Basic Nutrition Facts are often overlooked by many when in reality, it is just as important, if not more so, than any exercise you may do. Without the proper nutrition to back up your training, you will never get the full benefits of your efforts. If you make only one change in your lifestyle in an attempt to improve your body and your health, make sure it is in your diet. There are many problems with most people’s diets and unfortunately, they do not know where to begin to correct them. The following article will examine the Basic Principles of Nutrition and different nutrients needed by our bodies as well as the foods to be avoided for good overall health.
The first step you should take in developing a basic nutritional plan is to eat only whole, clean foods. It is best to avoid most types of food that are frozen or that are stored in plastic wrappers as these foods have often undergone heavy processing. Regularly consuming processed foods is obviously very detrimental to one’s health, considering the large amounts of unsafe chemicals that have been used to prepare such foods.
Basic Principles of Nutrition
Carbohydrates have been shunned by many health experts as of late, however it is not so much carbohydrates themselves that pose a risk to our health, it is the types of carbohydrates that we consume. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, so this valuable nutrient is important when working out. Even if your goal is to lose weight, you still need a certain amount of carbs in order to do so (i.e. you cannot remain on a zero-carb diet forever).
The basic principles of nutrition in carbohydrates are that there are two main types of carbs, simple carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates. The difference between these carbohydrates is their placement on the Glycemic Index (GI), which is a system of measuring the rate at which food is converted into sugar in the blood. Simple carbs are ranked high on the GI, while complex carbs are ranked low. You want to make sure that you are consuming mostly complex carbohydrates, which have several nutritional benefits.
Complex carbs are found in foods like whole-grain pasta, whole grain bread, and brown rice. Complex carbs are slow-releasing, meaning that they are not immediately converted into sugar like simple carbs. Simple carbs are found in foods like white bread, many sugar-filled breakfast bowls of cereal, and pastries. Simple carbs are converted to sugar very quickly, which ends up being deposited as fat in the body. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body, so you will need to ensure that you are taking in enough complex carbs which provide the best energy source to propel you through your workouts.
One source of carbohydrates that you should not shy away from is fruit. Although fruit is composed of simple sugars and should be ranked high on the GI, it turns out that fructose (the type of sugar found in fruit) is actually fairly slow-digesting. This is in contrast to the general rule of the GI. Another notable exception on the Glycemic Index is potatoes. Although potatoes are composed of complex carbohydrates, our bodies are actually able to digest them very quickly.
This makes potatoes a good food to consume immediately after a workout. Following a workout, about 50-75 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates should be consumed in order to increase the insulin levels of the body, which, in turn, will increase the protein intake of muscle cells.
Quick Tip: Aside from directly providing our bodies with energy in the form of carbohydrates, fruit also has many other nutritional benefits. Fruit contains various types of vitamins and minerals which are required for a whole host of physiological functions in the body, from improving the immune system to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Berries (i.e. the acai berry, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) are also rich in antioxidants which can prevent dangerous free radicals from damaging cells in the body and causing cancer. For further information on the nutritional properties of the acai berry, check out www.acaifacts.org
Protein is obviously an essential nutrient needed by anyone who is serious about training. Protein is the nutrient responsible for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues. When discussing protein, it is important to understand that amino acids are the building blocks of protein and that there are 20 amino acids in total. Of these, 12 amino acids are referred to as “non-essential amino acids” while the other 8 are known as “essential amino acids”.
Our bodies are capable of synthesizing the 12 non-essential amino acids, while the 8 essential amino acids must be supplied through our nutrition. All protein from animal sources is known as complete protein since it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids. If you regularly consume healthy animal sources of protein, such as lean meats and egg whites, you do not have to worry about whether you are consuming adequate amounts of the essential amino acids. On the other hand, vegetarians do need to be aware of which protein sources they consume in order to ensure that they are taking in the right amount of essential amino acids.
Although most plant sources of protein are incomplete, there are a select few sources that are classified as complete, including buckwheat, soy, quinoa, and amaranth. Lean meats still remain one of the highest sources of protein available, though. A single chicken breast a little bigger than the size of your palm can yield approximately 30-40 grams of protein. You would normally have to consume much larger amounts of plant sources to obtain the same amount of total protein. You must also be aware of the fact that all protein, like other nutrients, is not created equally.
