Introduction To Nutrition
As with any workout, it’s always best to start with a bit of a warm- up! Getting the blood owing in your veins and preparing your muscles for the work ahead is a must to make sure you don’t strain anything. The same goes for your brain. Warming up to the mate‐ rial in this book starts with the basics. This chapter will loosen you up with some vital, foundational information and prime you for action, just like a few minutes of good old fashioned body-weight squats.
For that matter, get on your feet and do a few sets while you read!
Nutrition, in the simplest scientic terms, is how organisms consume organic substances to survive. (Wikipedia Contributors 2019) We all know this as eating food, of course! Your rumbling stomach tells you all you need to know about when you need to feed yourself.
Today, we more commonly understand nutrition as the study of nutrients in the food we eat and how those nutrients affect and sustain the body. This study also incorporates the interplay of overall health, diseases, diet, and general wellness. Additionally,
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this includes the relationship of nutrition to tness and exercise, which is the real point of this book!
Before we delve into the intricacies of how amino acid chains fuel the growth of muscles or even how carbohydrates and sugars give you energy to do those sports you love, we need to examine all of the terminology of nutrition, denitions, and meanings we will be using to perfect your athletic performance and physical health.
Grab a healthy snack and let’s get to work!
Nutrients– To put it plainly, this word encompasses all of the substances we consume to live. This includes the macronutrients such as proteins, fats, or carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients like minerals and vitamins that we gain from both foods and supple‐ mentary additives to our diet. (Wikipedia Contributors 2019) Most people have a vague understanding of nutrients as the ‘good things’ we get from foods. This isn’t entirely wrong as nutritional science is understood by and large, especially for the sporting individual just trying to figure out what they need to eat to be their very best!
Diet– No, we don’t mean the rigorous routine of cutting out junk food you tried last spring to work on your beach body! Your diet is essentially the list of everything you eat—good and bad. Our goal here is to perfect that diet by changing the foods that it's made up of, and hone your knowledge of what your body needs to perform and to grow, or shrink, accordingly!
Calories– This one is a little tricky, mostly because of pop-culture trends and media. Everyone knows that we ‘burn calories’
INTRODUCTION TO NUTRITION 5
throughout the day, and that all food has calories. These myste‐ rious units add up to a number that either makes you gain or lose weight. Or something like that, right?
To clarify, calories, also called food calories or kcal, are units used in several sciences to dene energy values. (Wikipedia Contributors 2019a) Where food is concerned, this really just gives us a baseline for understanding and measuring quantities of energy per weight of the types of food we eat and how that relates to how fast we burn, or use, that food energy.
Fortunately, in terms of tness and exercise, the rule of simple maths does still apply. If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose body mass. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain body mass. The trick when gaining or losing is to make sure you are eating the right kinds of calories to feed the type of mass you want to modify!
Metabolism– Metabolism encompasses all of the chemical reactions that occur within your body that convert the energy in food into usable cell energy. The cells within your body metabolize, or break the chemicals in food down in different ways and use the elements as building blocks for sustenance, growth, and recovery. (Wikipedia Contributors 2019b) Don’t worry, that’s about as complex as we will get into the microbiological workings of your body. Our purpose is to help you master your diet crafting, not make you memorize the steps of cell mitosis!
In nutritional science the term metabolism will often be used to describe the rate at which a person’s body performs all of these processes. You have undoubtedly heard people talk about slower and faster metabolisms in regards to weight loss and gain. The same can be said about certain food groups in how quickly they can be digested and their inuence on increasing your metabolic
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efciency. Great foods can help program your body just as effec‐ tively as doing squats strengthens your quads.
Finally, this word can also be used to dene the entire process of eating, digestion, and excretion.
Physical tnessñ From our school days we all became familiar with physical activity and tness to some degree. Physical tness outside of PE class, however, is your overall state of well being and health.
The description or evaluation of your tness level can also incorporate your capacity to compete in sporting events, complete physical tasks and activities, and dene the ease of physicality in your daily life. The functionality and efciency of how well your body works ties in closely with your response times, in other words, the mind-muscle connection and reexive reaction. Another gauge is how effectively you can execute the tasks you demand of your body, or coordination. Reaction and coordination are almost impossible to separate. Training inherently develops both.
There are four general types of tness associated with our bodies and abilities: endurance, balance, strength or power, andexibility. Endurance denes how long our body can withstand and maintain a workload, while balance deals in muscular control and that mind-muscle connection. Strength indicates how much power we can generate from our muscles and exibility comes from the pliability and elasticity of both our muscles, joints, liga‐ ments, and tendons. As we explore various sports later in this book we will analyze how these tness aspects play out in varying degrees in the different sports, and of course, how you should eat to accommodate the demands of each. (Wikipedia Contributors 2019c)
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Weight managementñ Weight management is the act of controlling and regulating your bodyís ratio of fat and muscle. Some of this is based on our desires for our appearance, some on body type, and activity capacity. Moreover, weight management is affected by all of the other topics weíve mentioned thus far. Your diet, activity level, and injuries or other conditional effects on your body all factor into maintaining or altering your body mass ratio and weight. It is extremely important to determine what a healthy weight and body mass ratio looks like for your body.
