Do you know your macronutrients?
Do you know your macronutrients from your micronutrients?
This blog covers macronutrients and micronutrients, the difference between them and why it’s important for fitness professionals to be aware of how they work.
The main macronutrients are:
Water is also a key macronutrient – as the body is 60-70% water, it’s essential for hydration.
Micronutrients are represented by:
If an individual’s diet contains a good balance of macronutrients, they will be getting sufficient micronutrients.
Alcohol is classed as neither a micronutrient nor a macronutrient as it contains only “empty” calories (seven per gram) and has no nutritional value (see our blog on Alcohol – what every personal trainer should know).
Carbohydrate: 55-70% of total calorie intake
Protein: 10-15% of total calorie intake
Fat: 25-35% total calorie intake
Containing four calories per gram, carbohydrate is broken down to provide the main fuel source for the body and the only fuel source for the brain.
Carbohydrate is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and acts as a simple, quick-acting sugar. Excess carbohydrate is also stored throughout the body as fat.
A personal trainer may encounter clients who try to cut out carbohydrate altogether in order to lose weight. This is not advisable and can even be dangerous, so the fitness professional should point them towards a healthier, balanced diet.
Carbohydrates can be split into:
Monosaccharides – these are the simple sugars such as glucose, fructose and galactose, which can be quickly broken down by the body as an immediate energy source. They are commonly found in honey, fruit, liver and some beans and vegetables. They are also added to confectionary, cakes and fizzy drinks, which is why these give a “spike” of energy as the sugars quickly enter the bloodstream.
Disaccharides – when two sugars are combined they produce disaccharides, for example, glucose and fructose combine to form sucrose.
Polysaccharides – these are long-chain saccharides, also known as complex carbohydrates. They take longer to break down in the stomach and so are considered “good carbs” as the slow release energy has less effect on blood sugar levels.
Fibre – this is important for good digestion, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping cholesterol low.
Fitness professionals will often work with clients who recognise that protein is used for building muscle. However, protein is not only important for those interested in resistance training and body building – it’s also vital for other cell regeneration, such as skin, hair and bones.
It has four calories per gram and is only used as fuel when the body is starved of carbohydrate and the muscle tissue starts to break down.
Protein is broken down into 20 branch chain amino acids or peptides – nine are essential and can be found in fish, meat, dairy, soy food etc; the other 11 can be synthesised by the body.
Fat is solid at room temperature, lipids are liquid. People who want to lose weight often presume that all fats are bad, but a personal trainer should educate their clients on the different kinds of fats and on which foods contain “good” fats.
Saturated fat, which is common in processed food and can also be found in meat, dairy products and palm oil, should only make up 25% of an individual’s total fat intake.
Unsaturated fat is found in nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil and rapeseed oil and promotes lower cholesterol and plasma triglycerides, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fat comprises essential fatty acids; Omega 3, found in eggs, fish and walnuts; Omega 6, found in sunflower seeds and oils, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds; and Omega 9, found in animal fat and vegetable oil.
Polyunsaturated fats also contribute to brain and eye development, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as playing a part in warding off cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
Fitness professionals should encourage clients to have a varied and balanced diet from as natural a source as possible. By taking in the right macronutrients, the body will also be supplied with the right micronutrients.
As they promote the enzymes that encourage homeostasis (see our blog on The endocrine system), micronutrients are vital for body growth.
These have a part to play in building bones, repairing tissue, reducing cholesterol, metabolic function, protecting against cancer and MS and a variety of other essential bodily functions.
Fat soluble vitamins
Vitamin A and D, found in butter, eggs and liver
Vitamin E, found in vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds and butter
Vitamin K, found in liver, eggs, butter, leafy vegetables and wholegrain
Water soluble vitamins
Vitamin B, found in fruit and vegetables, nuts and seafood
Vitamin C, found in fruit and vegetables, liver and other organ meat
Minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur.
They are found in a wide range of natural foods and are essential for the overall health of the body. If a personal trainer is working with a client who has a deficiency in minerals, it can affect their ability to train and reach their goals.
Four of the most important minerals are:
Calcium: found in dairy products, salmon, leafy vegetables and essential for muscular contraction and bones.
Magnesium: found in sea salt (unprocessed), fish, dairy, nuts and helpful for the formation of bone and tooth enamel, nerve transmission, metabolism of carbs and the absorption of other minerals.
Potassium: sourced in sea salt (unprocessed), nuts and vegetables; helps with fluid balance and cellular chemistry.
Sodium: found in sea salt (unprocessed), meat broth and courgettes, it’s essential for water balance, cellular fluid distribution and nerve stimulation.
Ultimately, fitness professionals should recommend that, along with a programme of regular exercise, their clients should follow a balanced, healthy diet to ensure that they receive the full quota of micro and macronutrients that their body needs to function effectively.
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