratio of nutrients to help me lose weight? And what are nutrients? Am I taking the right supplements? Should I take supplements? Are foods fortified with fiber improved? If they have to be fortified, were they stripped in the first place, and why? Do I need vitamins? Which ones and how many? Do they work? How would I know? Should I count calories? And what’s the right number? If I eat soy foods, will that prevent heart disease?
Each and every diet book claims to have the secret and that there is real science to back up their claims. I think they all work initially and for the same reason. The one thing that they do have in common is that they make you think about the food you eat and that alone often makes you eat less and sometimes make better food choices!
Most of us Baby-Boomers and Seniors buy into the reality that we are what we eat. There is an amazing amount of information available on nutrition and it can be extremely confusing.
The components of physical fitness include nutrition because it is the fuel we feed our bodies and by itself is as important as all the other components together. Use these nutrition facts to guide you as your strive to impact your Aging Curve.