Nutrients are substances in food that support normal body functioning. They are used to build and repair muscles, bones, and internal organs. Nutrients include carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Our bodies need an ample amount of nutrients to function efficiently. From our immune system to our nails and hair, we need nutrients.
Why is nutrition important for fitness? Well, when we work out, we create micro-injuries to our muscles, we work our bones and our internal organs. Nutrients heal our muscles, strengthen our bones, and help our internal organs function efficiently. So, naturally, we need to make healthy choices when it comes to food.
I don’t want to deprive my body of beneficial substances, especially when I work out regularly. The right foods give me the energy I need to get through each workout.
Some people may think that working out provides a free pass for junk food. But, just the opposite is true. Our bodies are out of their comfort zones during exercise. We are forcing our muscles and internal organs to work hard during exercise. They have to use the nutrients we give them to work, and then repair and recover.
Not all food is created equal. At 50 years old, I need to make good wholesome food choices to provide the fuel my body needs to continue to work out regularly, have a healthy immune system, complete my activities of daily living, and to simply exist.
It really doesn’t matter how much you are working out. 80% of your results come from the food choices you are making. Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work out. It only means that your body needs good nutrition and exercise to function optimally.
We all want to be healthy, and we all want to live long lives. With proper nutrition, and regular exercise, we can create a long, healthy life.
Carbohydrates come in different forms. Some are healthy forms of carbohydrates while some are poor forms of carbohydrates.
Good carbohydrates are things like unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. These foods deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients to our bodies.
Bad carbohydrates are not so healthy. Some bad carbohydrates are things like cake, cookies, white bread, soda, and other highly processed or refined foods. These foods are usually high in calories and low in nutrients. These foods should be avoided, or very limited.
The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutrition experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publications, provides detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best food choices.
The Healthy Eating Plate advises people to make most of their meal vegetable and fruit (1/2 of your plate). The more veggies and the greater the variety the better. Potatoes and french fries don’t count as vegetables. Darn… I love french fries. Who doesn’t? Okay, no fries for me.
They also advise people to eat plenty of fruits of all colors. The fruits and veggies will provide carbohydrates to give your body some of the energy it needs to get through your work outs.
The other half of the plate should be 1/4 whole grains, like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice. And 1/4 healthy protein, like lean fish, poultry, beans and nuts. Limiting things like red meat and cheese, and avoid things like bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.
Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources. Protein makes up your hair, nails, bones, and muscles. Every cell in the human body contains protein. We need protein to help our bodies repair cells and create new cells.
Protein powers our bodies. It is important for people to consume protein every day because our bodies don’t store protein.
Protein is made up of Amino Acids, known as building blocks because they are attached in chains. It is considered a macro-nutrient because we need large amounts of it to stay healthy.
Protein has many functions in the body. It builds bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. Our hair and nails are made up of mostly protein. Your body uses protein to repair the tiny injuries that are created in your muscles as you workout.
Our entire body is supplied with the nutrients it needs as protein oxygenates the blood through red blood cells carried throughout the body.
Protein aids in digestion. About half of the protein we eat goes into making enzymes.
Enzymes aid in digestion, and making new cells and body chemicals.
Protein plays a part in regulating hormones. It does this especially during the development of cells during puberty.
There are a number of benefits that protein gives us when we are engaged in regular exercise. It speeds recovery of muscles, reduces muscle loss, builds lean muscle, helps to maintain a healthy weight, and curbs hunger. It also fills us up faster.
Along with fiber, protein keeps us full longer which prevents overeating while fueling our cells with the energy they need.
Anywhere from 10% to 35% of your calories should come from protein. If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 200-700 calories from protein (50-175 grams). If you are exercising regularly then I would try to get close to 125 grams of protein a day, or a little more.
Exercise is important, too. It helps the nutrients get to the proper places in your body. It also strengthens your muscles and bones when done regularly.
