Why Nutrition Is An Important Part Of Your Exercise Plan

Have you ever felt sluggish during a workout? There’s a reason why your body sometimes feels like it would rather be sitting out your workout. You probably have fueled your body properly to give it the energy it needs to complete your workout.

Just like exercise, nutrition plays a major role in keeping your body healthy and working to maximize its capabilities. In fact, what you eat (and how much of it) can actually have a considerable effect on how you work out.

Your exercise nutrition goals should be based on a few different factors such as:

No matter what your nutrition plan is, it’s important to understand the ratio of macros your body needs.

What’s a Macronutrient?

Macronutrients, often called macros for short, are the building blocks of any diet. They’re the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that give you the energy you need to live your life. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body uses in the largest amounts. “Macronutrients are the nutritive components of food that the body needs for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems,” says Dietitian Lindsey Wohlford.

As important as macronutrients are micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to perform its best.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

It’s no secret that protein consumption is essential to any diet, especially if you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. Your body needs protein to build and repair:

  • Muscles
  • Organs
  • Other tissues in your body
  • Your immune system
  • Hormones
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Structures inside each of your cells

Protein is essential during workouts as it is the main component of muscle tissue and helps build new muscle fiber while also repairing damaged muscle. It also triggers your body to feel full. A recent study found that “people will naturally want to continue to eat until they’ve gotten enough protein, which can lead to overeating when your meal is unbalanced.”

Including high-quality protein in your diet allows for muscle growth over time, which ultimately strengthens your body for your future workouts. Lean proteins often come from meats such as chicken, fish, turkey, and vegan or vegetarian protein options like beans, nuts, seeds and tofu. When planning your meals, aim for about 30% of your daily caloric intake to be from protein. There are proteins you’ll want to avoid. They include processed meats like bacon (sorry!), hot dogs and lunch meats.

While it is not known exactly how much protein is too much, overconsumption of protein can cause kidney stones. So while you want to make sure you’re getting what you need, you don’t want to overdo it. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a person who weighs 150 pounds, that adds up to around 54 grams of protein per day.

Which Carbs Should I Eat?

Over the years, carbohydrates have got a bad reputation, but they actually play an important role in your body and are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Carbs provide the energy your muscles and body need not only to perform exercises, but also to do your daily activities.

Carbohydrates not only fuel your workout before you start, but they also accumulate in your muscle cells and liver as a storage form of starch called glycogen, which can then be called on during a workout to even further fuel your body.

There are two types of carbs – simple and complex. Simple carbs are already in the form of sugar. They are found in foods like:

  • Honey
  • Fruit
  • Lactose-containing dairy products

As you’re doing your meal planning, you’ll want to focus on including complex carbohydrates. These are larger carbohydrate molecules that take your body longer to digest, releasing glucose into your bloodstream at a slower rate. They include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole grain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

When you’re meal planning, you’ll want 45-65% of your daily calories to come from high-quality carbohydrates. Limit low-quality, simple carbs like sugary treats, candy, soda, white bread, and french fries.

What Are Healthy Fats?

Despite what you might have heard, fats are actually a critical part of a balanced diet. Fat is vital for the body as an energy reserve, for insulation and protection of your organs, and for absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins. However, when we talk about incorporating fats into your diet, we aren’t talking about loading up on butter, fatty beef, donuts, and fried foods.

The fats you want to consume are healthy fats, also known as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. They’re found in foods like:

  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Trout

These types of fat are considered “heart healthy,” and should make up somewhere around 20-35% of your total daily calories, with less than 10% of total daily calories from saturated fat. The fats you want to avoid are found in:

  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Cream cheese
  • The fat on meats and poultry
  • Packaged baked goods

Am I Getting Enough Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are key to energy production, muscle contraction, and your metabolism. Deficiencies in any vitamins or minerals will affect your ability to work out the way you want to. And more seriously, a lack of micronutrients can lead to a number of major illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Micronutrients are vital to healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. With the exception of vitamin D, micronutrients are not produced in the body and must be derived from the diet. There are six essential micronutrients you’ll want to ensure you are getting enough of:

  • Iron – An iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia
  • Vitamin A – Supports healthy eyesight and immune system functions
  • Vitamin D – Builds strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium, which protects older adults from osteoporosis, is required for muscle and nerve functions, and helps the immune system resist bacteria and viruses
  • Iodine – Necessary for making thyroid hormones which control the body’s metabolism and other important functions
  • Folate – Also known as Vitamin B9, and is required by your body to make new cells
  • Zinc – Promotes immune functions and helps your body resist infectious diseases

The consequences of a lack of micronutrients when you’re working out include:

  • An iron deficiency makes your body fatigued, and therefore you may not be able to work out as intensely as you would like to
  • Vitamin C can help your body absorb iron and fight tiredness
  • If your sodium intake is too little, it can lead to cramping or muscle spasms as you workout

Although taking a multivitamin seems like a surefire way to get all of your vitamins and minerals, research has shown over and over that they don’t really work and the best way to get all your micronutrients is through your food, making a well-rounded diet that much more important.

Get a Customized Exercise Nutrition Plan

Now that you know the importance of balancing macronutrients, micronutrients, and vitamins and minerals in your meal planning, it’s time to think about your exercise nutrition plan. To help you get the most out of your fitness efforts, consider a customized nutrition plan.

We’d love to work with you to create a plan that not only suits your nutrition needs, but also your food preferences. Call us today at 781-643-0002 or email [email protected] and take the first step toward supercharging your nutrition.

Joe Rindone, NCPT is a certified personal trainer and the Founder of Inspire Fitness Studio in Arlington, MA. Joe’s passion for fitness has motivated him to become one Greater Boston’s best personal trainers. An athlete throughout high school and college, Joe has always enjoyed being active. Currently he enjoys road races, working with his boxing coach, kettlebell training and getting out for a round of golf in his spare time.