Fundamentals of Nutrition

Hello everyone,

Today we will be talking about the most important aspect of fitness, and this is nutrition. Without it done correctly, no goal can be achieved, fat loss, muscle gain, or both done simultaneously. When it comes to this topic you don’t need a degree in nutritional sciences to get a good understanding of it and apply it to your goal. That is what I hope you can learn from this article, the fundamentals of nutrition to get you going in the right direction and help you reach your goals!

 

Fundamental Parts of Nutrition:

There are 3 things that should lay the base of your nutrition, in order, these are calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Water is also a very critical part of nutrition, and should always be taken seriously and be consumed in ample amounts, we will talk more about this later on. I would also like to add that the information below is fundamental information and is not written in regards to health issues such as diabetes or intolerances, etc, individual circumstances need to be talked about with your doctor.

 

Calories:

To start, let’s explain what calories are. Calories are a unit of energy that your body uses to function, they are acquired through the 3 different macronutrients (more to come on these later). Calories are at the base of nutrition because the amount you are consuming will dictate the goal you are trying to achieve. A general outline of the calorie intake for different goals is listed below:

  1. Fat Loss – Eating in a caloric deficit in order to lose fat/weight
  2. Bodyweight Maintenance – Eating at maintenance calories to maintain body weight
  3. Muscle/Weight Gain – Surplus of calories
  4. Simultaneous Fat Loss & Muscle Gain (Body Recomposition) – Caloric deficit with a focus/emphasis on protein and a proper amount of fats and carbohydrates.

It is important to note that although the number of calories you consume is the base of the goal you are trying to achieve, you will not see results nor will you see optimal results if you are not eating with a good spread of macronutrients. These are what we will be talking about next!

 

Macronutrients:

There are 3 different types of macronutrients (also known as macros), these include proteins, fats and carbohydrates. As I stated above calories come from the different types of macronutrients, here is a description of the calories contained in the different macros:

  1. Protein – 4 calories per gram
  2. Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram
  3. Fats – 9 calories per gram

 

Protein:

Let’s start with protein. Although proteins have many important jobs in the body, their main one is to aid in muscle recovery which is largely important to muscle building. Protein is comprised of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), 20 to be exact. Of these 20 there are 9 that are essential (needed by the body and you must obtain them through your nutrition), 3 of these 9 are what we call BCAAs’s or branch chain amino acids. The main jobs of these amino acids are focussed on muscle building, they include leucine, isoleucine and valine. All have different jobs, however, their main ones include:

  1. Leucine – Controlling protein synthesis, recovery and growth hormones, blood sugar regulation
  2. Isoleucine  – Helps recovery, increases endurance/energy
  3. Valine – Maintenance of muscle and the immune system, proper nervous system and cognitive function

For more information and detail on these and other amino acids, you can visit the website Amino Acid Guide which is where I got this information from.

Based on the duties of these amino acids you can see the main job of protein is to aid in muscle recovery and building. There is no mechanism in the body to store amino acids, however, they can be converted to glucose for the body to use as energy if lacking carbohydrates (rarely though). Extra proteins are excreted through the body in the form of urine. Next, we will talk about carbohydrates.

 

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are the main source in which your body gets its energy from. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. While both have a place in one’s nutrition, they have different aspects to each of them. Here are the characteristics of each:

Simple Carbs (Also Known as Sugars):

  1. Quick breakdown into glucose (useable form of sugar in the body)
  2. Fast but not long-lasting energy (natural sugars do give longer-lasting energy than refined sugars though)
  3. Natural sugar foods can be dense in fibre which will slow digestion and help control the insulin release, thus not causing a “sugar crash”
  4. Refined sugars cause an insulin spike which can lead to a sugar crash after a short burst of energy
  5. Natural sugars are much more nutritious than refined sugars

Complex Carbs (Also Known as Starches):

  1. Longer breakdown into glucose (processed starches breakdown quicker than natural ones)
  2. Longer lasting sustained energy (natural starches give more controlled and sustained energy than processed ones)
  3. Some complex carbs still induce an insulin spike (poor carb to fibre ratio, processed starches) these carbs can still be fine and are often times great, just be cautious of when you eat them (e.g. prior to a game)
  4. Natural and fibre dense starches will breakdown slower because of the slowed digestion rate (this gives more controlled sustained energy)
  5. Dense in nutrients (natural ones more so than processed ones)

Now that we have a good understanding of the differences between simple and complex carbs, let’s talk about how carbohydrates work in the body. Here is a brief description, simple and complex carbohydrates are broken down in the body (with different processes), they are then turned into glucose which your body uses for its main energy source (ATP). Extra sugars are stored as glycogen for later use in the body when blood sugars reduce. When glycogen stores are full the extra glucose is stored in the muscle and can be stored as fat.

As you can see, carbs are very important to the body functioning optimally and they shouldn’t be avoided (unless for medical or other professionally advised reasons). In general, trying to pick healthy simple carbs from fruits and dairy instead of refined sugars from pop and baked goods is best, this will provide more nutrients and give better energy than refined sugars will. Complex carbs are a great option for longer more sustained energy, as well as taking in more calories as they are typically higher in carbs. Which types you have depend on the situations you’re in throughout the day.

