Nutrition and exercise should be addressed in conjunction with one another. Focusing on one aspect more than the other will yield less than optimal fitness results.
This article will discuss the importance of proper dietary intake and basic information involving macronutrients.
The first step in evaluating a person’s diet is to compare their dietary information to the recommendations offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA created a guide for healthy eating called MyPlate, which has replaced the all-too-familiar food pyramid of the past. The “my” in “MyPlate” represents the importance of personalizing the recommendations to one’s lifestyle, while the plate symbol provides visualization of how much a person’s diet should be made of the food groups. These food groups consist of grains, vegetables, fruits, protein and dairy.
The USDA MyPlate design proposes three main dietary goals for Americans. The first goal involves balancing calories. This step encourages people to enjoy their food, but avoid oversized portions. The second goal focuses on increasing consumption of certain foods. This would involve making half your plate fruits and vegetables, replacing half your grains with whole grains and switching to fat-free or low-fat milk. The third goal emphasizes reducing certain foods. For instance, individuals should opt for lower sodium foods and drink water instead of sugar-laden drinks.
An example menu plan for a 5-foot-6-inch 140-pound active male who is 22 years old would consist of 10 ounces of grains, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2.5 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy and 7 ounces of protein. These quantities represent the daily serving sizes.
For additional information on MyPlate, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. This website offers tools to create customized meal plans, analyze a diet and track physical activity.
It’s important to have a basic understanding of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and the recommended amounts for consumption.
It is probably no surprise that protein is needed to build muscle. Foods containing high-quality protein include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. Lower-quality protein comes from plants. Therefore, if an active individual is a vegetarian, protein requirements may be higher for this person than for someone who consumes high-quality proteins. The World Health Organization recommends 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram per day for nonactive, healthy young adults. However, for athletes and more active individuals, the recommendation is 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram per day based upon the sport, training intensity, total caloric intake and overall health.
Carbohydrates are required for the breakdown of fatty acids in the body, which prevents ketosis (high levels of ketones in the bloodstream). A more obvious role of carbs is to provide fuel for energy. The amounts needed vary based on the individual’s mode of training. During exercise, muscle and liver glycogen stores are used for energy. Glycogen is a polymer of glucose, which is the main energy source for activities performed by the human body. Carbohydrates are needed to replenish these glucose stores after energy is expended. For active individuals, 60 to 70 percent of total calories should consist of carbohydrates. Depending on activity levels, recommended intake ranges from 5 to 10 grams per kilogram per day.
The human body has a low requirement of dietary fat. High fat consumption is clearly unhealthy, but some fat is required for good health. For instance, diets with less than 15 percent fat could decrease testosterone production, possibly affecting metabolism and muscle development. Also, very low-fat diets could hinder absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
It is recommended that 20 percent of total calories come from monounsaturated (olive oil, avocados, nuts) or polyunsaturated (corn oil, walnuts, salmon, soy milk) sources, while less than 10 percent come from saturated fats (high-fat cuts of meat, butter, cheese, ice cream). Trans fats (commercially baked pastries, fried foods, candy bars) should be minimally consumed.
This is some basic knowledge of proper nutrition. It is important to consult a licensed dietitian in order to get more detailed and individualized information on appropriate dietary intake.
John Vasile, NSCA, holds a bachelor’s degree and is a certified personal trainer at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.