Are you new to the whole fitness thing and have no clue about proper nutrition and how to eat for good results?
If so, you’ve come to the right place because this article covers all the nutrition basics newbies need to understand for optimal fitness results and good health.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Energy balance refers to the number of calories consumed through foods and beverages compared to the energy we burn every day.
How many calories you consume in relation to your energy expenditure determines whether you lose, maintain, or gain body weight. Put simply:
- Consume fewer calories than you burn (calorie deficit) – lose weight
- Consume more calories than you burn (calorie surplus) – gain weight
- Consume and expend roughly the same amount of energy – maintain your current weight
When someone goes on a diet and loses weight, they don’t do so because the diet is special, ‘revolutionary,’ or another popular adjective people use to describe diets. Weight loss occurs because the diet causes the person to enter a calorie deficit.
Macronutrients And Diet Composition
Going down one level deeper brings us to diet composition (what foods and beverages make up your nutritional approach). The foods you eat determine your macronutrient intake.
Macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) are the components that make up the foods we eat. A steak predominantly consists of protein, whereas vegetable oil is 100 percent pure fat.
However, most foods fall somewhere in the middle and contain some of the three macros. For instance, nuts are high in fat but contain carbs and protein.
Protein is made of amino acids: small building blocks the body needs to build and repair muscle, produce various important proteins, and support your health. Each gram of protein contains four calories, and the nutrient has the highest thermic effect (TE) at 20 to 30 percent.
In other words, consuming 100 grams of protein would provide your body with 400 calories, and you would expend 80 to 120 calories to break down the protein and absorb the amino acids.
Carbs are the primary fuel source for the body and are necessary for optimizing athletic performance, post-workout recovery, and general well-being.
Similar to protein, each gram of carbs provides four calories.
Dietary fats are the final of the three primary macronutrients we need for good health and well-being.
Fats are necessary for optimizing hormone levels, absorbing certain nutrients (e.g., vitamins A and E), protecting major organs, producing various molecules, and much more.
Unlike the above two macros, fats are more calorie-dense and provide nine calories per gram.
Micronutrients (And Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Them)
Micronutrients are a group of nutrients with no energetic value. These include the 13 essential vitamins and 14 essential minerals the human body needs.
Vitamins come in two categories: water-soluble (B vitamins and vitamin C) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, E, D, and K). Similarly, minerals come in two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals.
Eating a balanced diet and limiting your intake of processed junk food is the best way to ensure an adequate intake of all essential micronutrients.
Nutrient Timing: What Is It And Does It Matter?
Nutrient timing refers to the act of eating specific foods at particular times to optimize your training performance and recovery.
In terms of priority, nutrient timing isn’t nearly as important as the basics:
- The correct calorie intake for your goals
- An adequate intake of all three macronutrients
- Eating a balanced diet to get enough of all 27 micronutrients
Nutrient timing won’t make much of a difference for most people as long as they apply the basics consistently.
The Truth About Supplements
Too many people believe that supplements make a huge difference and fall for false promises, purchasing all sorts of ineffective products.
As their name suggests, supplements exist to supplement the effort that already goes into your training, nutrition, and overall recovery (sleep, stretching, etc.).
For example, a protein powder supplement can be a convenient way to get more protein and reach the recommended daily dose of 0.7-1 gram per pound of body weight. Similarly, a multivitamin can reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
With that said, such products are rarely mandatory; paying attention to your nutrition, sleep, and training will have a much more significant impact on your fitness and health outcomes.
Why Hydration Matters For Good Health And Fitness Progress
According to estimates, about 60 percent of the adult human body consists of water. Therefore, proper hydration is crucial for good health, well-being, energy levels, and athletic performance.
Some data suggests that as little as two percent dehydration can significantly affect a person’s athleticism and ability to recover during a workout.
Water is also crucial for joint health, thermal regulation, healthy blood pressure, brain function, flushing out toxins from the body, and much more.
General guidelines suggest that men drink up to 3.7 liters of water daily (125 fl. oz.) and women – up to 2.7 liters (91 fl. oz.).