 

Fats:

There are 4 different types of fats, these are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans fats. These fats are comprised of fatty acids, which have many important roles in the body. The only 2 fatty acids that are essential (your body requires them but they must be obtained through your nutrition) are omega 3’s and 6’s. These are found in the polyunsaturated fats. One of the large controversies over fats is the cholesterol and how it can lead to plaque build-up, clogged arteries and heart disease. This leads us to LDL and HDL cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoproteins) are thought of as “bad” cholesterol because it is what leads to plaque buildup, while HDL (high-density lipoproteins) are thought of as good because it is what manages that plaque buildup and helps remove it. It is also worth noting that cholesterol does have positive functions in the body, such as it’s control of certain hormones. Now that we have a basic understanding of fats, let’s look at the different attributes of each:

  1. Saturated Fats – Increases LDL cholesterol, increases size of LDL particles (a good thing), increases HDL cholesterol
  2. Polyunsaturated Fats – Contains essential fatty acids that are Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s, lowers LDL cholesterol, increases HDL cholesterol
  3. Monounsaturated Fats – Lowers LDL cholesterol, increases HDL cholesterol
  4. Artificial Trans Fats – Increases LDL cholesterol, decreases HDL cholesterol, linked to heart disease

Now that we know more about the different kinds of fats, let’s talk about how our body uses them. Fats are broken down into their fatty acids, these are then used for cell membranes, stored energy or used as energy when our body doesn’t have glucose to use. As you can see from the above chart, a healthy amount of the first 3 fats is ok, however, you want to try and eliminate number 4 on the list. Saturated fats often face a lot of criticism, as you can see they are not terrible, however, there are options that are “better.” I would suggest to not avoid saturated fats, however, make sure you’re not eating too much and are having good amounts of the other 2 fats. The “best” kinds of fats are the first and second ones, the unsaturated fats. A good part of your fat intake should come from these. This because they are considered as healthy fats because of their positive relation to the different types of cholesterol, and the essential fatty acids contained in polyunsaturated fats. However, like anything you still need to be eating them in a healthy amount, this amount will depend on your needs and goals.

 

Micronutrients:

Now that we have talked about calories and macros it is time to talk about a sometimes neglected part of nutrition, this is micronutrients. These nutrients are essential, meaning our body can’t produce the amounts needed or any at all. Micronutrients are split into 2 broad groups, these are vitamins and minerals. There are 2 major groups of vitamins and 2 major groups of minerals. The 2 vitamin groups include fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins, this basically means the 2 different ways within the body that we absorb and use the vitamins. It is important to note that fat-soluble vitamins can be stored, while water-soluble vitamins cannot. Extra vitamins are excreted from the body through urine. Because of this, deficiencies can occur, more so in water-soluble ones since as I stated, they cannot be stored. The 2 basic groups of minerals include major and minor minerals, these 2 groups refer to the amounts needed by the body. As you probably guessed the major ones are needed in higher quantities and the minor ones are needed in smaller quantities. The major minerals are usually measured in milligrams while the minor minerals are typically measured in micrograms. Below is a visual to help further represent the different categories of these micronutrients:

Micronutrients Template

Bananas High in Potassium & Fibre
Bananas are a food that is high in potassium and fibre

Vitamins and minerals have many different functions in the body, far too many to list. Some of them which you may already know include building strong bones, building the immune system, vision and helping with brain function. Two other important parts of micronutrients include antioxidants and phytochemical’s, in short, they help to fight free radicals or prevent their creation to begin with. Free radicals are created by metabolizing energy and although they have some roles in the body they have their negatives as well. Ultimately antioxidants and phytochemical’s help to balance the levels of these free radicals.

 

Now that we know the basics of micronutrients it is time to start looking at how we obtain them and in ample amounts. Ultimately I wouldn’t suggest tracking your micronutrients, as long as you are taking in around 3 or 4 servings of fruits and 3 or 4 servings of vegetables daily while trying to focus on varying colours; you should cover most of your micronutrients in proper quantities without a problem. Also, if you are eating proper amounts of macronutrients this will also help your cause. Of course, if you have reason to believe you are deficient in certain micronutrients, go talk with your doctor. A multivitamin wouldn’t be a bad idea, however, again if you are eating a wide variety of foods, it isn’t a requirement in my opinion.

A great resource to view this information in video form is from a YouTube channel called The Doctors Kitchen, you can click here to watch.

 

Water:

The final thing I would like to touch on in this article is water. Water is essential for human life and is extremely important. Water makes up around 2/3 of your body. It has many functions in the body such as temperature regulation, nutrient transporting as well as overall energy levels. These different functions, as well as many others, have a large carryover to fitness, this is why hydration is such a key part of your nutrition. Water needs vary greatly depending on a variety of factors such as bodyweight, climate, your job, goals and level of activity. I would say drinking when you’re thirsty and a little extra when you’re active is a good guideline. If you’re not drinking hardly any at all, then make sure you have times throughout the day when you are intentionally drinking water.

