Nutrition is the process of obtaining energy and nutrients from food and using it for the biological and physiological processes which support life.
What aRE MACRONUTRIENTS?
Macronutrients are nutrients which provide us with energy. They are nutrients required in relatviely large quantities by the body, hence the term ‘macro’. There are actually 4 ‘macros’ or macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat and Alcohol.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, required for brain and organ function, as well as physical activity. They also play a role in the structure and function of cells, tissues, and organs. Without carbohydrates, your body struggles to function properly and you may feel fatigued.
Carbohydrates consumed are metabolised into glucose. Simple, complex, low Glycaemic Index (GI) and high GI are common terms attributed to carbohydrates. Those which are metabolised quickly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, and causing a quick rise in blood sugar levels, are known as simple carbohydrates, Simple carbohydrates are found in processed and refined sugars such as table sugar and syrups.
On the other hand, carbohydrates which are digested at a slower rate have less of an immediate effect on blood sugar levels and provide us with a prolonged steady energy release are known as complex carbohydrates. They include quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato and whole grains.
Protein is a building block for all bodily tissues, some enzymes and hormones. Elderly, growing, pregnant or people recovering from injury have an increased need for protein. Either because they are losing tissue or because they are trying to (re)build tissue. Exercise causes muscle damage and muscle then adapts, creating stronger or more efficient muscles. To enable this adaptation, protein is needed.
Proteins are primarily functional and structural components within each cell of the body and so are required for growth and repair, as well as the maintenance of optimal health. In addition to playing a vital role in the building and repairing of tissue, protein is also important for hormone and enzyme production and skin, hair, and bone health.
Protein is made up of essential and non-essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles. Essential amino acids are those which cannot be synthesised by the body and therefore must be obtained from food. In their absence, it would be impossible to build, repair or maintain muscle mass.
Eating good quality, lean sources of protein, for example, chicken, turkey, white fish, salmon, and eggs or perhaps plant-based alternatives such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas is a great starting point for a healthy diet. Eating the correct amount of protein is crucial when it comes to building muscle as in its absence your body will not have the amino acids it requires to repair the muscles used during exercise, which is what causes muscles to grow.
Fats provide lots of energy in a compact form and is an essential part of a healthy diet. Dietary fat is vital for growth and cell functions and allows for optimal functioning of nerves and the brain. They also assist in the production of hormones and are essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or ‘healthy’ fats, can be found in food such as nuts, seeds, salmon and avocado. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat thought to be essential for recovery, due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
How much do you need?
As it stands, the recommended intake is approximately 0.75g per kilogram of bodyweight. This translates to around 56g of protein a day in a 75kg person.
If you partake in regular sport and exercise (above the government-recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week), then you will likely require a higher protein intake than someone more sedentary. This generally encompasses anyone that does regular strength and or endurance training, such as running, cycling or weight lifting, as more protein is required to promote muscle tissue growth and repair.
In this situation, protein requirements increase to 1.2-2.0g protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. This works out as 90-150g protein a day in a 75kg person – substantially higher than those who are sedentary.
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