There is A LOT of misinformation out there when it comes to nutrition. Online “influencers”, the newest fad diet, celebrities, and most of the magazines at the supermarket check out lines all attempt to tell you what is best. The problem is in 2018 the prevalence of obesity was over 42% and 6 out of 10 Americans report having a chronic disease. The truth is, diet is something that needs to be individualized based on you, and it is the foundation to promote health and prevent disease. This article aims to help you understand the basics so you can make informed choices.
Let’s start with nutrients. These are separated into essential (need to be obtained) and nonessential (manufactured by your body). The essentials are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. To simplify the complex topic of nutrition, we will focus today on only the basics while discussing macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), hydration, micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), and nutritional strategies in future posts.
The first step in understanding why nutrients are important to your health, and why nutrition is unique to you, is to look at their functions. They provide you energy, build/maintain your cells and tissues, and control your metabolic processes. Physical activity, stress, body composition, and the state of your health all vary from person to person. In fact, they can fluctuate in you over the course of the day, week, month and year. These variations of demand require ongoing adjustments to the supply.
Next, we’ll discuss metabolism. These are the activities your body performs to extract and use the energy from macronutrients. Your metabolism is separated into two divisions (anabolism and catabolism) based on which process is taking place. Anabolism is the “building” process and uses energy for growth, repair, and maintenance. Catabolism is the the “break down” process to release energy for use. The energy contained in food is measured in kilocalories.
I am sure you have heard the equation: Calories In = Calories Out. This means kilocalories consumed in levels that meet your metabolic demand are expected to maintain bodyweight and composition. This is an oversimplification of the process, but it helps to lay an understanding of how our food choices affect our waistlines. If you build from this formula, increasing your calories in without increasing your calories out results in growth (anabolism). If you flip the equation, and reduce your calories in while increasing calories used, it results in an energy deficit. To meet the increased demands (with a reduced supply) your body will catabolize, or break down, stored nutrients to provide your body’s energy needs.
We don’t operate with the belief that things are absolute but rather they have a tendency. If you consume mostly good nutrition, you will promote health, prevent disease, and more easily recover following injury/illness. If, on the other hand, your habits support poor nutritional choices (inadequate or excessive) it can lead to obesity, disease, or undernourishment.
We are fans of starting patients with a variation of the “Pareto Principle” (80/20 rule) when it comes to making better food choices. We will expand on this topic in future posts in addition to other principles you can utilize to build better health. For now, just take a moment before you eat and ask yourself, “is this going to help me build a healthier me”?