Nutrition and You

Nutrition and You

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Nutrition is the relationship of foods to the health

of the human body . Proper nutrition means that you are receiving enough

foods and supplements for the body to function at optimal capacity. It is

important to remember that no single nutrient or activity can maintain

optimal health and well being, although it has been proven that some

nutrients are more important than others. Nutrition plays a critical role in

athletic performance, but many active people do not eat a diet that helps

them do their best. Without a basic understanding of nutrition, popping a

pill seems easier than planning a menu. In reality, there is no pill, potion,

or powder that can enhance your performance like the right foods and


All of the nutrients are necessary

in different amounts along with exercise to maintain proper health. There

are six main types of nutrients used to maintain body health. They are:

carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water . They all must

be in balance for the body to function properly. There are also five major

food groups. The groups are: fats and oils, fruits and vegetables, dairy

products, grains, and meats.

Exercise is also an important part of nutrition.

Exercise helps tone and maintain muscle tissue and ensure that the body?s

organs stay in good condition. Healthy eating without exercise will not

result in good nutrition and a healthy body - neither will exercise without

nutrition. The most important thing about exercise is that it be practiced

regularly and that it be practiced in accompaniment with a healthy diet. It

is also desirable to practice more that one sport as different sports exercise

different areas of the body.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the sources of energy for the

body. To have enough energy you need to consume enough energy.

Getting adequate calories is one of the keys to an ergogenic, or

performance-enhancing, diet. With too few calories you will feel tired and

weak, and you will be more prone to injuries. The contained energy is

expressed in calories.

There are 9 calories per gram in fat and there are about 4 calories

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per gram in proteins and carbohydrates . Carbohydrates are the main

source of energy for the body. A high-carbohydrate diet increases stores of

glycogen, the energy for muscles, and improves overall athletic

performance. The bulk of the day's calories--60% to 70%--should come

from carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, grains, pasta, vegetables, and

fruit.Different carbohydrate foods can affect your energy level in different

ways. Digestion rates are expressed as a "glycemic index." Foods with a

high glycemic index release energy into the bloodstream rapidly, while

foods with a moderate or low glycemic index release their energy more

slowly . However, beware of the old idea that simple

sugars are always digested rapidly and cause wide swings in blood sugar,

and that all complex carbohydrates like bread are digested more slowly

and don't cause blood sugar fluctuations. This turned out to be wrong. If

you exercise for longer than an hour, you can begin to

deplete your muscles of glycogen. By consuming 30 to 75 grams per hour

of high-glycemic-index carbohydrate in liquid or solid form when you

exercise, you can minimize this effect.

This energy is mostly used for muscle

movement and digestion of food. Some sources of carbohydrates are :

grains, fruits, vegetables, and anything else that grows out of the ground.

The energy in carbohydrates is almost instantly digested. This results in a

quick rise in blood sugar which is soon followed by a drop in blood sugar

which is interpreted by the body as a craving for more sugars. After a long

workout or competition, your depleted muscle glycogen stores must be

replenished, especially if you will be exercising again within the next 8

hours. Eat at least 50 grams of high-glycemic-index carbohydrate just

after exercise, and consume a total of at least 100 grams of high-glycemic-

index carbohydrate in the first 4 hours afterward. Moderate-glycemic-

index foods may be added for the next 18 to 20 hours, with a goal of

consuming at least 600 grams of carbohydrate during the 24 hours after an

intense workout or competition. This sugar low may also result in fatigue,

dizziness, nervousness, and headache.However, not all carbohydrates do

this. Most fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are digested more

slowly. Oatmeal is an excellent choice for an inexpensive carbohydrate-

rich breakfast.

Fat is definitely an important energy source, particularly for athletes

involved in prolonged, low-intensity activity. (For high-intensity, short-

term activity, carbohydrate is the primary fuel source.) About 20% of the

calories in a performance-enhancing diet should come from fat (1), most

of it unsaturated fat like vegetable and fish oils. Fats, which are lipids, are

the source of energy that is the most concentrated.

