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Nutrition Basics: Why Proper Nutrition Is Important for a Healthy Life

Updated: Feb 14

The Importance of Nutrition

This article provides an overview of the core principles that govern the foundation of nutrition. We’ll review key aspects such as macro- and micronutrients, energy balance, and more. By understanding these basics, individuals can feel confident in their choices; this will help them maintain optimal health and wellness. The world of nutrition might seem overwhelming, but this article serves as a helpful guide to set you on the right path.


Optimal nutrition is essential for your body to function properly. To reach this goal, you need to provide your body with all the necessary nutrients it needs. Just like any machine needs fuel, your body also requires specific nutrients to operate at its best - which is why it is so important!


Proper nutrition can play an important role in reducing the risk of illnesses and their effects, as well as excess fat accumulation and potential for injury. Additionally, it has been known to;

  • Promote lean mass formation

  • Improve tissue quality

  • Improve joint health and cognitive enhancement

  • Enhance energy levels and endurance capacity

  • Improved sleep quality

Healthy nutrition plans have a significant positive effect on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The more you know about food the easier it is for you to structure your diet.


What are Macronutrients?


Macronutrients are needed in substantial amounts in our diet for our bodies to function optimally. The three core categories for macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All three contribute to the energy requirements of the body; keep in mind that these requirements are different for everyone. They are largely dependent on your body, the type of activity engaged in, and the length of the activity.


Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source; they are found in sugars, starch, and fibers. It is the main energy source during exercise, especially during high-intensity physical activity. As the intensity increases and the heart rate rises, more energy is derived from carbohydrates. We should be looking to get the most of our carbohydrates from nutrient dense, fiber-rich, minimally processed food as they are great for micronutrients. Some great examples would be whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and potatoes. Every gram of carbohydrates equals 4 calories and should be roughly 45-65% of our daily calories.


Protein is the building block of all tissue in our body, making it key in the structure and functioning of our cells. Protein is responsible for growth and development, cellular restoration, maintenance of good health, and reproduction. Protein contains 4 calories per gram just like carbs and should be between 10%-35% of daily calories. A good balance in protein intake allows for the building and repairing of muscles. This translates to increases in strength, muscle growth, and recovery rates relevant to the daily activities we participate in.

Meats and eggs are generally the most popular options, but many plant protein sources exist including beans, lentils, tofu, and nuts.


Fats are the most calorie dense out of the listed macronutrients. They are just as important as the other two macronutrients as they support joint health, enhance cognitive function, absorb essential vitamins, help store energy, cushion organs, and help with cell membrane integrity. Fats contain 9 calories per gram and should represent 20%-35% of your daily calories. The ideal way to approach fat intake is to consume a higher amount of healthy unsaturated fats (fish, avocados, nuts) and limit saturated fat (red meat, processed meats, and food).


Don’t get me started on trans fats… that’s a whole topic on its own, avoid it as much as you can.


Gaining an understanding of the number of calories present in each macronutrient, can play an important role in managing energy balance and in making healthier food choices. By becoming more aware of how to read nutrition labels, we can apply our knowledge about calorie intake for better health outcomes.



Marconutrients

Okay, What about Micronutrients?


Micronutrients may be needed in smaller quantities than macronutrients, hence the name, but their significance shouldn’t be downplayed. Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients and are essential to our health. They support vital functions, the immune system, and protect the body from disease.


The 6 essential micronutrients include Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Iodine, Folate, and Zinc. The good news? They can all be found in nutrient-dense food.

  • Sources like chicken, cereals, fruits, vegetables, beef, seeds, and nuts have a wide variety of micronutrients.


Micronutrient deficiencies can have a wide-reaching impact on our health and everyday life. From reduced energy and impaired mental clarity, poor work performance and education, to increased risk of diseases, the effects can be serious. Thankfully, these deficiencies are treatable with various interventions such as dietary supplements, fortified foods, and diversifying food consumption. Early detection is key for ensuring optimum health outcomes.

Basics of Energy Balance and Calories


Energy balance is the comparison between caloric intake from food and drink, and the calories burned through activity and other bodily functions. One could liken it to a teeter-totter, where one side holds the calories ingested while the other displays those burned (activity or bodily function). When they are equal, weight is maintained, much like a balanced teeter-totter.


When trying to adjust your weight, either for weight loss or weight gain, it's important to understand the calorie requirements of each. As a general guide;

  • If you want to gain a pound of muscle in a week, you'll need an extra 3500 calories (500 kcal/day).

  • If you're looking to lose one pound of fat in a week, you'll need to cut down your total calories by 500 kcal/day. This results in a 3500 kcal deficit for the week which equates to one pound of fat lost.

This will offset the teeter-totter in either direction depending on if you are burning more calories or ingesting more calories. Maintaining a higher level of protein intake will help hold on to some muscle mass while losing body fat.


Two great tools you can use to estimate your total energy expenditure are the Mifflin St. Jeor Equation and the Harris Benedict Equation. These equations will give you a great indication of where to start calorie-wise to figure out your maintenance calorie range.


Energy balance is an important factor to consider when designing a healthy lifestyle. It's important to be able to shift between negative and positive energy balance to lose or gain weight, as well as sustain long-term energy upkeep. Estimates for calorie requirements will vary based on factors such as age, gender, and activity level at home or work.


Individuals can expend varying levels of calories depending on the intensity level of their physical activity, weight, and training experience.

  • Moderate intensity activities such as hiking (185kcal burned in 30 minutes), biking (145kcal) and stretching (90kcal)

  • Vigorous intensity exercises like running (296kcal burned in 30 minutes) or heavy weight training (230kcal).

Follow this link to learn more about the estimated calories burned for many of the activities we participate in.


The Road to Improved Health


Nutrition can be simple yet daunting, and borderline difficult to understand. It’s good to have a general understanding of nutrition and its principles to figure out your own needs. Understanding basic nutrition will help you recognize the misinformation out there and give yourself a guideline to improve your diet, health, and well-being.


For best performance and daily energy, establish a nutritional plan that emphasizes hydration, proper energy balance, and optimal macronutrient and micronutrient intake. When forming your meal plan, make sure to select foods with higher nutritional value like whole foods to keep you satisfied for longer periods as well as provide overall higher-quality nutrition.


Maximizing your health and performance is essential for meeting targets and objectives. Set yourself up for success by ensuring that your body receives adequate rest and is prepared to handle whatever challenges arise. This way, you will stay a step ahead of your goals and truly flourish. To learn more about occupational performance and nutrition, be sure to check out our articles or reach out to us with any questions by email.


Stay safe! Taclete Performance

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