There are so many important things to worry about when it comes to maintaining good health that it can make your head-spin. Essential nutrients to the body are in two categories: macronutrients & micronutrients. Macronutrients are defined to be needed in large quantities for normal growth and development. Individuals attempt to monitor macronutrients more often which consist of calories that are broken down into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients being the other category only need to be consumed in small amounts, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). They are key for optimal health and function and unfortunately are not typically as monitored by individuals. However, they both have recommended daily allowances (RDAs) or percentage daily values (PDVs) and are published in various sources, ChooseMyPlate.gov being a reputable example.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source and contain about 4 calories per gram as stated on the generic nutrition label of various foods. Carbs that are not used for energy immediately are stored as glycogen which goes to the liver and muscle cells and is ideal for a rapid source of energy when needed. If an individual consumes excessive carbohydrates, the body can convert the glycogen into sugar and then into fat for long-term storage.
Protein is your gym-junkie’s favorite macronutrient which is identical in calories per gram, but are the “construction workers” of the body according to many sources, including American Council on Exercise (ACE). They are built from amino acids and take the credit for formation of the brain, nervous system, blood, skin, hair, and of course muscle among others. Carbohydrates are not the only source that can create frowned-on problems as proteins have an un-favored side as well. In situations of being energy deprived, the body can break down proteins for energy, ruining the benefits of reconstructing your body, basically working backwards. Proteins are categorized into complete, found in animal products and incomplete, found in plant foods with the exception of soy. Furthermore, beyond a certain level of its maximal ability to utilize amino acids to build muscle, any excess protein will be stored as body fat.
Fats, typically looked at as a nightmare, however are a dream come true in more ways than one. They are noted as the most dense of the macronutrients, providing 9 calories per gram. Because they are the most dense, and of course if eaten in excess, the phrase “you are what you eat” will certainly show. But consuming the right kinds of fat in the right portions, will do your body wonders and can use this as great energy to maintain the necessary functions of insulation, cell structure, nerve transmission, vitamin absorption, even hormone production. Thanks to Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Omegas we can eat more confidently.
Micronutrients, aka vitamins and minerals on the other hand are organic, non-caloric that are essential for normal physiologic function. The best sources are through food, yet should not be relied on with only one type of food to get your full required range. The human body needs 13 different vitamins which are divided into two categories; water-soluble and fat-soluble. Some common vitamins, K and biotin can be produced by normal intestinal flora (aka bacteria that live in the intestines that are critical for normal gastrointestinal function). While vitamin D floats in the same boat of self-produced vitamins that is actually from an external source, sun exposure! All your C and B vitamins (with the exception of B6/12) are water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body and are readily excreted in urine. The rest of the vitamins, A,D,E, and K are fat-soluble, even self-produced vitamins if also consumed. These can be stored in the body for a long period of time, eventually excreted through feces. If the storage capacity is exceeded, it has potential to cause or increase the risk of toxicity from overconsumption, but also decreases the risk of deficiency, also recognized by fitday.com, healthtap.com, as well as American Council on Exercise (ACE).
To obtain your specific needs of required nutrition, it is always best to consult a physician or registered dietitian. Your body is an amazing machine, and taking the time to learn little things here and there make a huge impact of your overall health for many long years. Diet (appropriate balances of macro/micronutrients) and exercise are key and have been proven to greatly improve, if not even cure illnesses and diseases which is the ultimate, cheapest form of medicine. Knowledge is power, determination is success.
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