A personal trainer is not a substitute for a registered dietitian, or other licensed and or degreed nutritional expert. However, as a personal trainer I can give you accurate, general nutritional information that will enable you to make wise food choices when planning your meals.
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the process by which the body uses food to sustain life, for growth, for activity, and for normal functioning of every organ and tissue. Adequate nutrition is also important for psychological well-being. Nutrients found in the foods we eat are the essential components of food. There are more than fifty essential nutrients in food. Each nutrient has a special role in the body and needs other nutrients to do its job properly. No one food can supply all of these nutrients. This is why it is so important to eat a variety of foods.
Six different types of nutrients fuel our bodies. All six have different compositions and serve many different functions in our body. Together these six nutrients make up a healthy and balanced diet.
Second to water, protein makes up the largest percentage of material in the human body- about 45 percent. Proteins are made up of 21 different amino acids. The human body is capable of producing 12 non-essential amino acids while the remaining 9 must be obtained from the diet.
Types of Dietary Proteins
1. High Quality Protein- proteins which contain all the nine essential amino acids in the proper proportions. Our bodies are able to absorb high quality proteins more efficiently.
Food sources: eggs, meat, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, cheese
2. Low Quality Protein- are missing one or more essential amino acids or have unbalanced amounts of amino acids.
Food sources: grain products (bread, cereal, rice, pasta) nuts and seeds, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
Functions of Protein:
- Growth and repair of body tissues
- Formation of various proteins for body functions
* The Recommended Daily Allowance of protein is 0.8g/ kg for the average person. This is generally the equivalent of 10-15% of your daily caloric intake.
Strength trained athletes require 1.4-1.8g/ kg of daily protein.
Endurance athletes require 1.2-1.4g/ kg of daily protein.
* Reminder: every gram of protein has 4 calories associated with it.
Carbohydrates are the best energy source for the human body. They are the high octane fuel that makes our body run best.
Types of Carbohydrates
1. Simple Carbohydrates- A simple carbohydrate contains only one or two units of sugar and in general, simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed rapidly.
Food sources: fruits and juices, table sugar, jam, honey, candy, pop.
2. Complex Carbohydrates- A complex carbohydrate has more than two sugars linked together. Complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more slowly than simple sugars.
Food sources: grain products like breads, cereals, rice, pasta and beans, peas and legumes, as well as corn and potatoes.
Dietary fiber is the part of the plant you cannot digest. There are two main types of dietary fiber: soluble (which dissolves in water) and insoluble (commonly referred to as ‘roughage’).
Food sources of soluble fiber include: oats, oatmeal and oatbran, baked beans, lentils, peas, cornbran and cereals, which contain pysillium.
Food sources of insoluble fiber include: breads and cereals made from corn and wheat bran, fruits with edible seeds (strawberries, raspberries, kiwi), cabbage family of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), mature root vegetables (carrots and parsnips), mushrooms and eggplant.
Functions of Fiber
- Soluble fiber may help control blood sugar and lower blood cholesterol.
- By eating a diet high in fiber, you may feel less hungry for a longer period of time. Insoluble fiber may help prevent and control bowel problems.
- It is recommended that the average person consume between 20-30 grams of fiber a day. Eating more than 50-60 grams of fiber daily may decrease the amounts of vitamins and minerals your body absorbs.
Functions of Carbohydrates:
- provide energy in the form of glucose to the brain, heart, kidney, muscles and other tissues.
- the presence of adequate carbohydrate for energy helps prevent the use of protein for energy, thus protecting the protein for tissue building and repair.
* The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates per day is between 6-10g/ kg for the average person, or approximately 55-65% of total calories.
* Reminder: every gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories associated with it.
Today, fat has become public enemy number one, responsible not only for increasing our weight gain but for a number of serious illnesses as well- heart disease, cancer, stroke. Still, fat does have some redeeming virtues. In fact, we could not survive without it. Fat is required for us to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is also essential in the production of several hormones and other compounds needed by the body. Aside from providing us with a way to store extra energy for later use, fat insulates the body, thereby helping to regulate temperature, and cushions and protects our vital organs.