Fats produce more that

twice the amount of energy that is in carbohydrates or proteins. Besides

having a high concentration of energy, fat acts as a carrier for the fat

soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Also, by helping in the absorption of

vitamin D, fats help make calcium available to various body tissues, in

particular, the bones and teeth. Another function of fat is to convert

carotene to vitamin A. Fat also helps keep organs in place by surrounding

them in a layer of fat. Fat also surrounds the body in a layer that preserves

body temperature and keeps us warm. One other function of fat is to slow

the production of hydrochloric acid thereby slowing down digestion and

making food last longer. Some sources of fats are meats and nuts as well

as just plain oils and fats.

Protein plays a minor role in energy production, contributing only

5% to 10% of the energy used during prolonged exercise. Although the

current recommended dietary allowance for protein is about 0.4 grams per

pound of body weight per day, most active people need slightly more. And

athletes involved in heavy resistance exercise or prolonged endurance

events may require 0.7 to 0.9 grams per pound per day. Even this amount

is relatively easy to eat, since 3 ounces of fish or chicken, 1 1/2 cups of

tofu, or 1 1/2 cups of garbanzo beans contain 20 to 24 grams of protein.

As an active person, you need protein for building muscles, repairing

tissues, growing hair and nails, making hormones, and assisting in

numerous other functions that contribute to a strong and healthy body.

Protein is found in many foods--such as meats and dairy products--besides


The daily amount of protein you need ranges from 0.5 to 0.9 grams

per pound of body weight per day; the higher end of the range is

appropriate for athletes who are growing, building muscles, doing

endurance exercise, or restricting calories. A 6-ounce serving of fish

provides about 40 grams of protein--a good part of the daily 75 to 135

grams of protein needed by a 150-pound athlete.The protein in fish is

among the most healthful animal sources of protein. That's because fish is

low in saturated fat, the type associated with clogged arteries and heart

disease. Saturated fat (as in beef lard and cheese) is solid at room

temperature. Fish would be unable to function if their fat were saturated

like that of many warm-blooded animals. Instead, fish store energy in the

form of polyunsaturated oils that are soft and flexible in the cool

temperatures of oceans and mountain streams.

Proteins, besides water, are the most plentiful

substance in the body. Protein is also one of the most important element

for the health of the body. Protein is the major source of building material

in the body and is important in the development and growth of all body

tissues. Protein is also needed for the formation of all hormones. It also

helps regulate the body?s water balance. When proteins are digested they

are broken down into simpler sections called amino acids. However, not

all proteins will contain all the necessary amino acids. Most meat and

dairy products contain all necessary amino acids in their proteins. Proteins

are available from both plants and animals. However, Animal proteins are

more complete and thus desirable.

As mentioned above,

there are six nutrients. All vitamins are organic food

substances that are found only in living things, plants and animals . It is

believed that there are about twenty substances that are active as vitamins

in human nutrition . Every vitamin is essential to the proper growth and

development of the body. With a few exceptions, the body cannot make

vitamins and must be supplied with them. Vitamins contain no energy but

are important as enzymes which help speed up nearly all metabolic

functions. Also, vitamins are not building components of body tissues, but

aid in the construction of these tissues. It is impossible to reliably

determine the vitamin requirements of an individual because of

differences in age, sex, body size, genetic makeup, and activity.

A good

source of a recommendation is the RDA. The RDA makes it?s

recommendations based on studies of consumption of the given nutrient.

