Nutrition Basics 1.0: What are micro-&macronutrients? How to build a nutrition plan by yourself

Aktualisiert: 10. Mai 2020

There's a saying, "You are what you eat." However, the correct phrase is actually: "You are what you absorb". What exactly calories are, how to gain or lose weight and how you and your friends can create your own diet plan, will be the subjects of the following article.

1.) How does weight loss and weight gain work?

In the world of nutrition plan creation, foods are divided into different categories. First of all, you should ask yourself what your goal is, because it depends on how many calories you should consume per day. Losing and gaining weight is child's play mathematics, because: If you consume fewer calories per day than you consume, you will lose weight. If you consume more calories per day than you consume, you gain weight. Thats it. There is nothing to change this simple rule, even if there are some experts who claim the opposite, this is not based on valid studies but on "bro-science". What you can manipulate, however, is the body composition, from which you can see exactly what you "lose" or "gain". If you pay attention to your diet and do sports, it can happen that if you have a calorie deficit you can maintain your muscles or even build them up to a certain extent ("muscle memory effect)" and lose fat in the process. But if you do several things wrong, it is possible as well to "burn" muscles and store fat in a caloric deficit. On the other hand, you need an excess of calories to build new muscles or fat. This requires your knowledge, experience and personal goals. Notice: excess calories = weight gain Calorie deficit = weight loss

2.) What are macronutrients?

Calories are made up of macronutrients, but what exactly are they? Macronutrients are divided into 3 main categories: proteins, fatty acids, carbohydrates. Depending on the literature, dietary fibre may belong to the carbohydrate group or be a macronutrient in its own right. Often only the first three macronutrients are mentioned and dietary fibre is rather neglected, but it is very important for some mechanisms in your body, which I will come to later. These macronutrients contain calories and are usually listed on packaging in kilocalories (kcal). An obsolete form is joules, where 1kcal = 4.1868 joules). We stick with the common form "kcal" and break down the macronutrients as follows: 1 gram of protein = 4.1kcal 1 gram carbohydrate = 4.1kcal 1 gram of fat = 9.3kcal 1 gram dietary fibre = 2kcal (1 gram of alcohol) = 7.1kcal It is noticeable that proteins and carbohydrates have about half the calories, with 1 gram of fat. Dietary fibres have the least kcal with only 2kcal in the bunch. To be precise, alcohol is also one of the macronutrients and has proudly 7.1kcal per 1 gram. The difference: All other macronutrients also contain nutrients, whereas alcohol is free of nutrients. They are also called "empty" calories, and the word empty would be as half as bad if alcohol would not cause intoxication in your body.

3. what is the function of the respective macronutrients?

