Why is Nutrition Important for Fitness?

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

Carbohydrates come in different forms. Some are healthy forms of carbohydrates while some are poor forms of carbohydrates. muscleman made of food

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.

Protein

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.dancefruit

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. muscle tree with nutrient bubbles

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.

Typical minerals that are lacking in the American diet are iron, potassium, and calcium. musclefoodman

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.

An Epiphany

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?nutrition

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.

Maria

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8 thoughts on “Why is Nutrition Important for Fitness?”

  1. I spend all day working in my home office and with the lockdowns here during the pandemic, I hardly ever left the house. Following my annual blood tests, I found out that I was deficient in Vitamin D. Luckily, that’s easily fixed with a supplement but a family member has recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. She’s dead set against taking medications to address the condition. Got any tips on how she can increase her calcium quotient using a non-medicinal approach?

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear about your family member. For calcium to be absorbed into the body, it needs vitamin D. So she should make sure she is getting enough vitamin D. Another thing to keep in mind is that phosphorus can promote bone loss. So she should limit her intake of phosphorus. That includes things like red meat, soft drinks, and foods with phosphate food additives.

      If she is over 50, she needs about 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Foods that include calcium are non-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, plant-based milks or orange juices that are fortified with calcium, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and green leafy vegetables (spinach, collards, brussel sprouts).

      Lastly, exercise is important for her. She should be performing weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, tennis, dancing, stair climbing, and weight lifting. Tell her that doing any of these exercises, or a combination of them, at least 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes will significantly strengthen her bones.

      The vibration plate at https://www.fitness4optimalhealth.com/what-is-a-vibration-plate/ is used by doctors to treat osteoporosis. It also helps with pain.

      Feel free to reply with any questions you, or she may have. Thank you for your comment and for visiting my website.

      Maria

      Reply
  2. Hi Maria. Another great article! Nutrition is very important and when you break it down as you did in this article, it is easy to see where someone may be lacking in either protein, minerals, or vitamins. It is difficult to get everything in while trying to lose weight. I like how you emphasized specific things, though, to maintain good health. I am 65, have been active all my life, had a few hiccups recently, but am now on a straight projectory towards good health. Thanks for reminding me of everything I need to do to stay fit and healthy!

    Nina

    Reply
    • So good to know that you are on the right track. At 65 most people don’t exercise regularly. Really, at any age most people don’t work out regularly. We all have hiccups from time to time. Health and fitness is my passion and I recently went over 2 years without exercising, and without making healthy food choices. It wasn’t easy getting back into it. So, I know the struggles that come with beginning a health and fitness program. I literally went from lazy-couch-potato and junk-eating for 2 years… to 5-6 days a week of exercise and eating right. I still struggle with the sweets. Especially cookies. But, hey, who’s perfect?
      Thank you for your comment and best regards in keeping yourself on track.
      Maria

      Reply
  3. I guess the old adage you are what you eat is so true! You know what is funny a lot of people think you can just eat garbage and train hard. They think you get in really good condition this way. However, your diet does affect your results 100%.

    I think a lot of people is they crash diet. They will cut out 1,000 calories at once and then wonder why they feel horrible and have no energy.

    I’m 37 now, but it took me until 30 or so when I realized that your diet is everything when building muscle, losing weight, etc.

    Reply
    • I used to be one of “those people”, that believe they can eat whatever they want as long as they exercised regularly. And, for awhile there I was working out hard and eating junk food. That was 25 years ago. Over the years I learned that making healthy food choices is critical for optimum health. I started making healthy food choices about 20 years ago, and it has been a game changer for me.
      Thanks for your comment, and check back because I will be uploading workout videos for you to follow.

      Reply
  4. Hi Maria
    Thank you for such encouraging article about self care. It is hard to start eating well. I see this in the Nutrition Clinic that my husband and I run. It is almost impossible for some people to let go old habits they would rather deal with consequences of not eating well than doing the right thing. Nutrition is good for overall well-being as well the general feeling of wellness. Nutrition plays a major role in maintaining a sound mind (mental healthy) and many other aspects of life. Nutrition is definitely good for physical fitness.
    Regards
    Angee

    Reply
    • Thanks Angee. You are so right. It’s the same thing with fitness. People do not want to work out. Instead, they suffer with the consequences. I know it is hard to get started, but once a person exercises regularly for a few weeks it becomes a habit and turns out to be enjoyable. I love my workouts. I’m 50 years old, but can still do an hour of non-stop step aerobics. I struggle with sugar. I love Oreos with milk and I do indulge more than I should. I do eat healthy otherwise.
      Thanks for your comment
      Maria

      Reply

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