Nutrition plays a very important role in the health and wellness of the human body. We all need protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to give our bodies the proper energy for our active, healthy lifestyles. Maintaining a well-balanced diet is crucial to ensuring you are getting the nutritional benefits you need to allow your body to perform efficiently. Here is how each type of nutrient is important.
Proteins provide amino acids that are essential to maintaining healthy body tissue. The body produces some amino acids on its own, but others must come from outside food sources. Protein also helps rebuild muscle tissue after exercise.
Fats are a major source of energy that is needed by our bodies, particularly during workouts. Once consumed, fats are stored throughout our body. Metabolic adaptations in skeletal muscle and fat tissue allow better oxidation of fatty acids. We all know that high-fat foods can lead to weight gain and a number of health issues; however some fats are beneficial – particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy – its number one choice of fuels – because they are fuel-efficient. Your body gets more ATP (stored cellular energy) out of carbohydrates for every given amount of oxygen. There are simple carbohydrates, which come from foods with sugar, and complex carbohydrates, which are found in pastas, grains, and potatoes.
Fiber, which is unfortunately ignored by many people, has a variety of digestive benefits. Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, helps improve digestion. Soluble fiber, which does dissolve in water, helps with cholesterol and also gets rid of fat.
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for the body to help regulate metabolism and cellular growth. Some are produced naturally in the body, many are only found in nutritional food. Thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid participate in energy-production during exercise. Folate and B12s are involved in the production of red blood cells, which are needed for protein synthesis and tissue repair after a workout or injury.
Remember: Successful aging begins with a nutrient-rich diet. Talk to your doctor or other health professional to help build a diet plan that meets your nutritional needs.
By Yanasa Williams, Exercise Physiologist