Nutrient information is foundational for anyone interested in (healthy) weight maintenance, gain, or loss. No one can out train a poor diet, not even Lance Armstrong … ok, maybe Lance! Genetics play a huge role but after that, nutrition takes a close second in determining how a body responds to any given weight loss plan. The general consensus among armatures and experts is that a weight/fat loss plan needs a consistent and complementary resistance training program.
One major aspect of my philosophy is “know thy self”. When a person is familiar with and “listens” to how their body responds to the nutritional requirements and physical demands of their own body (not the experiences of some model or someone they know), they will have a much smoother experience losing weight. Differentiating between weight loss and fat loss is also an important distinction to address with a client. Fat loss and weight loss processes differ slightly and can cause a great deal of frustration if a client isn’t specific about their goals. Fat loss focuses on preserving muscle but cutting fat by way of a healthy caloric deficit and weight training, which usually translates into “inches lost” as opposed to drastically lower numbers on a scale. Weight loss is typically seen in obese populations and is due to a mean loss of fluid, body fat or adipose tissue and/or lean mass, namely bone mineral deposits, muscle, tendon, and other connective tissue. While both can be achieved through sound exercise routines and healthy dietary restrictions, it’s important to make the different methods obtaining these goals known up front.
Six Essential Nutrients & Their Primary Function
Carbohydrates (Carbs) come in two categories: simple and complex. Starches are complex carbs and sugars are simple carbs. Each carbohydrate provides roughly 4 kcal per gram with the exception of fiber. Carbs are also the first and quickest source of expendable energy getting fuel to the muscles and the brain. The soluble fibers: fruits, veggies, nuts, etc…) don’t provide a lot of energy but they help to control blood sugar and lower blood cholesterol. Common sources of carbs come from grain products like breads, cereal, pasta, and rice. Fruits and veggies are also good sources of carbohydrates.
Protein (Building Blocks) is broken down into amino acids by the digestive system from the food we eat. A healthy immune system is maintained by adequate protein intake. Amino acids are key in building and repairing muscle, red blood cells, hair, and other connective tissue, as well as making hormones. Protein provides 4 kcal per gram and will be the next source of energy utilized as fuel after carbs have been depleted or if the amount of carbs ingested are low due to heavy exercise or skipping meals. Main protein sources include animal products: meat, fish, poultry, pork, milk, eggs and cheese. Vegetable sources include legumes: beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Fats from food come in a mixture of saturated and unsaturated. High amounts of saturated fats are found in animal products such as meats and milk products. Vegetable oils have high amounts of unsaturated fats. Each gram of fat contains 9 kcal per gram. Healthy amounts of fat helps to maintain skin, hair, cushions and provides insulation to vital organs, maintains satiety, and aids in production and absorption of certain hormones and vitamins.
13 Vitamins. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid(B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). The four fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K—are stored in the body’s fatty tissues. Chemicals in the body are regulated with the help of vitamins. Most vitamins must be supplemented through diet because the body does not make them and are not a source of energy. Vitamins help the body turn food into energy and tissues and they also help to maintain digestive juices and the fluids found in and around cells.
Minerals are components of food that are found in body functions like in bone function from calcium and magnesium intake and the how iron is needed for blood cells and oxygen transportation. Minerals are also absorbed from a balanced diet and are not a source of energy. Other minerals, called trace elements, are needed in much smaller amounts. Trace elements include iron, copper, fluorine, iodine, selenium, zinc, chromium, cobalt, manganese, and molybdenum. Minerals are needed for growth and maintenance of body structures. They also help to maintain digestive juices and the fluids found in and around cells.
Water is 60-70% of our body weight and is a vital nutrient for multiple reasons. Body temperature cooling, transports nutrients and waste from cells, and is essential for cell function.
References: Iserman, M. L. & Walker, K. (2014). The Fitness Professional’s Manual, 4th edition. Minneapolis, MN: National Exercise Trainers Association.