Where is fat found?
- Fat added in processing (defined as anything the manufacturer would add).
- Fat added in preparation.
- Fat added at the table.
- Fat found naturally in food.
Types of Fats
The fat found in food is actually a combination of three different types: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Polyunsaturated Fats: are generally liquid at room temperature and can help lower the level of cholesterol in your food. These are found in oils (safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, and sesame), nuts and seeds.
Monounsaturated Fats: are known to help lower blood cholesterol levels. They are found in canola, olive, and peanut oils, as well as nuts and seeds.
Saturated Fats: raise blood cholesterol levels more than anything in the diet. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. They are found in animal products such as lard, meat, poultry, butter, cheese and cream.
Trans Fats: also raise blood cholesterol levels. They are formed when polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats are changed from a liquid to a solid form. This process is referred to as “hydrogenation”, and hydrogenated fats are found in shortenings, baked goods, cookies, crackers, potato chips, frozen french fries, and some margarine.
Cholesterol: Dietary cholesterol is the term we use to refer to any cholesterol we eat. Blood cholesterol is the cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream. Trouble occurs when too much cholesterol is circulating in the blood. This results in decreased blood circulation and increase in blood pressure.
In the bloodstream , fats are transported by special carriers called lipoproteins, and they come in two kinds: low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL’s). LDL’s are known as the “bad” cholesterol, because they are the ones most responsible for the build-up of plaque, the hard fatty deposits that narrow cell walls and clog arteries. HDL’s are considered the “good” cholesterol because they carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. A HDL count has a protective effect against heart disease.
*The recommended daily intake of fat should constitute 20-25% of total calories consumed per day.
* Reminder: each gram of fat has 9 calories associated with it.
Vitamins are organic substances, which are essential to our diet in very small amounts and cannot be made by the body. They must be obtained by the diet.
Vitamins perform a variety of functions:
- They are needed for building body tissues.
- They assist in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, so they are necessary precursors to releases energy from the foods we eat, but do not supply energy themselves.
- They play a primary role in the prevention of nutritional deficiency diseases, promote healing and encourage good health.
Types of Vitamins
There are 13 different vitamins the body requires. They are divided into two major categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-Soluble Vitamins- are transported in the bloodstream and are not stored to any great extent in the body. The body uses what it needs, saturates the tissues, and then excretes the extra through the urine.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins- Four-vitamins- A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in fat and carried throughout the body attached to body chemicals made with lipids or fats.
A mineral is anything which is not vegetable or animal; an inorganic substance which is essential in small quantities for life processes. The total amounts of minerals in the body are relatively small, but each is crucial to cell function. The major minerals of interest are Calcium and Iron.
Calcium is an important mineral since it is the major component of bone and teeth. Adequate amounts of calcium can help prevent osteoporosis; a weakening of the bone which is more common in women than men.
At least two servings a day from the milk products group are needed to provide adequate calcium.
Iron combines with protein to form hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen in the blood to the tissues. Too little iron causes anemia. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, weak, and irritable.
Iron in red meat, fish, and poultry is absorbed much better than from other sources.
Water is the most abundant compound in the human body comprising more than 60% of our body weight and is an essential nutrient required for life.
Functions of Water
- Fills about every space in cells and between them.
- Helps form the structure of macromolecules such as protein and glycogen.
- Transports nutrients and oxygen to your body cells and carries waste products away.
- Whole body thermoregulation is critically dependent on water.
- Keeps things fluid and functions as a lubricant.
The human body does not have the ability to store an extra supply of water. The normal daily intake of water is approximately 4% of total body weight for adults and 15% of total body weight for infants.
Water loss from the lungs and skin are sensitive to environmental conditions and can be increased at high temperatures, high humidity, and low humidity. Losses from urine and stool account for the rest of the total losses.
The recommended fluid intake of 1 ml/kcal energy expenditure for adults living under average conditions of energy expenditure and environmental exposure. For average males this is the equivalent of 2900 ml (12 cups) of fluid per day and for average females 2200 ml (9 cups) of fluid per day.