A healthy society begins with healthy individuals
Dr. Mike
09 Oct 2020

What’s Balanced Nutrition? Are You Getting What You Need?

According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA), most people don’t meet the minimum daily nutritional requirements as outlined by Health and Human Services (HHS). We, Americans more so, tend to overconsume what’s not that good for us and underconsume what’s better for us. For example, 81% of adults consume LESS than the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables, 44% of adults consume LESS than the daily recommended intake of grains, 58% of adults consume MORE than the daily recommended intake of protein, 89% of adults consume MORE than the daily recommended intake of sodium, 71% of adults consume MORE than the daily recommended intake of saturated fat, and 70% of adults consume MORE than the daily recommended intake of added sugars. In a nutshell, most people don’t follow a balanced nutrition plan.

This post will outline the primary components of a balanced nutritional plan: carbohydrates, protein, fat, fluids, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. I won’t go into too much detail on these nutritional components, but rather briefly highlight the importance of each on daily health. As a Health & Fitness Coach, one of my primary objectives is to ensure that my clients understand and receive a balanced nutritional plan based on their goals and needs.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are vital in energizing the brain and working muscles. Energy levels will decrease if carbohydrate intake is limited or carbohydrate stores in the body are low. No one should eliminate or drastically reduce carbohydrates for non-medical reasons, since doing so will hurt mental and physical performance.

There are three types of carbohydrates: simple, complex, and fiber. Simple carbohydrates are in essence just sugar, and should comprise very little of the overall diet because they offer very little to nothing in terms of nutrients. Complex carbohydrates should constitute the majority of the diet. They provide a large amount of vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber. Additionally, complex carbohydrates are a more sustained source of energy and reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Fiber is crucial for optimal health. Fiber provides no calories, may lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, certain cancers, and diabetes. Fiber is also important to help slow the digestion of foods, which provides sustained energy over a longer period of time.

Protein

Muscle contains about 40% of the protein in the human body, which has led people to believe that eating dietary protein correlates directly to large muscles. Protein is crucial in the rebuilding and recovery process, but in and of
itself, does not build muscle. Protein contains amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of protein. These amino acids can be obtained from both animal and plant-based sources.

Growing teenage athletes and people just beginning exercise programs have higher protein needs than seasoned athletes and especially sedentary individuals. Athletes need only slightly more protein than other people. There is no evidence that eating more than the requirements provides additional benefit. A Health & Fitness Coach will ensure you are getting the right amount of protein based on your goals and needs.

Fats

Fats play an essential role in the body for performance and health. Aside from protein, fat is the only other essential macronutrient; dietary fat provides essential fatty acids (like essential amino acids) that cannot be produced by the body and must be consumed via the diet. The three types of fats are saturated, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. Saturated fats are easy to identify because they are solid at room temperature (butter, shortening, animal fats, etc). Large intake of saturated fats, in conjunction with little physical activity, has been associated with cardiovascular disease. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (vegetable oils, olive oil, canola oil, etc). Polyunsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature (flax oil, fish oil, etc).

Essential fatty acids have heart health properties, potentially aid in recovery, and reduce the risk of several diseases. The two types of fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fats are healthier fat options, However, over eating any type of fat (or other macronutrient) will be stored as body fat.

Another type of fat should be highlight here: Trans fats. Trans fats are basically vegetable fats that have been changed chemically by a process known as hydrogenation. Trans fats have been shown through a number of
studies to be more harmful than saturated fats; they tend to raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Intake should be limited to < 1% of overall fat intake/day.

Fluids

Water is the most important nutrient, as it accounts for 50 to 60% of overall body mass. Lean body tissues (e.g. muscle, heart, liver, etc) are about 72 to 75% water by mass, whereas adipose (fat) tissue is about 5% by mass. Therefore, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of regular fluid consumption throughout training and performance.

Fluids (especially water) are critical for LIFE for a variety of reasons: 1. In blood it helps transport glucose (blood sugar), oxygen, and fats to working muscles. 2. It eliminates waste products. 3. It absorbs heat from working muscles. 4. It regulates body temperature. 5. It lubricates joints and cushions organs and tissues.

Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants

Vitamins and minerals are necessary to ensure all reactions in the body occur appropriately. Vitamins and minerals do not directly supply energy; however, they are both required in energy metabolism in the body. Vitamin deficiencies reduce body function and impair health. Over consuming vitamins and minerals is also not healthy. Whole food is the optimal way to obtain all nutrients; nonetheless, The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a manuscript stating that all adults should take a multivitamin.

Antioxidants are nutrients and herbs important in helping the prevention of damage to the cells and tissue. These substances are thought to be effective in helping to minimize the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, aging, side effects associated with uncontrolled diabetes, etc. They serve to “deactivate” certain particles called free radicals, which are created from reactive oxygen species. Intense resistance and aerobic exercise both increase free radical production. If free radicals are left “untouched,” they can cause damage to cell walls, certain cell structures, and genetic material within the cells.

Conclusion

This can all seem overwhelming at first glance. For those who have been exercising and eating right, this post may have filled in some gaps. However, for those who have not, which is most of us considering the numbers highlighted at the beginning of this post, this information is the foundation to changing and leading a healthier life. If you have questions and/or are ready to take charge of your health by following a balanced nutrition plan, think about hiring a Health & Fitness Coach.

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