Supporting Your Fitness Goals with Nutrition

Working out is a great way to strengthen our bodies not only on the exterior but also from within. It provides a boost to the immune system and mood, along with supporting our bodies’ natural detox systems, and helping us have a restful night of sleep. Although most know about these benefits, many forget about the importance of nutrition when working out.

Making sure you get the right nutrients can either make or break your workout session, especially when we are trying to reach a certain goal. The training goal usually help guide the type of macronutrient (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) one should be focusing on. Is the goal to build muscle, shed extra pounds, or run a marathon?

What to consider before upping your protein

Before diving into what research suggests for each nutrient, we must remember that we are all unique and have very different needs. Even if we have the same goal as our fitness buddy, our height, age, and even gender play an important role in determining how many calories we need and what nutrients we should be focusing on more. For example, someone older may need more protein to prevent muscle loss, while highly active women may need higher fat intake to provide hormone support and balance.

For those focusing on endurance, meaning long-distance training, carbohydrates and fats are the go-to fuels. But that doesn’t mean that food choices should only focus on these two. We can’t forget that protein is extremely important for the recovery of the body and overall health. For those looking for weight gain and muscle growth, carbs are important to fuel and help muscle building, protein will help tissue recovery and muscle growth, and fats regulate body hormones. But in this case, protein needs will be higher than endurance training while carbohydrate needs are lower.

The daily breakdown

Let’s start with the most popular nutrient when it comes to fitness: protein. For someone who is mainly sedentary and only occasionally works out, their needs are about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of the person’s weight. (Note: to convert your weight from pounds to kilograms, divide it by 2.2). Per the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the recommended daily protein intake for the athletic population ranges from 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram. Endurance athletes are in the lower range of 1.4 grams, intermittent athletes (soccer and basketball players) are in the middle with about 1.7 grams, and strength training are on the higher end with about 2 grams.

Next, as we’ve already gone over, carbohydrates are very important for all athletes, and, in particular, endurance athletes who train for more than 90 minutes per day. It’s not only important to have energy during workouts but also to make sure that muscle and liver glucose storage are replenished. An average person needs about 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram to replenish the energy used in a day. For endurance athletes, the needs can be up to 8-10 grams.

Lastly, we cannot forget the beloved fats. These are equally important as the other nutrients not only for athletes but for everyone! The remaining calories in the diet come from fats, and although some may still see them as villains when it comes to weight gain, athletes should be consuming approximately 30 percent of their calories from fat.  

Not all fats, carbs, and protein are equal

Now let’s bring all of this down to food! Sometimes we focus so much on the numbers that we forget that all fats, carbs, and protein are not equal. There is a big difference between 20 grams of carbs coming from cookies and 20 grams of carbs in a chia seed pudding topped with fruits. The numbers don’t tell the full story. The chia seed pudding with fruits will also be rich in precious vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats! Remember, the end goal is still to properly nourish your body while providing it the right tools to reach your fitness goals.

Source: Nutritional Supplements in Sports and Exercise (Second Edition book).

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