Vitamins and Minerals
Our bodies need vitamins and minerals to function normally. The main vitamins are A, C, D, E, and K, and the B vitamins. The minerals are calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulfur, cobalt, copper, fluoride, manganese, and selenium
Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need through eating a healthy diet (by following The Healthy Plate mentioned above).
When people don’t get the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat, they should take multivitamins and supplemental minerals. They should be careful not to get too much of any vitamin or mineral.
Most vitamins and minerals are needed in small amounts, called micro-nutrients. Vitamins are substances that help promote and regulate chemical reactions and processes in body cells. They produce red blood cells and help maintain the nervous, skeletal, and immune systems.
Some vitamins act as antioxidants which help in fighting disease. Vitamins are abundant in fruits, vegetables, and grains. They are also added as a supplement form to some processed foods such as cereals and commercial orange juice.
Vitamins which can be lacking in the American diet include vitamin A (found in milk, cream, eggs, butter, dark green leafy vegetables, and broccoli), vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, cabbage-like vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, cantaloupe, and strawberries), vitamin D (found in mushrooms, fortified milk, eggs, fish and by being in the sun), vitamin e (found in vegetable oils, dark green leafy vegetables, milk, nuts, whole grains, butter, seeds and fortified cereals).
Minerals are another essential nutrient. They are compounds needed for regulation, growth, and maintenance of body tissues and functions. Major minerals…those that are needed in amounts of 100 milligrams a day are calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride.
Iron is used in red blood cells, muscles and assists in many enzyme systems. Symptoms of iron deficiency include weakness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Foods that are high in iron are beef, fish and poultry. But iron can be found in spinach, legumes and fortified cereals.
Potassium is used in biochemical reactions that help build protein, maintain fluid balance and nerve impulses that could contract muscles.
If deficient in potassium you may show signs of muscle weakness, paralysis, or dehydration. Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, fresh fruits, vegetables, melons, tomatoes, potatoes, and orange juice.
Calcium is a big concern. Calcium is used to maintain bones, prevent osteoporosis, lower blood pressure, prevent colon cancer, and aid in weight-loss.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle. The word itself means “porous bones”. A common problem with this disease is fractures. You build 90% of your bone mass by age 18. You build 10% of your bone mass between the ages 18-35.
After 35 the goal is to keep the bone mass that you have. If you don’t get enough calcium, you can lose up to 25% of your bone mass by age 60. More calcium for me, for real.
Calcium can be found in foods such as milk and soy products, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale, fortified juice and cereals.
Many Americans consume too much sodium. You should try to keep your sodium intake below 2,400mg (or 2 teaspoons) per day. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, water retention and calcium loss. We need that calcium for strong bones.
So, I just realized that I haven’t been eating as healthy as I should. At my age, 50, more than half my life is over. I should be making sure that I get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals each day. I have a sweet tooth and that is no excuse.
No excuses. I need to just get to it. I want to live for a few more decades, at least. And I want those decades to be with me functioning exceptionally well. I want to be healthy. Doesn’t everyone?
I do not feel like I’m 50. I don’t move around like I’m 50. What does that look like anyway? Is there an “I am 50” look? Probably not.
Since I’ve worked out regularly for most of my life, I’m in pretty good shape. I could stand to lose my belly fat.
So, maybe if I cut out the processed foods and the cookies I eat every day, I will reach my goal of a flat belly and toned arms, legs, and glutes.
I am exercising regularly and I am doing the right types of exercises. Switching it up frequently to make my body work harder while making working out fun.
Starting today, I will only eat 3 cookies once a week. And I will increase my protein intake. I already drink plenty of milk. My biggest “no-no” is the sweets and the processed foods. I can make these lifestyle changes. No excuses. Oh, and I will drink 5 bottles of water every day.
What about you? How are you doing with healthy food choices? Are you exercising regularly? What are your strengths when it comes to nutrition? Do you have to stop eating something that is bad for you? What are your fitness goals? Please tell me in the comments section below.
If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I will get back to you. Love yourself today by working out and making healthy food choices. No excuses. Let’s get to it.