Are you looking for the best nutrients to fuel your body? If so, You are not alone.
When you fuel your body with the right nutrients, you can improve more than just your health. You’ll boost your energy levels, lose weight and build muscle. But what kind of nutrients should you be fueling your body with?
Your body needs proteins, vitamins, and fats to function at an optimum level, while carbohydrates provide the energy required for tasks like walking, running and working out.
However, the amount of nutrients you need depends on your lifestyle and goals. For example, if you are a bodybuilder, you will need more proteins in your diet than someone who does not exercise regularly.
This article will explore what types of nutrients you should get in your diet and how they can benefit your health.
What Nutrients Are Important to Intake If You are Looking to Eat Better
There are macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs to function correctly, and knowing which type your body is using at any given time can help you make better choices about what to eat and drink. The following are the kind of nutrients you need to take to have a better look.
Carbohydrates are made up of sugars, starches, and fiber which are usually found in starchy foods.
During exercise, the liver breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to provide energy for your body, which is vital during exercise. Carbohydrates also help to keep your blood sugar levels stable so that you can function at your best physically and mentally throughout the day.
When looking for a type of carbohydrate food to fuel your body, pick a healthy carbohydrate food. Carbohydrates from plants (especially whole grains and vegetables) are more nutritious than those found in processed foods because they contain more vitamins and minerals than processed foods.
However, eating too many carbohydrates at once (such as in a doughnut) can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to feelings of hunger or fatigue after the workout. The sources of healthy carbohydrates are:
- Whole grains like cereals, whole wheat bread, rice, oats and rye
- Vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, zucchini and squash
- Fruit like apple, oranges, melon, mangoes, beets, blueberries, grapefruit and bananas
- Legumes such as lentils, peas, and beans
Avoid eating unhealthy carbohydrates in refined sugars and processed foods, such as white bread, white pasta, sugary cereals, and soda. These foods lack nutrition and can cause spikes in your blood sugar, leading to weight gain and increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Lack of enough carbohydrates can cause fatigue, reduced concentration and performance. So, ensure you fill most of your plate with carbohydrates – like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The amount of vegetables and fruits on your plate should make up approximately half, and whole grains on your plate should make up approximately one-fourth.
Fats provide energy and play a vital role in maintaining the structure and function of almost every cell in your body, including your brain. They also help absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K from food so we can stay healthy overall. Fat has three main types: trans fats, saturated and unsaturated fats.
Fuel your body with unsaturated fats, considered healthy (good fat), because they lower cholesterol levels and help promote weight loss. You can get fats from plants and sea fish. Some sources of unsaturated fat foods include:
- Walnuts and olive oil
- Corn or soybean oil
- Fish such as mackerel or sardines and salmon and fish oil supplements
Unhealthy or bad fats include trans fat and saturated fat. Saturated fats also help your body’s cells produce. However, a lot of saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood and narrows arteries, leading to obesity and heart disease hence the need to consume in moderation. Saturated fat foods are:
- Meats such as beef
- Dairy products like cheese
- Palm oil and coconut oil
- Chicken skin and other poultry parts
- Butter (hard)
- Processed and fast foods such as Crackers, cookies and French fries.
Fats have a high caloric density, so you need less of them than carbohydrates or protein to make a meal filling—the recommendation of energy you are supposed to get from saturated fats is not more than 10%.
Protein consists of amino acids linked in chains to form peptides, which then combine with other compounds to create proteins. You need them for the growth, building and repair of muscles. They also contribute to the formation of antibodies that fight disease.
The most common protein sources are meats (beef, pork, chicken), dairy, fish, and eggs. Beans and peas contain some protein but not as much as meat or fish.
However, protein sources vary depending on your fitness goal. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight or become more active, eating low-fat dairy products such as skim milk or yogurt could help you reach your goals faster.
Vegetarians can get all the protein they need from plant sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and legumes. You can also obtain proteins by taking protein drinks, supplements, or protein powders.
Do not take a lot of proteins; excess proteins may cause strains on your kidney. Also, it’s good to consider eating high-quality whole proteins like lean meat and eggs instead of supplements or protein powder.
Micronutrients are essential to life, and you often require them in minimal amounts. They include vitamins and minerals, which we must get from food or supplements.
Vitamins are chemical compounds the body can’t produce, so you must take them in through your diet. They help your body use energy efficiently, make new cells and maintain good health.
While there are over 100 vitamins, specific vitamins are more critical than others. The crucial vitamins include:
Vitamin A is responsible for maintaining good vision. You can get enough from carrots, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes and other dark green leafy vegetables. You can also get vitamin A from animal sources like beef liver and eggs.
Vitamin C helps your body fight off infections by boosting the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses in the body. You can get vitamin C from fruits like oranges or berries and vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, vital in building strong bones and teeth. It also promotes healthy immune system function and helps control blood sugar levels by regulating insulin production in the pancreas gland.
Your body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so it’s a good idea to spend time outdoors when the sun is highest in the sky. You can also get some vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk or orange juice or take supplements.
Minerals are also non-essential for humans but play a vital role in keeping our bodies healthy by maintaining the balance of fluids, electrolytes (salt), and other minerals within our bodies. Minerals also help maintain bone health and regulate muscle contraction and nerve conduction.
A healthy diet should contain various vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Magnesium helps regulate heart rhythm and muscle contractions. It is found in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach; nuts; beans; seeds, whole grains, and dairy products.
Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth, supports nerve function, and helps with blood clotting. The best sources of calcium include dairy products (especially low-fat yogurt), sardines, tofu, salmon, and fortified orange juice or cereal.
Potassium helps regulate heartbeat by assisting muscles in contracting correctly during exercise, maintaining fluid balance in the body and helping lower blood pressure after meals. Good sources of potassium include bananas, potatoes (white or sweet), avocados, broccoli (steamed), and leafy greens.
What kinds of Nutrients Are Important for Muscle Recovery?
After a workout, your body is depleted and needs nutrients from a healthy balanced diet for recovery. If you’re not eating enough nutrients, your muscles won’t get the necessary fuel to repair and build muscle tissue. You need the following foods for your muscle recovery.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat, fish, and some plants like cauliflower and kale. It gives your muscles strength, power, and energy when working out.
Creatine supplements have improved performance and endurance in athletes who train with heavy weights. After a workout, muscles will use creatine to replenish their ATP (energy) stores to recover faster and return to work quickly.
Protein is an essential source of amino acids — the building blocks of muscle tissue — that your body uses for recovery following exercise. If you’re not eating enough protein, you may experience muscle cramps and fatigue during your workout or after.
An excellent way to boost your protein intake is by eating plenty of protein-rich foods such as nuts, lean meats, peas, eggs, beans, yogurt, cheese, and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds) so that your muscles have the fuel they need repair and recover.
Fiber helps to get your muscles back into shape after a workout. They both increase the speed at which your muscles recover and they also reduce the amount of damage that’s done to them when you exercise.
Eat various fibrous foods to get the most nutrition from your meals. Fiber is in whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa. Legumes are another great source of fiber, and you can find it in beans, lentils, peas and soy. Fruits and vegetables also provide a lot of fiber and should make up most of your daily intake.
Vitamin C helps support normal immune function, wound healing, and collagen formation. It also helps your body absorb iron and produces the antioxidant glutathione, which protects cells from damage by free radicals.
The antioxidant also helps speed up your recovery by preventing excessive levels of inflammation. Vitamin C is in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. Other sources include tomatoes, papaya, blackcurrants, mangoes, peppers, and broccoli.
Zinc helps repair and build your muscles and keeps you healthy. Zinc-rich foods Good sources of zinc include:
- Beef, lamb, pork & poultry (especially organ meats)
- Fish (salmon, tuna)
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D is critical for keeping muscles strong and healthy — especially when they’re recovering from exercise.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, a mineral your muscles need to repair and grow. You can get vitamin D from foods such as oily fish like salmon or tuna, eggs and fortified milk products such as yogurt and cereal bars.
Calcium supports bone health and also plays a role in muscle repair and growth during recovery. The best sources of calcium include dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, and dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, and bok choy.
These nutrients are ideal for helping you recover from an intense workout or activity that leaves your muscles feeling sore or tired.
Which Nutrients Harm Performance and Progress
The following are the nutrients that can hinder your performance when working out.
Saturated and Trans Fat
Saturated and trans fat harm your performance because they impair your body’s ability to use oxygen. The more saturated fat you eat, you will likely develop heart disease. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Soda and Sport Drinks
Soda and sports drinks are high in sugar, which can easily lead to overconsumption, which is not only bad for your health but also your athletic performance.
The best way to avoid this is through drinking water instead. Water has no calories, so you’re not adding extra sugar to your diet.
Protein Bar and Energy Bar
Protein bars and energy bars are great ways to get the protein you need. They’re convenient and portable.
They provide a good amount of protein for protein-hungry athletes. However, the sugar in these bars raises blood sugar levels, which can cause fatigue, mood swings, and feelings of cravings throughout the day, harming your performance.
Excess Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine causes water retention, leading to dehydration, which increases the risk of injury during physical activity. This makes you more prone to cramps or muscle soreness after drinking too much of it.
Caffeine also decreases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream making your body unable to produce energy to work out.
Alcohol can decrease muscle strength and coordination, slow down reaction time, impair judgment, and decrease motivation and concentration. It can also contribute to mood swings and depression, contribute to hangovers, leading to underperformance.
A lot of Carbohydrates and Fiber
Excess carbohydrates and fiber foods can reduce your performance in the following ways:
- They are less efficient at converting energy.
- They take longer to digest, so the body has to work harder to get them into the bloodstream.
- They cause water retention.
- They can reduce muscle strength and speed up fat loss.
Nutrients That Help to Burn Fat
Many nutrients can help to burn fat and increase your metabolism. They include:
Green tea is rich in antioxidants that help to remove toxins from the body. It also contains caffeine, which helps to boost energy levels and burn fat.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can improve your metabolism and help to burn fat by increasing your energy levels, allowing you to move more and causing you to eat less food.
Eggs are high in protein, which helps to build and repair muscle tissue. They are also rich in phosphorus and choline, which can help with fat loss.
Whey protein is an excellent source of protein that helps build and repair muscle tissue. It also contains an ingredient called glutamine that helps to burn fat by increasing the production of lipase (an enzyme that breaks down stored fat).
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which help lower your body’s cholesterol levels. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation in your body.
Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, it can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels by reducing insulin production after eating a meal containing carbohydrates or sugar.
To sum it all up, eating a healthy diet based on whole foods is always the best choice for your body. But there are options when it comes to getting all of your dietary needs met. If you can’t meet your requirements from natural foods, there are always alternatives, but it’s best to think of them as supplements and not as an alternative to eating a healthy diet.