Most people, even fitness buffs, have no idea of how to eat correctly. Some think that drinking shakes all day, or eating nothing but protein is the way to go. Crazy diets deprive your body, so pay attention.
Depriving your body of carbohydrates, proteins or fats (yes, even fats) can be very detrimental. Many people really do not know what your body does with these types of foods, so here are a few bits of knowledge you can use to reach your physical potential.
Why do we even need food? Calories, tiny units of energy that your body uses in order to do work. What types of food contain calories? All types. Carbohydrates give 4 kcal per gram, protein gives 4 kcal per gram, and fat gives 9 kcal per gram. It’s easy to see that fats are the most energy dense type of food, so they give the body more energy than either carbohydrates or protein.
You’ve heard of glucose. The carbohydrates you eat are the source of this simplest carbohydrate form that is stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. Glycogen can be thought of as just a string of glucose.
Any time you need energy to do work, such as playing sports, your body releases stored glucose one at a time from glycogen. Since glucose can be obtained and stored so easily, it is used in order to fuel most of the body’s cells.
Glucose can be made from protein, however, this requires the breakdown of body protein from muscle. That’s right, if you’re not eating enough carbohydrates, your body will start breaking down precious muscle tissue for glucose.
Your body cannot use fats for glucose. Also, protein has its own roles in the body, and making glucose is not one of them, so by restricting carbohydrate intake, you throw your body’s processes out of whack.
There are numerous functions of proteins in the body, but let’s concentrate on the most important: Proteins are involved in growing, repairing and replacing tissue. They are able to do this because they are the building blocks of body structures.
Fats are very important. In the body, they are the main source of energy. Believe it or not, fat combines with glucose for energy in order to spare the breakdown of protein. This way, protein can be used in order to do its job—make more muscle.
As we’ve said, fat broken down in the body gives 9 kcal per gram. Now think about that: Since fat releases more kcal (energy) per gram, it only makes sense that your body would first use fat as its chief source of energy.
Many people believe that if you do cardio before breakfast, you’ll burn body tissues (protein). If you have fat stored in your body, why would your body choose to use protein (4 kcal per gram) instead of fat (9 kcal per gram) for its fuel source?
If you stop eating, your body will begin using protein in order to preserve fats for stored energy. If you continue to eat, your body will not burn proteins because your body is constantly being refueled with the nutrients it needs for metabolic activities.
Saturated fats are the fats that you want to stay away from, because high intake can lead to things like heart disease and high cholesterol. Your body cannot break down saturated fat very well.
Unsaturated fats are the good fats that are easier for your body to break down. Some act as antioxidants and many actually aid in losing stored fatty tissue in the body.
One easy way to tell the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats is that saturated fats are solids at room temperature (lard and animal fat) and unsaturated fats are liquids at room temperature (oils).
Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based JockBoyLocker.com and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.