Nutrition Basics

When it comes to keeping your body healthy, nutrition is an essential part of your fitness journey. Nutrition can be daunting not only because it can require a lifestyle change, but also because it can come with a bit of a mental block: junk food tastes great, so we don’t want to get rid of it despite knowing its downsides. Tastebuds aside, nutrition goes beyond just deciding what to put on your plate at dinner time. There are many variables involved, and different people need different things; the plan that works for your friend might not work at all for you since you are a unique individual with your own needs. Nutrition comes with a lot of numbers and words that can be unfamiliar, but with a little bit of research it can turn into a lifestyle change for the better. 

One part of nutrition that will likely be familiar to you are calories. Calories are thrown about in any discussion pertaining to fitness, many claiming that you need to lower your calorie intake to lose weight, if that’s your goal. But calories, in themselves, are a bit more complex than just lowering and raising them. Depending on your health and fitness goals, it is important to understand just how many numbers can go into counting calories for yourself. Calories are the basic energy unit for your body. As a baseline without exercise, a basic formula for how many calories you should consume is 10-13 X your body weight. Of course, the more you exercise the more calories your body will need to function. As an example, someone who is 150 pounds and lives a sedentary life should consume around 1,500 calories per day, whereas someone who is 150 pounds but lives an active life should consume around 1,950. The more you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn; There are 3,500 calories per one lb of fat. Of course, some of these numbers will change depending on you age, level of activity, and your body composition, but they are a helpful baseline for most people. If you’re adding or losing 500 calories per day, you can usually expect to gain or lose 1 lb per week, respectively. 

Macro nutrients make up calories. There are 3 categories that go into macro nutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins. When it comes to your daily intake, your diet should consist of 45%-65% carbohydrates. They consist of 4 calories per gram, and they give you essential energy throughout the day. They are a high percentage of your daily energy. Fats should be about 20%-35% of your diet. They are 9 calories per gram, making them much more calorie dense than carbs or proteins. Fats are a long term energy storage. Finally, proteins should make up about 10%-35% of your diet. Like carbs, they contain 4 calories per gram. Proteins work towards your muscle and organ repair and maintenance. For example, if you’re extremely low on protein, this can begin muscle loss. An excess of protein does not really have a benefit to it, though it is important to be getting enough protein in your diet to maintain healthy bodily functions. 

Finally, micro nutrients are another important section of nutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, and can be monitored easily. Unless a doctor or health professional recommends a different dosage, it is important to follow the daily recommended allowance. There are 2 kinds: fat soluble, and water soluble, which refers to the way that they are broken down. Fat soluble nutrients are processed by your liver, and it is important not to go over your recommended dosage as it is more difficult for the body to get rid of the excess. If you go over your dosage for an extended period of time, it can build up in your body and cause issues. On the other hand, water soluble nutrients are flushed out with water, so an excess of these will rarely harm you as the body can easily do away with what it doesn’t need. However, going overboard on these won't help you, either. 

It’s important to keep in mind that nutrition is just as important as exercise in your fitness journey. A way to consider nutrition is like this: think of your body as your car. You make sure to put the right oil into its engine, otherwise the engine won’t work properly. It’s the same with your body; you need to put the right nutrition in to make sure that your body can work properly and efficiently. Try not to think of nutrition as a burden to keep in check, but rather the fuel to keep you on track. Different factors will go in to making your decision when it comes to nutrition: your schedule and lifestyle especially. Remember that there are many variables when it comes to nutrition, and that there are different ways to approach nutrition as a whole. Taking some time to sit down with yourself and figuring this out is a great step to introducing nutrition as a part of a lifestyle. Your body will thank you for it.