 

Concluding Remarks:

I hope this article was informative and helpful in allowing you to get an understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will do my best to give you an answer!

 

Until Next Time,

 

Kohl Johnson

 

Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support is much appreciated if you benefited from this:
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Kohl Johnson

I am a 16-year-old fitness fanatic! I have learned nothing but quality training and nutrition information from the utmost well-respected individuals in the field. Now, my only focus is to share this knowledge with you for your benefit, in the most honest way possible. We are all in this together! LET'S GO!

15 Responses

  1. Seems like I keep hearing a lot of different things about calories. Some people will tell you, ‘a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie.” Meaning that it doesn’t matter one bit where your calories come from as long as you burn off the right amount through exercise and throughout your day. In your post you say that you need to make sure to get good quality calories from quality sources. So which is true? 

    • Hi Mariah,

      That is true in the sense of calories are a source of energy and are equivalent as that. However depending on where you get your calories from, and the type of calorie in the sense of the makeup of it, it matters greatly! Things such as digestion and absorption rates, nutrient density, functions in the body all vary depending on this and affect the “quality” of the calorie. Refer back to the macronutrient section of the article and it can give you a little more insight in reference to the details!

  2. I really enjoyed this straightforward article explaining the fundamentals of maintaining good health. It is amazing to see how important water is and how much you should be consuming daily. I didn’t see the link for the Doctor’s Kitchen YouTube Video but I went and checked it on YouTube and it is great.

    I am going read the Full Affect Fitness In A Nutshell now to see what other valuable information I can learn.

    Under what circumstances would you recommend taking a vitamin supplement without the chance of toxicity?

    Thanks Kohl

    • Thank you very much! I forgot to add the link, I will do so now so you can be sure you watched the correct video. If you are lacking proper fruits and vegetables the multivitamin can help, I wouldn’t use it as a substitute however as real food has many other micronutrient. A multivitamin itself isn’t worrisome, unless your having crazy amounts of fruits and vegetables and high micronutrient foods. It is more so supplements for specific micronutrients that will give them in high amounts. For specific amounts needed for you I would advise consulting with a doctor.

  3. Wow, your post has a lot of information that I didn’t know before. Especially the part about micronutrients. There are lots of websites and other literature available that discuss calories, carbs, protein, and fat. But, not many address vitamins and minerals.

    My son is a bodybuilder and the first thing his coach did was to lay out a diet to follow. It is just as important for building muscle and trimming fat as working out.

    Where can I get information on which foods are best for each category? For example, what should I eat for particular proteins like leucine, isoleucine, and valine? What fruits and vegetables supply which micronutrients?

    Thanks and keep up the great work. I have bookmarked your site and will be coming back often.

  4. Hey Kohl, I decided to check out your website on Fitness. 

    Its pretty awesome. I’m a fitness trainer and I’m always looking at new and informative ways to work with my clients.  The 1st thing that caught my eye was that food was mentioned as key & it is.  Theoverall scheme is very clear.  The first paragraph told me that you were going to take us thru the fitness process.  SoI knew the site would elaborate on that, which is cool. 

    The subject of health and fitness is major.  

    I look forward to exploring more about it on your site. 

    Thanx Again for Sharing

    -Tu

  5. The information on Carbohydrates was right on.  As a diabetic, I learned a ton about carbohydrates.  I try to stay away from simple carbohydrates and eat more complex carbs.  You are very correct about micro-nutrients being forgot about. I had to add a multi vitamin to get all the required vitamins and minerals that I need.  Water is another area that seems to get forgotten about. With all the sports drinks out there, I see people drinking less water and purchasing the sports drinks more and more.  I try to drink as much water each day that I can but it is easy to forget to.  It is a very good article to read.

    • Thank you very much for the interest in my article, I agree with you on too much sports drinks and not enough water. They can have there place in specific circumstances or as a treat, it’s just got so much sugar though. However water can’t be beat in my opinion. As for it being easy to forget to drink enough of it, I also agree. I suggest having around 20oz of water ready for you in the morning, it will help with routine and getting a good start on the water intake for the day. I am trying to implement this myself as well. It seems as if you are in tune with this, however like I said in the article, consult with your doctor for your specific circumstances regarding your diabetes.

  6. Thanks for the fundamental information about nutrition. I like to keep fit and there is always more you can learn in the quest for a healthier body. I have been reading into the benefits of intermittent fasting and was wondering if you think that – assuming the calorie intake is the same – it is healthier to spread out your consumption or to eat more regularly? 

    Thanks for the info.

    • No problem! As for your intermittent fasting question, I see it as a way to control calorie intake throughout the day. It can help with routine, less of feeling hungry if your in a deficit because of the consistency, and less binge eating. It isn’t shown to burn more fat when working out while fasted. Overall, I would say as long as you are hitting your calories needed for you specific goal throughout the day, I would pick the method that works best for you and one you can sustain. I would say that intermittent fasting is more suited for trying to lose weight or maintain weight and not ideal for gaining weight. Hope that helps!

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