Nutrients is the name used to describe the various components contained in food. The body uses the nutrients it receives for growth and repair, for the metabolism, and for many other functions.
Vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber are all nutrients, and they are used in a variety of different ways, but carbohydrates, protein, and fat, are the body’s only calorie providers and for this reason they are collectively known as macronutrients.
Although all three macronutrients are calorie providers their calorie content differs significantly.
|Macro Nutrient||Calories per Gram|
Taking a look at the table above it is easy to see why a love of chips and fatty food can quickly result in unwanted love handles and an intense fear of encountering a full-length mirror.
That is not to say fat does not have an important role to play in ensuring perfect health, but its role should be a small one.
Too much fat can be as damaging to the health as it is too the waistline and will quickly supply the body with more calories than it requires to fuel its daily activities.
As a rule of thumb, the average man requires just 2,500 calories each day to maintain his present weight. With a daily requirement of just 2,000 calories, the average female needs to show an extra degree of caution when it comes to deciding what and how much she puts into her mouth.
It may not seem fair, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles—women require less calories per day than men.
Getting the Right Balance
Most of the body’s calorie requirements should be provided for by carbohydrates. They are the body’s fuel of choice and eating the right kind of carbohydrates at the right times can ensure an ongoing supply of energy that should make between-meal-burnouts highly unlikely.
Most experts agree carbohydrates should account for 45 to 65 percent of the daily calorie intake and the Food and Nutrition Board further suggest that for every 1,000 calories consumed should be accompanied by or made up of 14g fiber.
Unfortunately, the “average man” and “average woman” are somewhat of an enigma—and who wants to be Mr. Average anyway?—so many people are left wondering how much carbohydrate is right for them. As a rule of thumb 2.5g of carbohydrates should be consumed each day for each 450g of bodyweight.
But more athletic individuals, such as bodybuilders, would do well to ensure they are consuming 60g to 80g of carbohydrates with each meal and should be eating between 4 and 6 meals per day.
Bodybuilders are well acquainted with the importance of protein because it is essential for muscle growth and repair, but this vital macronutrient is also required to maintain all the organs of the body and is even needed for the manufacture of hemoglobin.
Protein should account for around 10 to 35 percent of the daily calorie intake and most people require around 0.6g to 0.8g of protein per day for each 1kg of bodyweight. Not surprisingly, bodybuilders require a little more and should aim for 1g of protein per lean pound of body mass, with each meal providing 20g to 40g of protein.
Fats from food should only account for around 20 to 35 percent of the daily calorie intake (20 to 25 percent for bodybuilders), so next time a sudden desire for a kebab hits you just say no and try to think healthy thoughts. Experts further suggest ensuring saturated fats account for no more than 10 percent of the daily calorie intake.
Although fatty foods should always be treated with caution they cannot and should not be avoided completely and do serve several important roles:
- Fats aid normal growth and development
- Fats absorb specific vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Fats help maintain cell membranes
It is also worth noting stored body fat serves two important purposes
- It helps cushion and protect vital organs
- It provides a back-up energy store
The human body is a complicated biological machine that is capable of running on several fuel sources—the macronutrients. It even has built-in reserve fuel supplies, the most obvious of which comes from stored body fat.
As with any machine though, the body has other requirements, apart from fuel, and the fulfilment of its nutritional needs is almost exclusively dependent on food, so the importance of a healthy balanced diet should never be underestimated.
There is a lot of truth to the saying “your are what you eat”. That being the case the benefits of sticking to a healthy balanced diet should require no further explanation. Nutritious food is exactly what it sounds like—food that provides for the body’s nutritional needs.