If you thinking exercising is a minefield of confusing and contradictory information try learning about nutrition. There are more experts, guru’s, professionals and ambassadors in the nutrition game than anywhere else and the vast majority of them are skewing there output to support a company, a brand or an idea that they either support or are supported by.
Now I am not an expert on nutrition by any means. But I have spent a lot of time reading and learning about it and experimenting with my own nutrition. I also have zero agenda. You want to be vegan, go nuts. You want to eat only meat, enjoy. You want to live exclusively on lemonade and rich tea, have at it. No one is paying me to support or promote a particular diet or company. You will never see me pushing supplements onto people or selling people things they don’t need.
So here is some factual science I have learned over the years on nutrition that might just help you become a little more informed and make some better decisions:
We can break what our body needs nutritionally down into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macros being carbs, fats and proteins. Micros being vitamins and minerals.
We need a mixture of all three macronutrients for a healthy diet. Fat and protein are essential as the body is literally made of these things. Carbs are non-essential as they are an energy source. However they are an efficient and usually relatively cheap source of energy so are included in the vast majority of peoples diets.
Fat – although society and the media would have you believe that fat is the scourge of the nutritional world it gets a rough ride for no real reason. Fat is needed for growth, development and optimal cell function. Without fat in our diets we will die, simple.
Protein – pretty much every function in the body uses protein or is made of protein. Protein is made from amino acids and although the body naturally produces a lot of amino acids there are some which we can’t make and therefore have to consume. It is important that our diet contains the ones we can’t produce. Proteins that contain a suitable amount of necessary amino acids are called complete proteins. Proteins derived from animal-based products are complete and are generally considered a strong source of quality protein. Proteins derived from a plant base can be complete but tend to be lacking in one or more amino acid.
Carbohydrates – purely an energy source. Carbs can be broken down into simple and complex. Simple carbs are used quickly by the body ie they very quickly enter the blood stream. Complex carbs are broken down more slowly and enter the bloodstream slower. As an example, sugar is a simple carb, potatoes a slow carb. You can tell how quickly a carb will be digested and absorbed by its glycaemic index. Anything with a low GI is slow absorbing. Anything with a high GI is fast. (Avoiding high GI foods is a good idea.)
In terms of micronutrients we need an incredibly wide variety of vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Rather than list all of them and have you stare blankly at complex looking words just know if you eat a wide variety of fruit and veg you should be ok. The most common deficiencies are in vitamin D, B12 and Iron so make sure you know what foods in your diet contains these and consume a reasonable amount of them.
The last thing to mention in the basic science section of nutrition is calories. Given a bad rep by the media everyone knows the term calories and blames them for pretty much all of their problems. The fact is calories are just a unit of measuring energy. The technical term is kilocalories and everything we consume has a measurable amount of them in.
Everyone needs a different number of calories based on their resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy you use just existing, not moving) and their total daily energy expenditure (the amount of energy you use moving, exercising and living).
If you intake more calories than your total daily energy expenditure you will gain weight. The body turn excess calories into fat or, through training, muscle. If we consume less calories than our TDEE then we will lose weight. This is called either being in a calorie deficit or a calorie surplus. Your nutritional goals will dictate what calorie consumption you should be aiming for.
Hopefully this post has cleared up some misconceptions, explained a few of the words you often hear chucked about and given you an insight into what our body needs. Next week we will look into how to start bringing this information into your day to day lives.