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Browsing Tag: macronutrients

The Dynamic Impact of Micronutrients: How to Achieve Peak Performance

Running isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other; it’s a holistic experience that requires proper nutrition to reach peak performance. Macronutrients– carbohydrates, proteins, and fats- often steal the spotlight. It’s the lesser-known heroes, the micronutrients, that play a crucial role in supporting a runner’s journey. Let’s explore the importance of micronutrients in running and how they contribute to overall performance and well-being.

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients encompass a variety of vitamins, minerals and organic acids that are essential for various bodily functions. These include vitamins such as vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, and carotenoids. Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and organic acids such as lactic acid, citric acid, choline and taurine. While they are required in smaller quantities compared to macronutrients, their importance should not be underestimated.

Vitamins role on Running Performance

Vitamin A

Vitamin A’s role in bolstering immune function ensures runners can maintain consistent training without succumbing to illness. With muscle repair, promoting bone health and acting as an antioxidant, vitamin A aids in minimizing the risk of injuries. Also, vitamin A reduces exercise-induced inflammation, contributing to enhanced endurance and faster recovery times.

B Vitamins

B vitamins include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12). whew, those are a mouthful! Let’s refer to these as the B complex vitamins. These vitamins act as coenzymes in various metabolic pathways crucial for energy production. They play a synergistic role in macronutrient metabolism, ensuring a steady supply of fuel for our running endeavors. Moreover, B6 and B12, are involved in red blood cell production, contributing to optimal oxygen delivery to working muscles. Incorporating a diverse array of B vitamin-rich foods like whole grains, lean meats, dairy products, legumes, and leafy greens into your diet can help sustain energy levels and support peak performance.

Vitamin C

For runners, maintaining a robust immune system is paramount to sustaining consistent training and performance. Enter vitamin C, a potent antioxidant renowned for its immune-boosting properties. This vitamin helps protect against oxidative stress induced by intense exercise, reducing the risk of illness and promoting faster recovery. Additionally, vitamin C supports collagen synthesis, aiding in the repair of connective tissues and minimizing the risk of injuries such as tendonitis. Load up on vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli to fortify your immune defenses.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. Beyond its well-known contribution to bone health, vitamin D influences various physiological processes crucial for endurance and recovery in runners. Adequate levels of vitamin D are associated with improved muscle strength and coordination reducing the risk of injury during runs. Its impact on mood regulation and mental well-being further enhances running performance by promoting motivation and resilience. As such, ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake, whether through sunlight exposure or dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified foods, is essential for runners seeking to maximize their potential.

Vitamin E

As runners push their bodies to the limit, they generate oxidative stress, leading to muscle damage and fatigue. Vitamin E swoops in as a potent antioxidant, neutralizing harmful free radicals and reducing exercise-induced inflammation, ultimately promoting faster recovery. Moreover, vitamin E supports cardiovascular health by protecting against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can contribute to plaque buildup in the vessels. Enhanced blood flow and reduced muscle damage translate to improved endurance, enabling runners to sustain higher levels of exertion for longer durations. To harness the benefits of vitamin E, incorporating sources like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and vegetable oils into the diet is essential.

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a group of pigments found in various fruits and vegetables, and wield a notable influence on exercise performance and recovery. By scavenging free radicals generated during physical activity, beta-carotene aids in protecting cells and tissues from damage. Moreover, certain carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, have been linked to improved eye health and visual acuity, enhancing coordination and agility during exercise.

Minerals

Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral involved in muscle contraction, enabling runners to move efficiently as well as regulating nerve impulses, ensuring proper communication between the brain and muscles. Additionally, calcium contributes to maintaining electrolyte balance, supporting optimal hydration levels and preventing muscle cramps during prolonged workouts.

Iron

One of the most crucial micronutrients for runners is iron. This mineral serves as the cornerstone of hemoglobin, the molecule responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Adequate iron levels are paramount for maximizing aerobic capacity and staving off fatigue during long runs. Without sufficient iron intake, runners may experience decreased energy levels, impaired endurance, and even symptoms of anemia. Incorporating iron-rich foods like lean meats, leafy greens, legumes, and fortified grains into your diet can help maintain optimal iron levels and support peak performance.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a micronutrient that often flies under the radar but plays a pivotal role in energy metabolism and muscle function. As runners, we rely on magnesium to convert carbohydrates into energy, regulate muscle contractions, and maintain electrolyte balance. Deficiencies in magnesium can manifest as muscle cramps, fatigue, and impaired performance. To ensure optimal magnesium intake, incorporate magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens into your diet, and consider magnesium supplementation if necessary.

Quercetin

Quercetin

Potassium

During exercise, potassium works alongside sodium to regulate fluid balance and hydration levels within the body. Potassium is also involved in nerve signaling and muscle contractions, including the contraction of the heart muscle, which is essential for maintaining a regular heartbeat. Potassium also plays a role in supporting kidney function by aiding in the elimination of waste products.

Zinc

Zinc plays a role in immune function, helping to support the body’s defenses against infections and illnesses that could sideline training efforts. Involved in protein synthesis, zinc aids in the repair and growth of muscle tissue damaged during exercise. Furthermore, zinc contributes to the production of testosterone, a hormone important for muscle growth and strength.

Organic Acids

Organic acids, such as citric acid and malic acid, are involved in the Krebs cycle, also known as the citric acid cycle, which is a central pathway for energy production in cells. During exercise, organic acids help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy for muscle contractions. organic acids can help regulate pH levels in the body, buffering the acidic byproducts produced during intense exercise. While organic acids are naturally produced in the body, certain foods and supplements, such as citrus fruits and tart cherry juice, contain high levels of these compounds and may offer additional benefits.

