In order to fully grasp the concepts of recovery nutrition, we must first start by understanding the basics of nutrition. In this article, we describe the fundamentals of nutrition and form the building blocks for the rest of our more advanced nutrition articles.
All foods are composed of six major nutrients responsible for regulating functions in the human body, these functions include: producing energy, growth and maintenance of tissue, regulating body processes, and preventing nutrient deficiency. These six nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
All of these nutrients are considered essential nutrients, this means they are required by the body to function properly and must be consumed through the diet to adequately meet the needs of the body. Furthermore, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are classified as macronutrients meaning they have a large caloric value and require large daily intakes, while vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients, meaning only small daily intakes are required for the body to continue functioning. Water forms its own category and requirements vary greatly on person to person basis.
Carbohydrates, upon entering the body are converted into glucose and are the main energy source in the body. Carbohydrates are found in many foods including, grains, fruits, and vegetable as well as in milk/ alternative products such as soy, rice, nut.
Proteins consist of amino acids and are the primary resource for growth, development, and repair of the body. Proteins are critical to the recovery process after exercise, and also helps to ensure that the body stays healthy and works efficiently. Although amino acids are nonessential or can be produced within the body, additional intake is required to aid in the recovery process. Proteins can be found in foods such as grains and vegetables, but are mainly found in, milk, meats, and beans.
Fats also knew as lipids, come from plant and animal sources in our food. Although fats typically get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, fats are very important to many processes throughout the body. Fats are involved in providing structure to cell membranes, aiding in the production of hormones, forming the insulation that wraps nerve cells, and facilitating the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats are concentrated in salad dressings, oils, and butter, but they are so found in meats, avocado, seeds, nuts, olives, dairy products, and some grain products.
Vitamins are an essential factor in our daily lives and are important for many processes in the body. Although vitamins are not directly responsible for providing energy to the body, vitamins are still used in processes of extraction of energy from macronutrients, as well as many bodies functions the help keep the body healthy and free of sickness. In order for a substance to be considered vitamins, it must meet the following two requirements: The substance must be consumed through food, because the body cannot produce a sufficient supply to meet the needs of the body, and the substance must be essential to at least one chemical reaction or bodily function. Once a substance is considered a vitamins it can be further classified in to two categories of vitamins, water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin C and B Vitamins) and fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) Vitamins can be found in nearly every food, including, some fats, beans, milk, grains, vegetable, fruits, and meats.
Minerals much like vitamins consist of a large group of nutrients. Many body functions hinge on an adequate supply of minerals. Some roles that minerals play are the structural development of tissues, as well as regulation of body processes. Physical activity also demands an increase of oxygen-carrying compounds in the blood, places stress on muscles and bones, as well as increases the loss of sweat and electrolytes from the body, all of which rely on a sufficient supply of minerals. Minerals are also split into two groups, major mineral (calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur) and trace minerals (iron, zinc copper, selenium, iodine, fluoride, molybdenum, and manganese) based on there daily requirement. Minerals are present in foods such as milk, meat, and beans.
Water is extremely important not only in athletics but also in everyday life. Understanding our bodies are made 55-60% water explains why water is so vital and why the human body can survive much longer lengths of time without food compared to water. Water is responsible for temperature regulation, lubricating joints, and the transportation of nutrients to active tissue. Other than just plain water, water can be found in soups, vegetables, and fruits, as well as milk, tea, coffee, and other beverages.
Energy in our bodies is created when the chemical bonds in the atoms from the foods we eat are broken, resulting in a release of energy which is lost as heat or conserved and used to make ATP. ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the bodies the direct source of energy for the cellular work in our bodies, and without ATP our bodies would be unable to perform any actions. For the first steps in our body to take place it must be supplied the resources to make ATP and that is why carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are known as the energy nutrients, because of their primary service as the bodies energy source.
The procedure of enrichment is when a manufactuer adds vitamins and minerals to replace nutrients lost in the refining process of food. A great example of this when grains are milled, the germ and bran are removed, resulting in lost nutritional value. To make up for this producer replace the lost nutrients in a process called enrichment. Unlike fortification, enrichment is actually regulated by the FDA (food and drug administration) who require some foods to be enriched.
Fortification, on the other hand, is adding vitamins and minerals to foods or beverages that they were not originally present. The reasoning behind this is to make food more nutritious and to help athletes and individuals to meet their daily nutrients needs. As said before the FDA does not control the fortification of food, but allows manufacturers to decide for themselves what they see fit. Foods such as sports supplements, as well as protein bars and shakes, are examples of highly fortified foods.
It’s important to remember before making any drastic diet changes to talk to your doctor. When we begin to talk about a healthy diet, most people think of purchasable plans that help with weight loss and give all sorts of recipe ideas. While these are great, once a person becomes more serious about their diet it is a great idea to create an individual plan that takes into consideration the preferences of that person. One key to creating a great meal plan is to remember that there is no “cookie-cutter”, one plan fits all, diet. Everybody is different therefore everybody could create their own meal plan. A good way to put it is if you don’t like your diet than you shouldn’t be on it.
When developing a nutrition plan there are multiple factors that should be considered. Those factors are, the individual’s health history, the bioenergetics of the athlete’s sport, total week training and competition time, living arrangements, access to food, and travel schedules. Although every individual may not need to take all of these into consideration they are still great to think about.
This is the most important factor in creating an individual plan, and all other points should revolve around this. If any individual or athlete has or had a health condition, above all they must base their diet on this. It must be kept in mind an athlete must be healthy to train and compete.
Another important key is a sports bioenergetics. Athletes who play football will have a very different food requirement that an athlete who runs a marathon.
Much like bioenergetics, this takes into consideration what sport an athlete, but also takes into consideration the timing surrounding that. Individuals must plan to properly hydrate and eat pre-workout and post-workout, as well as balance work, school, training time, time of the day when training, and other time aspects of training. Although this seems like a lot to take into consideration, over time it will become easier and easier.
Living arrangements, access to food and travel schedules are some of the most forgotten aspects of food planning. These rely on the athlete or individuals ability to make healthy choices based on what is presented to them and their discipline. This is where knowing basic knowledge of nutrition come to an advantage.
There is lost to learn about nutrition and applying it to life, but the easiest way to start is with the basics and continue to learn.