Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for our bodies during activity and exercise. It is also the preferred fuel for our brains, which is why we start losing focus as our blood sugar drops.  Carb rich foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, and sugary foods. The proportion of carbohydrates recommended in the diet varies based on activity level. Very general recommendations range from 30-50% of the total calories in sedentary individuals to up to 70% of the daily calorie intake in athletes or very active people. As many athletes and those starting out on the road to healthy eating know, these values are not static but will vary on a daily basis due to training load and individual goals.

Protein

Athletes are obsessed with protein, and for good reason. Protein is required for muscle hypertrophy, and is often called the “building block” for muscle. It is also essential for tissue structure in tendons, ligaments, hair, skin and nails. Many important hormones responsible for metabolism are derived from proteins or their precursors. Thyroid hormone is derived from the amino acid tyrosine and growth hormone is a peptide hormone.  These hormones are essential in metabolism and performance. The amount and timing of protein intake is important in fitness and performance.  Important protein sources are animal products such as lean meats, eggs,dairy along with legumes, nuts and seeds. There are an abundance of protein supplements on the market as well which can have a role in athletic performance. The proportion of protein in the diet will depend on the level of activity and type of exercise of the individual.

fat

Fat is stored as an energy reserve in the body. It surrounds and protects visceral organs, provides insulation, is a precursor for important hormones, and transports fat soluble vitamins. Prominent food sources are oils, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and dairy. Fat exists in different forms; monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fat, and trans fat. The amount of fat in the diet is typically noted to be around 20-35% of total daily calories. This is going to depend again on individual health and fitness goals, and the breakdown of the different types of fat in the diet is important in regards to health outcomes.