The best sources of protein are skinless chicken breasts, fish, lean beef, egg whites (egg yokes have a fairly high-fat content), beans, and nuts. You should avoid fatty meats like pork, fried chicken, and sausages which are much unhealthier, considering their high content of saturated fat. Whey protein powders can also be a good choice, but you should avoid any powders that contain high amounts of added sugars, unnatural flavors, or artificial preservatives.
Should fat even be included in a discussion of basic principles of nutrition (aside from being labeled as something you should avoid)? The very word “fat” often incites fear in most people, but as you will see, this can actually be a very valuable nutrient. Of course, there are different types of fat that you need to watch out for, however. There are three main types of fat: unsaturated, saturated, and trans. The last two types are the unhealthy ones and should be avoided, especially trans fat. Saturated fat is commonly found in certain meat products and deep-fried foods.
Must Read: Truth About Saturated Fats
Speaking from a chemical standpoint, this type of fat is saturated with hydrogen atoms. As a result, excessive consumption of such fat leads to hardening of the arteries and atherosclerosis, among many other health concerns. Trans fat is the type of fat that is created through the chemical modification of foods. Trans fat is prevalent in many processed foods and it is easy to see why this type of fat should be avoided at all costs. Regular consumption of foods that have been tainted with unsafe chemicals is simply not part of a basic nutrition plan.
Unsaturated fat on the other hand can be beneficial to one’s health when consumed in appropriate doses. There are several fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K) and thus your body needs healthy fat in order to be able to use these vitamins for various purposes. Unsaturated fat also contributes to the production of hormones such as human growth hormone (HGH) which is needed to repair your body after an intense workout and help your muscles grow. Some good sources of healthy fats are natural peanut butter, fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, as well as avocados.
For peanut butter, make sure you are in fact using the natural kind. This is the kind that you have to stir before using, which can be a pain, but this minor inconvenience is worth it when you consider your health in the long run. Some products may claim to be “natural” when in fact they may have several added preservatives. The only way to know for sure is by checking the ingredients label. When you check the ingredients, you should see only “organic peanuts” or “dry roasted peanuts” listed. There should not be any added sugar or salt, and certainly, no added chemicals or oils as any items containing these substances is not actually a “natural” product.
Of course, vegetables are also a vital component of a proper nutrition plan. Like fruit, vegetables contain high quantities of various vitamins and minerals which are needed for a multitude of physiological processes in the body. Vegetables are also high in fiber, assisting in the process of digestion and the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. When training intensely and eating a high-protein diet, the fiber stored in vegetables is needed to be able to digest all of the food that is being consumed efficiently. If inadequate supplies of fiber are being consumed, digestion will be slowed down significantly and a person will not be able to take in all of the nutrients that are needed for the growth of muscle tissues.
When discussing the Basic Principles of Nutrition, many people often forget about the importance of consuming enough water throughout the day. Water is actually one of the most basic substances needed for human survival, right behind oxygen. Adequate water consumption is especially important for anyone who follows an active lifestyle. Water is used in the chemical reactions that take place during digestion, contributing to one’s metabolic rate, as well as in the delivery of nutrients to all the cells of the body. Not only that, but water also provides lubrication to the joints, helping one avoid injuries when following a strength training program.
Must Read: Importance of Drinking Water
As a general guideline, you should multiply your body weight by about 50-75% (50% if you lead a fairly sedentary life and around 75% if you are more active) to determine the amount of water you should be consuming daily, in ounces. So, if you work out regularly and weigh 185 pounds, you would perform the following calculation: 185 X 0.75 = 139. This means that you would need to consume approximately 139 ounces of water per day for general health purposes. Note that if you are taking creatine supplements, you will require even more water than this, usually around 1 ounce per pound of body weight or more (read more about creatine here). Sufficient water intake is just another one of those simple aspects of basic elements of good nutrition that, despite its importance, is often forgotten or overlooked.
You should now have a solid understanding of the basic principles of nutrition. A brief explanation has been provided of the various nutrients that your body needs as well as some good food sources for each of these nutrients. Now, you should check out this article to learn more about the quantities of these foods that you should be consuming.
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