Three major nutrients – what they are and how they can maintain health and peak athletic performance.
Many Michiganders are beyond having cabin-fever and now experiencing full force spring-fever! People of all ages are looking forward to the convenience of being able to go outdoors to be more physically active. The 2015 baseball season and middle and high school spring athletics have started, with summer sports clubs and leagues not far behind.
Athletes and active adults who want to perform better this season need to eat their macronutrients. Understanding basic nutrition and how nutrition benefits your athletic or physical performance can be the game changer. Nutrition helps your physical or sports performance because it provides energy, improves recovery time, increases training benefits to optimize performance and reduces fatigue, illness and injuries.
Understanding the three macronutrients needed for performance is important. Macronutrients are the basic fuel and building blocks of bodies. The first nutrient is carbohydrates. Think of carbohydrates as fuel for your body. Carbohydrates also are important for recovery and help to build muscle. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in sugary foods such as sweets and candy. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grain foods, vegetables (such as potatoes, legumes and beans) and fruits that contain many vitamins and minerals.
The second macronutrient is protein. Proteins helps to build tissues in your body, like skin and muscle. Protein-rich foods are lean meats, low-fat dairy, soy, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds.
Fats are the third macronutrient. You may think that fat is something that needs to be eliminated or reduced from your diet. You are correct in thinking that it needs to be reduced. Knowing what to reduce is the key question. Fat is important to your health and performance and is the primary fuel we burn when at rest and during low-moderate intensity activity or exercise. The fat that needs to be reduced in your diet is fat that is solid at room temperature. This type of fat is called saturated fat. Butter, lard, whole or full-fat dairy products and coconut oil are all examples of saturated fats that should be eaten in moderation. Unsaturated fats, or fats that are liquid at room temperature derive from a plant source and are healthier fat options; examples include canola or olive oil, fish oil, seeds and nuts.
Eating these macronutrients throughout the day is important for sports performance or as part of a balanced, active lifestyle. Michigan State University Extension offers community based nutrition and physical activity programming across the state. In addition, Spartan Performance, a MSU Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition program is also available as individual and team development. Regardless of the activity you chose, be sure to fuel your body appropriately to ensure you maintain optimal health.