Nutrition 101 - Why Do We Eat?
By Tyler Woodward
So you’ve made the decision to start eating a healthier diet, but you’re not sure where to start. Keto, carnivore, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, pro-metabolic, the list goes on… Well, don’t worry as usual we’ve got you covered, we’ll simplify this topic to a T, so you can understand it without issue.
- Why Do Do We Eat
Why Do We Eat?:
As humans we are heterotrophs, meaning that we cannot produce our own energy and must eat other organisms to sustain ourselves. Humans specifically are omnivores, we eat both plants and animals and we require nutrients that are found in both.
To understand the question of why we eat we’re going to break it down into two parts Macronutrients & Micronutrients.
But before doing so I’d like to briefly define what it means to have a healthy diet. A healthy diet provides your body with everything it needs to thrive by providing it with the energy and nutrients it needs to respond to all the stresses we experience on a daily basis.
There are 3 main macromolecules or macronutrients carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which we need to be healthy. Each macronutrient provides a specific amount of energy:
- Carbohydrates - 4 Calories per gram
- Protein - 4 Calories per gram
- Fats - 9 Calories per gram
Calories are simply a means of energy as heat. They measure how much heat our body can produce from consuming any one of those macronutrients. Humans maintain a body temperature around 98.6℉, so in order to maintain this body temperature we will each need to eat a different amount of calories depending on our age, height, weight, muscle mass and activity level. You can think of calories like the amount of money it costs to maintain the temperature of your house during the winter. If you like to keep your house really warm, let’s say at 72℉ it will cost you more than to keep it at 71℉ . The bigger your house or the colder it is outside, the more money it will cost you as well.
The same thing applies to your body, the bigger your body (house), the more muscle mass you have, and the more active you are requires more energy. The older you get, because you’re no longer growing, it generally “costs less” to maintain your body temperature compared to your younger self.
Each of the macronutrients carbs, proteins and fats contain different micronutrients that we require to maintain our body temperature.
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Carbs are your body’s primary fuel source, the human body loves glucose. Glucose is taken up by your cells and used to produce energy and heat through cellular respiration or cell breathing as I like to call it. When you consume excess carbohydrates your body stores them as glycogen in the liver (like your body’s gas tank) or as fat throughout the body. When your blood sugar levels run low it uses these energy reserves to continue to produce energy. Our recommended sources of carbs are fruits, roots, and starches.
Certain tissues in your body actually prefer to run on fat as fuel at rest, particularly your muscles and heart (which is also a muscle). Fats are also necessary for their role in producing hormones. All of our steroid hormones including testosterone, progesterone, DHT, estrogen, ect, require cholesterol to be produced which is made largely from fats in our diet. As far as fats go, saturated fats are king. Unsaturated fats are much less stable and are much more likely to be oxidized in the body. You can think about this like the metal fence around your house. Unsaturated fats are the equivalent to a cheaper fence that rusts after a few years, while saturated fats hold up year after year.
Protein is like the blue collar worker of the human body, it plays countless roles and without it our body would just fall apart. There are technically no essential proteins, but we need to consume enough of certain amino acids daily to allow our body to build proteins. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. I would recommend consuming at least .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, so if you weigh 100lbs you should be consuming at the minimum 50 grams of protein daily.
If macronutrients are the materials you need to build a house, micronutrients are the tools you need to put everything together. Our body’s don’t require a lot of micronutrients daily, but they are extremely important for everything to run properly. When you’re deficient in a micronutrient it’s like a piece of your body’s engine breaks down. This is comparable to when the thermostat or hot water heater stops working and you call in a repairman to figure out the issue and replace any broken parts. Except, there is no repairman in our body, so when you’re deficient in a micronutrient it’s like your body is running on broken parts. The more you’re deficient in a single micronutrient or the more micronutrients you’re deficient in, the more broken parts you’re running on.
- Trace Minerals
- Amino Acids
There are two types of vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.
- Water-Soluble Vitamins - Vitamin C & The B-Vitamin Complex (1, 2, 3, 5, 6,7, 9, 12)
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins - Vitamin A, D, E & K
Fat soluble vitamins are only found in fats like that from dairy, meat or oils from coconuts, avocados, ect.
