Nutrients are life-sustaining substances found in food. They work together to supply your body with energy and structural materials. Nutrients also helps to regulate growth, maintenance and repair of the body’s tissues. Nutrients can be divided into macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. There are three macro-nutrients which are the building blocks of a healthy physique and micro-nutrients which are also vital and complement the macro-nutrients.
A healthy and balanced diet should contain all the nutrients in appropriate proportions. Every human being regardless of age and gender should consume these in appropriate proportions in order to have a healthy physique from inside out. Imbalances in the three macro-nutrients would result in either obesity, cardiovascular problems, ketosis or kidney problems. Remember that only macro-nutrients has caloric value.
Nutrients: Building Blocks of a Healthy Physique
Let’s take a look at these nutrients one by one.
These are composed of various amino acids which form the basis for building the muscle tissue. It is also a component of all organs and is involved in the structure of bones, skin.Also, it is part of many functions of the body. Deficiency of Protein often results in lack of muscle mass and also imbalances inside the body as it is a component of all major organs. However one should remember that Protein is not a primary source of energy, except when you do not consume enough calories or Carbohydrates.
In general, an active individual should consume about 1 to 1.2 grams of Protein per kilogram of body weight. Protein supplementation either in the form of pills or steroids should be avoided as they can result in adverse effects in the long run. However, Whey Protein from reputed brands is considered safe and effective. Make sure that your Protein requirements are from balanced and healthy diet. Few examples of natural Protein sources are eggs, milk, soy beans, chicken…
These are the fuel for energy. In fact they are the most important nutrient for exercising muscles. They also help in using the fats more efficiently.
A diet deficient in Carbohydrates often results in
- lack of energy to do things
- weak nervous and immune systems
- poor quality of life in general
These are mainly composed of Sugar molecules. Depending on the value of Glycemic Index, these are divided into Simple and Complex Carbohydrates. Those who exercise more than an hour per day should consume close to 65% of their diet in the form of Carbohydrates. For an active individual, recommended Carbohydrate intake is 4 to 6 grams of Carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.
Few examples of Carbohydrate sources are rice, potatoes, leafy vegetables…
These are the nutrients that contain the highest caloric value among all the macro-nutrients. They act as cushions and protect the organs from getting damaged. Also, when you are working out for longer duration, it is often the fats that are burnt after a certain period of time.
For example, consider the workout duration is of two hours. During the first hour, carbohydrates and fats are burned equally in 1:1 ratio. But by the end of the workout session, when you observe, it is 80% fats and only 20% carbohydrates. Hence, fats are very important and should be consumed as part of balanced diet and realise that fats are essential to your body.
Few examples of fats sources are almonds, walnuts, egg yolks, fish, olive oil…
Water is a major component of the body which is often overlooked as a vital nutrient. In fact it is the most important nutrient of all. It acts as the means of transportation for other nutrients, vitamins, minerals and other substances in the body. Also, all the biochemical reactions takes place among the other nutrients with the help of water. Muscle is composed of 72 percent of water by weight. This means that diets or activities that result in excessive fluid loss have a significant effect on muscle size. Insufficient intake of water leads to dehydration and other problems.
Problems of dehydration
- bloated tummy
- water logged
- sodium side effects
Hence water is vital not only to see improvements in your efforts but also for proper functioning of all the organs in the human body. For anyone involved in any form of exercise the need for water cannot be understated. You need at least 12 ounce glasses per day. If you are involved in more intense and strenuous workouts, you need even more than that. And water in form of solutions doesn’t count. You need to drink pure water in order to see the positive results.
You have been hearing about these since childhood and in many commercials boasting their own products. These are the organic substances that your body needs in minute quantities and that you ingest with our foods. However these do not supply energy nor do they contribute to the mass of the body. As mentioned earlier, only macro-nutrients has caloric value. These Vitamins acts as catalysts for many reactions that occur inside of our bodies.
Vitamins can be broadly divided into two categories – water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and any excess amounts of these are flushed out in the urine. However, the water soluble vitamins should be consumed daily in order to maintain optimal health conditions. Fat soluble vitamins on the other hand are dissolved and stored in the fatty tissues of the human body. These can be taken less often than the water soluble vitamins.
Water Soluble Vitamins:
- B1: Thiamin
- B2: Riboflavin
- B3: Niacin, NIcotinamide
- B5: Pantothenic acid
- B6: Pyridoxine
- B12: Cyanocobalamin
- Folate (Folic acid)
- Vitamins C (Ascorbic acid) & A (Retinol)
Fat Soluble Vitamins
- Vitamins A, D, E, K
While Vitamins being organic substances, Minerals are inorganic substances that contain essential elements in relatively small amounts. These minerals help in the synthesis of macro-nutrients. There are 22 metallic minerals in the body which comes about 4% of total body weight. These are found abundantly in soil and water which are eventually taken in by the roots of the plants. You obtain these minerals by consuming the plants and animals that feed on these plants.
Hence it is advised to include variety of vegetables and meats in your diet to get all the essential minerals naturally instead of relying on supplements.
Here is the list of minerals divided into three categories of importance.
Minerals of highest importance
Following minerals are equally essential to the body but only in traces per day
Following are other minor minerals for which RDA is not known clearly
Now that you know all about the nutrients which are the building blocks of healthy physique, it’s time to include them in your diet as per your requirements.
Remember that fitness is 40% diet, 30% exercise and 30% rest.
To your health and fitness
Ravi Kumar G.