ñ In this case we mean the action not the list! The act of dieting can be any purposeful change in your diet to reach a goal, typically for a limited period of time. Dieting can also be a prescribed periodic system designed to control what you are eating for specic results. This incorporates adopting broad stroke type diets like vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, etc. Then there are more specic styled diets like
and paleo which you may have heard of in recent years. Both have become very popular. Be very cautious when approaching these diet plans as there tends to be a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about proper implementation of them. Be sure and research a diet plan before attempting it to really nd out if it suits your needs and provides sufcient nutri‐ tion for you.
Fad diets have always been a part of the amateur tness realm and should be carefully navigated and studied before attempting them. Trends such as carb cutting, or any pill or product that promises drastic and quick results should be viewed with skepti‐ cism. (Fitzgerald 2004) Almost every one of these is not good for you, or they simply donít work.
If you are unsure, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you ascertain if a plan is right for you and how to safely apply it.
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Supplements– Supplements can mean anything from vitamins and minerals to powdered protein or even adding apple cider vinegar to your diet to help balance your stomach’s pH levels. Supplements are generally modied or concentrated parts of macro or micro nutrients designed to increase your intake of a specic chemical to augment a deciency or create an abundance for growth or healing. This can include steroidal enhancers, both the actual steroids themselves and dietary supplements that encourage hormonal steroid production in the body. Of course it goes without saying that using any kind of these supplements should only ever be done with the controlled supervision of your personal medical professional.
Many products get hyper specic in the chemicals offered for very particular designs and gains. Your local vitamin shop is full of them. They are not all intrinsically bad, but be wary of what other chemicals they may contain that can be hard on your kidneys and liver as well as high levels of sugar and caffeine. Consider that you may just need to eat better or tweak your diet to accommodate your needs instead of immediately turning to these products for results.
ATHLETICISM AND SPORTS NUTRITION
Applying all of this nutritional knowledge can be of great use for any person looking to improve their health, but none so much as the person who trains to compete in amateur sporting events. Of course this holds the most importance for professional athletes. Rening what you give your body is the most integral part of creating a truly athletic physique and achieving the highest goals in your mastery of the skills in your sport.
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Fuel– Putting the wrong kind of fuel in your car can cause minor damage, poor performance, or at the worst, destroy your engine. The same is true of your body. It is a machine of many intercon‐ necting systems and engines that need the right fuel to function. Fine tuning this intake can only make it run better and last longer.
Hydration– Water comprises 60% of the human body. This should be an indicator of just how important drinking water really is, especially for athletes who exert themselves regularly and sweat intensely. This is all water use and water loss. That water has to be replaced! We all know how it feels to sweat buckets on a hot day, more so if you are working hard.
Putting it frankly, water is more important than food. Humans die more quickly from water deprivation than starvation. Not only do we need the water to sustain our organ functionality, it is crucial in the digestion of food and processing of energy as well as growth and replenishing our supplies of blood and tissue.
On top of that, water acts as our primary source of temperature regulation, thus the sweating. If that wasn’t enough to drive this fact home, our brains are 73% water! So you can see why water is the most important thing we can put in our bodies. Making sure you get enough of it is not only paramount to your survival, but crucial to your success. On average, it is recommended that we drink at least two liters (64oz.) of water per day. (Water Science School 2019) This requirement only goes up the more workload you put on your system!
RECOVERY AND GROWTH
As important as it is to give the body energy to work, after the work is done we need those precious nutrient building blocks to repair damage, build more muscle, and retain the elements of our body at
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peak performance. You could almost argue that eating after you work out is even more important than eating before, but don’t get carried away! Making sure you eat the correct amounts and types of food for all of your needs is imperative.
DIETITIANS AND NUTRITIONISTS
As mentioned above, researching for yourself is highly recom‐ mended to evaluate and understand your dietary needs. Confer‐ ring with your peers can also be a great source of advice as well as support and accountability for staying healthy.
Not to mention that this book is a great tool for moving in the right direction!
Ultimately, the best course of action for professional results is simply to consult a professional. In the pursuit of guidance and creating the perfect diet, there are many experts on the subject who you can seek out for assistance.
A local nutritionist can give you a multitude of advice and answer many questions you might have about supplements and dieting. However, most nutritionists in food industries and food sciences are primarily self taught and uncertied as dietitians. Not to say they don’t know an ample amount of useful knowledge.
If you want to meet with a licensed professional, you can nd registered dietitian nutritionists through your public and private medical health care providers and in many educational forums. These individuals must maintain their university-studied certica‐ tion through ongoing education and have extensive scientic and health care experience to not only direct you, but also help you discover and solve food-related issues such as allergies. (Newman 2020)
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Next we will get a little more intense as we explore in-depth the denitions and science of individual nutrients and where they are found and how they work. Each of these nutrients has something to offer as they compete for a dominant spot in your dietary lineup. Which one will take rst place may surprise you as we begin to combine our nutritional know-how with our powerful perfor‐ mance prerequisites.
If you nd yourself losing focus, make sure you do some jumping jacks between chapters and grab a snack for a kick of energy!