From providing energy and oxygen transport to supporting immune function, bone health, and muscle repair, micronutrients contribute to every aspect of a runner’s journey. Ensuring sufficient intake of micronutrients through a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, as well as supplements when needed, not only optimize running performance but also promote longevity and overall vitality.

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Fuel your run: Everything you need to know about Macronutrients

The most common question I get asked as a rural healthcare provider is, “Why am I gaining so much weight?”. This question is then followed by their definition of their ‘healthy lifestyle’. Unsurprisingly, this definition differs greatly between each individual and is often accompanied with a high total cholesterol level. These two topics- gaining weight and high cholesterol- sought me to dive deep into research of nutrition and macronutrients; so here’s my Nurse Practitioner spiel. Let’s start at the core of nutrition, macronutrients.

What is a healthy diet?

You may have heard people “counting macros” before for weight loss, but what is a macro? Macronutrients are the three components consumed daily in our diet to provide us energy. There. That wasn’t so hard 🙂 I’ll bet you can even name a couple of these macros. Some of you may have guessed protein, as you should. Protein serves a vital role in strength and structure. Most people think of the bodybuilder image, but we all consume protein daily for vital functions. Another macronutrient is carbohydrates. “Carbs” are the most easily converted source of energy consumed in our diet. Then of course, there’s the final third macronutrient, the ‘dreaded’, Fat. By the end of this discussion I hope to provide the knowledge you deserve to no longer dread fat! But how?! Hear me out.

healthy fats including Avocado and eggs

Fat

I’m an 80’s baby, so growing up I’ve been bred on the ‘All-American-Healthy-Low-Fat-diet.’ I’ve been taught from an early age to seek out non-fat milk or low-fat cheese. It made theoretical sense, right? If you want to lose weight (fat), then consume less fat. By the 1980’s low fat diets became mainstream; recommended by doctors, supported by the federal government and heavily advertised by the media and food industries. But think of that year, 1980- in reference to how many hundred of thousands of years humans have been around, we’ve only been consuming ‘low-fat diets’ for 40 years.

Let’s look back a bit further to the 1960’s when the leading cause of mortality in the United States was Coronary artery disease- a heart attack. Many studies were performed to analyze what was putting us Americans at risk for a heart attack, and strong correlation (as in the Framingham study) related cardiovascular risk to cholesterol and saturated fats. Notice that emphasized word, Saturated. There are many “good for you” fats. In fact, Fat is ESSENTIAL to include in your diet to be broken down into fatty acids that make cell linings and hormones. Our body requires twenty amino acids, and although our bodies can make amino acids, NINE essential amino acids need to be consumed daily. So let’s explain this easily,

Your body is either ‘Fat-Storing’ or ‘Fat-Burning’ at all times.

Now let’s get back to this new 1980’s philosophy of a ‘healthy American low-fat diet’. If we are consuming a low-fat diet, (Fat being essential for amino acids improving memory storage, controlling inflammation and regulating hormones) do you think our bodies are going to use that fat for energy or store it? Ding, ding, ding! That’s right, our bodies have been storing the limited amount of fat we’ve allowed it as a mechanism of survival. unsurprisingly, the prevalence of obesity from the 1980’s being about 8% of the population to today 42.4% of Americans are obese! Geez that’s 530% fold increase in obesity!

There are four types of fat, and they all relate to the length of carbon atoms or associated hydrogen atoms attached; in other words, just a bunch of science-y stuff. I’ll make it easy to remember, GOOD FAT: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. BAD FAT: Trans fat (now illegial in the US). FAT TO ENJOY IN MODERATION: Saturated fat. Take away point: eat high ‘good fat’ often. Two essential sources of essential fatty acids are Omega 3 and Omega 6. Food examples include nuts, flax seed, whole grains, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and FATTY FISH- salmon, mackerel, tuna.

Protein

This macronutrient serves a vital role in many functions in our body, there’s only one catch: we don’t store protein for energy like we can with Fat and carbohydrates. Protein gives our tissues strength and structure with collagen, elastin, actin and myosin. Think beautiful, firm skin with strong muscles to run with… yep, I’ll take some of that! Protein also synthesizes enzymes and hormones, transport substances across cell membranes and defends against foreign pathogens. So eat your protein!

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the easiest source of energy for our bodies to convert to glucose. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories. This is based on the minimum amount of glucose utilized by the brain being about 130 grams. Here’s the page turner, In the absence of carbohydrates the body will use fat as a source of energy. Yup, mind=blown. Here Americans are trying to sustain a ‘low-fat diet’ for weight loss when we’ve had it backwards the past forty years. Eat high (good for you) fats, minimize your carbs and our bodies will use our own stored energy! As you may have also noticed in the diagram above, we get 9 kcals of energy for every gram of fat we consume as opposed to 4 kcal of energy per gram for protein and carbs. That’s double the amount of energy!

  • Fun Fact! Our bodies have stored fat, and for many of us in excess abundance. One pound of fat equates to about 3,600 calories of energy! When I run a half marathon my Runkeeper app says I burn about 1,000 calories, which means I theoretically could run 45 miles on just one pound of fat, and I have a few to spare! 😉

So that’s my spiel. I hope you join me in eating Clean food to fuel your run!

As always- Run strong, Travel and Eat. Real. Food. -We Run the States

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for your professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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