While nutrition can be a very complicated subject with much contradictory information available out there, on this quick guide we hope to simplify things for you to help you eat well, stay healthy and perform at your best.
Nutrition can be focused around two basic principles:
1. Eat enough to meet the energy requirements of daily activities as well as additional exercise. Our daily intake should ensure we have enough energy to perform and recover from training while maintaining a healthy weight while avoiding injury.
2. Make sure that the food we eat contains the nutrients we need to function properly. These nutrients can be broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients.
A healthy training diet should contain all three macronutrient groups; protein, carbohydrate and fats. They are all essential for healthy function and our requirements for them increase as we stress our bodies more.
- Protein – The building blocks of our body. Responsible for the growth and repair of our cells, muscle protein synthesis and immune function. When you’re training load increases, your protein intake should increase to aid recovery.
- Carbohydrate – Our body’s fuel source. Used for energy production, maintaining blood glucose and cell maintenance. This is the body’s preferred fuel source at high intensities. Carbohydrates are where we get most of our dietary fibre from, which is essential for digestive health. Much of our vitamin & mineral intake generally comes from carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables.
- Fats – Health & vitality. Used for transporting vitamins and minerals around the body, maintain cell structure. As well as transporting micronutrients, much of our mineral intake comes from fat sources like nuts & seeds. Fat is also our body’s preferred fuel source at rest and lower intensity exercise. We all have slightly different requirements, but as a good starting point we should aim for the following macronutrient ratios to build your nutrition on:
- Protein – 25 %
- Fat – 30 %
- Carbohydrate – 45 %
From there you can make small changes to the exact ratios until you find what works best for you. Daily calorie requirement is down to individual body composition, weight and daily activity levels. The easiest way to calculate your energy requirement is to monitor what you eat each day, being as consistent as possible. There are apps like My Fitness Pal that make it easy to track what you eat. By being consistent you can then make small changes and see how it affects your energy levels, recovery and body weight and work out a diet that suits you.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals found in all foods types, with certain foods containing more than others. The reason they are so important for health is that while
macronutrients are what gives us the energy to move and allow us to grow and repair, micronutrients are what we use to keep our immune system functioning, they’re involved in hundreds of processes all over body including muscle function, brain function and digestion just to name a few.
While it has become popular to use vitamin supplements, you can actually get what you need from food as long as we ensure enough variety from natural foods. One of the biggest reasons behind poor nutrient intake in the modern world is our dependence on processed foods. When foods are processed, much of what is lost is the micronutrients. Examples of these are white bread & rice instead of the original whole grain varieties.