Water-soluble vitamins are found anywhere that contains water. All living organisms on the planet are believed to have evolved from the ocean, so we’re all made up of a very large portion of water. You can find water-soluble vitamins in meats, fruits, roots and vegetables. Depending on how you cook your food some of the water-soluble vitamins will be degraded (broken down) rendering them useless in the body. Additionally, the water that is lost from the juices that accumulate during cooking also contain some of the water-soluble vitamins in that food. So how you cook your food will determine how much of the water-soluble vitamins are still in it. By saving the juices that build up during cooking and pouring it back onto the meat or onto rice or potatoes you can save a good portion of the vitamins that you would otherwise have lost. For these reasons, meat may not be the best source of these water-soluble vitamins as they can lose a good amount of them upon cooking. The best practice to conserve these vitamins is to eat your meat closer to medium-rare or in the case of eggs over-easy and to cook them in a way that you can conserve the juices like pan-frying.
When most people hear electrolytes they immediately think of sports drinks and dehydration and for good reason. There are 6 electrolytes in the body all of which are found in water.
All electrolytes have an electrical charge of either +1, +2, -1, or -2. You’ve heard the saying opposites attract, this is why electrolytes are often found together like in table salt, sodium (+1) chloride (-1). When they come together they balance each other out, resulting in a neutral charge. It’s for this same reason that these electrolytes, commonly called electrolyte salts, all dissolve in water like in the ocean, salt water. Again, when you cook food and the water seeps out you can lose a lot of these electrolytes with it.
Due to the electrical charge, electrolytes are extremely important in regulating energy production, allowing your body to maintain its body heat. When you exercise and sweat or even when you breathe and pee you’re losing some of these electrolytes, so it’s important to consume adequate amounts in our diet.
Fruits and root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes are extremely dense in electrolytes like sodium & potassium. Calcium is found in some foods, but without a doubt the best bang for your buck are milk and milk products like cheese. Magnesium is one of the minerals most people do not get enough of because it used to be found in higher quantities in our water supply and most of us don’t live in the ocean which is a rich source of magnesium. You can also consume magnesium by eating chocolate or cacao products and coffee! As you now know sodium and chloride are sitting right in your kitchen as table salt, so make sure to salt your food to taste (sodium isn’t unhealthy, but that’s another story). Lastly, phosphorus is found in high quantities in meat.
Trace Minerals -
Trace minerals are virtually identical to electrolytes and are all considered “minerals”, except that not all minerals have an electrical charge. There are 9 trace minerals in the body:
Luckily, our body’s have a built-in recycling system that allows us to reuse the trace minerals, so we don’t need to consume a lot of them in our diet. Hence the name “trace minerals”. Our recommended daily intake for the trace minerals are usually in milligrams or micrograms, meaning we need relatively very little of them to function properly. I recommend consuming potatoes a few times a week and fruit daily, this will cover the majority of your micronutrient requirements. Liver and shellfish are the most micronutrient dense foods on the planet, I recommend consuming around 6oz liver and 10-12 shellfish (like oysters) weekly in order to ensure your micronutrient requirements are being met.
Amino Acids -
Amino acids are to protein like bricks are to a building. When you combine hundreds of amino acids together in a specific order you arrive at a fully-functioning protein. There are 9 Essential Amino Acids, meaning that our body cannot produce them on its own, meaning we must consume them in our diet. These are:
Eggs and muscle meats from poultry, pork or ruminant animals (cows, deer) are all complete sources of protein, as they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Potatoes are the only plant-based complete protein, otherwise you must mix & match a few plant-based proteins in order to satisfy your amino acid requirements.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids:
There are 8 conditionally essential amino acids. This means that if your body is in a healthy or relatively non-stressed state you can produce these amino acids from the essential amino acids, as long as you have enough of the essential amino acids.
There is also speculation that even if your body is running on all cylinders, it will still not produce enough of some of these amino acids like glycine and proline. Glycine and proline are found in much higher quantities in organ meats, collagenous tissues like joints, bones and in shellfish. Consuming a collagen or gelatin supplement or foods rich in collagen also helps to balance out your body’s amino acid intake.
The Essential Fatty Acids -
The essential fatty acids or EFA’s are not essential, while your body cannot produce them, it also doesn’t need them. This is too long of a story to go into here, you can check out my article “The Nonessential, Essential Fatty Acids” for more information. Regardless, it’s quite literally impossible to be deficient in the essential fatty acids being found in eggs, meat, dairy, fish, nuts, seeds, leaves, ect,. Virtually every living thing has some portion of the essential fatty acids.
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My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good