On the recommendation it will usually specify what size diet the

recommendation is based on, for example, a two thousand calorie per day

diet. It is harmless to ingest excess of most vitamins. However, some

vitamins are toxic in large amounts. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin

which is only available in two forms. Pre-formed, which is found in

animal tissue. The other is carotene, which can be converted into Vitamin

A by animals . Carotene is found in easily found in carrots as well as other

vegetables . Vitamin A is important to the growth and repair of body

tissues and helps maintain a smooth, soft, and disease free skin. It also

helps protect the mucus membranes of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs

which reduces the chance of infection. Another function is helping mucus

membranes combat the effects of air pollutants. Vitamin A also protects

the soft lining of all the digestive tract. Another function of vitamin A is to

aid in the secretion of gastric juices. The B complex vitamins have many

known sub-types, but they all are water soluble vitamins. The B vitamins

can be cultivated from a variety of bacteria, yeast, fungi, or molds . They

are active in the body by helping the body convert carbohydrates into

glucose, a form of sugar. B vitamins are also vital in the metabolism of

proteins and fats. They are also the single most important element in the

health of the nerves. B vitamins are also essential for the maintenance of

the gastrointestinal tract, the health of the skin, hair, eyes, mouth, liver,

and muscle tone. The intestine contain a bacteria that produces vitamin b

but milk-free diets, and taking sulfonamides or antibiotics can destroy

these bacteria . Whole grains contain high concentrations of B complex

vitamins. Also, enriched bread and cereal products contain high

concentrations of B vitamins due to a governmental intervention of the

whole food group to ensure that the nation was getting enough B vitamins

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. It is

sensitive to oxygen and is the least stable of all vitamins . One primary

function of vitamin C is to maintain collagen, a protein necessary for the

formation of skin, ligaments, and bones. Vitamin C also plays a role in

healing of burns and wounds because it aids the formation of scar tissue.

It also helps form red blood cells and prevent hemorrhaging. Another

function is to prevent the disease, scurvy, which used to be seen in sailors

because of their lack of vitamin C in their diet. This was corrected by

issuing each sailor one lime per day which supplied citric acid, a source of

vitamin C. Other sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Strawberries,

Oranges, and grapefruits . Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin which is

made up of a group of compounds called tocoherols. There are seven

forms of it but the form known as Alpha tocoherol is the most potent .

Tocoherols occur in the highest concentrations in cold pressed vegetable

oils, all whole raw seeds and nuts, and soybeans. Vitamin E plays an

essential role in cellular respiration of all muscles, especially the cardiac

and skeletal. It makes these muscles able to function with less oxygen,

thereby increasing efficiency and stamina. It also is an antioxidant, which

prevents oxidization. This prevents saturated fatty compounds from

breaking down and combining to form toxic compounds.

Minerals are

nutrients that exist in the body and in organic and inorganic combinations.

There are approximately seventeen minerals that are necessary in human

nutrition . Although only about four or five percent of the body weight is

mineral matter, minerals are important to overall mental and physical

health. All of the body?s tissues and fluids contain some amount of

mineral. Minerals are necessary for proper muscle function and many

other biological reactions in the body. Minerals are also important in the

production of hormones. Another important function of minerals is to

maintain the delicate water balance of the body and to regulate the blood?s

pH. Physical and emotional stress causes a strain on the body?s supply of

minerals. A mineral deficiency often results in illness, which may be

treated by the addition of the missing mineral to the diet. Calcium, a

primary mineral, is available through dairy products. In order to get all the

other minerals, one should eat protein rich foods, seeds, grains, nuts,

greens, and limited amounts of salt or salty foods. They don't contribute

energy themselves, but vitamins and minerals are integral to food

metabolism and energy production. Iron and calcium are the minerals

most commonly deficient in athletes, and strict vegetarians may be

deficient in vitamin B12. By consuming adequate calories and following

the food guide pyramid plan, your needs for all the important

micronutrients can be met.

Water is the ultimate ergogenic aid--but because the body has a poor

thirst mechanism, you must drink before you feel thirsty. Once you are

thirsty you are already slightly dehydrated, and your performance will be


To stay well hydrated, you need to drink about a quart of caffeine-

free, nonalcoholic fluids for every 1,000 calories of food you eat,

assuming you maintain your weight. To ensure that you are well hydrated

before you exercise, drink 2 cups of water or sports drink 2 hours

beforehand. To avoid dehydration during exercise, begin drinking early

and at regular intervals. For exercise lasting an hour or less, 4 to 6 ounces

of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes provides optimal fluid replacement.

During exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes, carbohydrate-

electrolyte beverages containing 5% to 8% carbohydrate should be drunk

at the same rate to replace fluid and spare muscle glycogen. Also,

consuming sports drinks during intense activities such as soccer or

basketball may enhance performance. After exercise, replace every pound

lost during exercise with at least 2 cups of fluid.

Fiber, found only in plant foods, is an indigestible form of

carbohydrate that provides plants with structural rigidity. Fiber is

classified by its ability or inability to dissolve in water. Most plant foods

contain both types. (See "Soluble and Insoluble Fibers," below.) Both

soluble and insoluble fibers enhance the work of the intestines, but in

different ways. Following are some of the health benefits of these types of


Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugars and starches from the

small intestine into the bloodstream. This action helps smooth out the

peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels, possibly helping to ward off type

2 ("adult onset") diabetes. For someone who already has diabetes, soluble

fiber helps control blood sugar levels

Cholesterol made by the body is an ingredient in bile, a substance

that is used in digestion and is recycled. Soluble fiber binds to bile acids in

the intestines, thereby lowering the body's cholesterol pool. Soluble fiber

can lower blood cholesterol levels by at least 5% in people with healthy

cholesterol levels, and even more in those who have elevated cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber provides bulk that helps move food residues through

the intestine, which helps prevent constipation and diverticular disease.

Insoluble fiber also flushes carcinogens, bile acids, and cholesterol out of

the system. Studies of total fiber intake (soluble and insoluble) show a

decreased risk of colon, rectal, breast, prostate, and other cancers with

consumption of a high-fiber diet.

Dietary fiber plays an important role in weight management.

Because fiber helps you feel full and slows the emptying of your stomach,

you eat less. Also, high-fiber diets tend to be low in calories and less likely

to contribute to obesity. By avoiding obesity, you lower your risks for the

development and progression of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure,

and diabetes.

To increase your fiber intake, make plant foods the foundation of

your diet. For packaged foods, read nutrition labels for the amount of fiber

per serving--a good source of fiber contains more than 1 gram per serving.

Refined bread and cereals usually contain less than that, and beans, whole

grains, and fiber-fortified bread and cereals usually have more (table

below). Be sure to get plenty of fluid with a high-fiber diet.

Common Fiber-Containing Foods

Food Dietary Fiber Content (grams)

Kidney beans, cooked (3/4 c) 9.3
Cereal, All Bran (1/3 c) 8.5
Prunes, dried (3 medium) 4.7
Popcorn, air popped (3 1/2 c) 4.5
Pear (1 medium) 4.1
Apple (1 large) 4.0
Orange (1 large) 4.0
Potato, baked, with skin (1 medium) 4.0
Spinach, cooked (1 c) 4.0
Sunflower seeds (1 oz) 4.0
Banana (1 medium) 3.8
Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked (1 c) 3.3
Carrots, cooked (1/2 c) 3.2
Barley, cooked (1/2 c) 3.0
Strawberries (1 c) 2.8
Bread, whole wheat (1 slice) 2.4
Cranberries (1/2 cup) 2.0
Cereal, wheat flakes (3/4 c) 1.8
Oatmeal, cooked (3/4 c) 1.6
Seaweed, nori or kombu (1 c) 1.0
Bread, white (1 slice) 0.6

Increase your fiber slowly to prevent cramping, bloating, and other

unpleasant symptoms. Be aware, too, that you can get too much fiber.

Excess fiber decreases the absorption of minerals, and large amounts over

a short time--as in supplements--can lead to a serious intestinal

obstruction. More than 50 grams per day is probably too much.

Nutrition is just one aspect of total body health. It is important to remember that on must

compliment good nutrition with good exercise and emotional health in

order to achieve complete well being. It is also important to remember that

no one part of nutrition will completely fulfill the body?s requirements for

health. Knowledge of the nutrients and their function is essential to

understanding the importance of good nutrition.


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