Protein is the building block of all life, because not only our muscles, but also the brain, skin, hair and heart are built from the smallest building block of protein, the amino acid. There are a total of 20 proteinogenic (protein-building) amino acids, which are more or less essential for our muscle building and our well-being. A distinction is made between essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids must be supplied to our body by the outside world, as it cannot produce them itself. Only when our body receives food that has a complete amino acid profile can protein biosynthesis take place, which is responsible for cell healing or cell formation. If one has the goal to build up muscles it is therefore essential to deal with the topic of protein intake in more detail. Fatty acids / fats have the function to regulate the hormone balance. They control certain processes in our body and are jointly responsible for the release of hormones. The balanced consumption of fatty acids through food as well as a healthy body fat content is essential to be able to release certain hormones. Example: Men can have problems producing testosterone if they consume too little fatty acids or have too little body fat. This not only has a negative effect on muscle building, but also on sexual functions. The same applies to women and the production of oestrogen, which also fails to occur if too few fatty acids are consumed or the body fat percentage is too low. The absence of periods is only one possible side effect. Fatty acids are also divided into specific categories according to the length of each carbon chain: there are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, including essential omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. All fatty acids must be in a certain ratio to each other and also be ingested through food. Only saturated fatty acids should be avoided as much as possible, although even there, about 5-10% can/should be integrated into your diet. Unsaturated fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body, so they must be consumed through food or supplements. They must be in the right proportion and contribute to healthy brain, vision and heart function. In addition, there are trans fatty acids which should be avoided completely. It should not be forgotten that fats are naturally a very efficient source of energy. With 9.3kcal per 1 gram they have the highest calorie density and a high saturation factor. In your nutrition plan you can make good use of the regulation of fat intake to quickly add or subtract calories. Carbohydrates are first and foremost suppliers of energy. They are divided into short-chain carbohydrates (monosaccharides) & (disaccharides) or multi-chain carbohydrates (polysaccharides). Monosaccharides include for example glucose (glucose) or fructose (fruit sugar). Disaccharides include, for example, saccharose (household sugar), lactose (milk sugar) or malt sugar (maltose). The latter is produced in the human body during the digestion of starch, because the digestive enzymes first break down the starch into individual maltose molecules and then convert it into glucose, which now enters the bloodstream where it raises the blood sugar level. In response, a healthy body releases the hormone insulin, which regulates the blood sugar level downwards. Multi-chain carbohydrates allow the blood sugar level to rise more slowly and are broken down again more slowly. It is therefore advisable to focus on long-chain carbohydrates. Fruit consists mainly of monosaccharides, but it contains many micronutrients and fibre, which makes fruit and vegetables a MUST in every diet. Refined white sugar or isolated added fruit sugar, cannot be compared to natural fruit sugar and should also be avoided. These cause the blood sugar level to rise very quickly, but also to flatten out again very quickly, causing tiredness to set in relatively quickly. Fibres have a satiating effect and regulate our digestion. They are responsible for ensuring that your bowel movements are healthy and fluid and that your stool has a healthy consistency. This topic is not often discussed, but it is incredibly important because our brain is connected to the gastrointestinal system. Only a healthy gastrointestinal system can enable us to absorb all nutrients and contribute to a vital constitution.

4.) What are micronutrients

Micro nutrients are vitamins, minerals and trace elements. These have no calories, but they take over very important functions in your body. Micronutrients strengthen the immune system, have an anti-inflammatory effect, enrich your vitality (life energy) and ensure beautiful skin, hair, nails, but also many other internal and external factors. The topic is very broad and I would explain this point in the independent preparation of a nutrition plan. What to say, however, is that a micronutrient deficiency is difficult to detect at first, because the consumption of all micronutrients through food or dietary supplements often does not bring about a particularly positive effect. If you do everything correctly, this condition corresponds to a normal condition. However, the absence or deficiency of micronutrients can lead to cognitive and psychological problems. However, these deficiencies creep in very slowly and sometimes those affected are not reflected enough to recognise it in time due to cognitive, motor or psychological problems. Some examples: In Central, Eastern and Northern Europe there is a clear vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is synthesized by solar energy and in countries such as Germany, Sweden, Russia or Finland people do not absorb enough "solar energy". In addition, many people in "western" countries work in offices, which means that they take up even less sun vitamin than is available anyway. The consequence: You can feel tired, listless, foggy and weak compared to full vitamin D capacities. In the worst case, this can lead to depression, which can particularly affect some people in the winter months. In the Scandinavian countries there is a high suicide rate in the winter months due to insufficient solar energy and science shows that there is a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression. It is therefore difficult to diagnose a vitamin deficiency due to fatigue and listlessness. Since supplementation of vitamin D requires a few weeks to get going, it is important to plan ahead and take care with the correct dosage. Besides that in many countries the recommended dose is set far too low. Another classic example is the onset of cramps after long periods of exercise. If you experience cramps during or after exercise, supplementation with magnesium tablets is useless at the moment when the body needs time for the mineral to take effect and deliver the nutrients to the muscles. For these reasons, for example, a banana is recommended after training because it has a moderate magnesium content and short-chain carbohydrates to fill the empty carbohydrate stores. I hope these examples could give you an understanding of why the completeness of all micronutrients does not have an obvious effect at first sight, but the absence of these substances can have many negative effects on your body.

5.) Water balance

The topic of hydration is also often neglected, although this point is essential for a functioning body and a functioning brain. After all, our body consists largely of water. Make sure you drink at least 2.5L of water a day. If you lead an active lifestyle or are active in sports, 1L per 20-25kg body weight is recommended.

6.) What does IIFYM mean?

IIFYM means "IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS" and means: If you have a diet plan and you are wondering whether you are allowed to eat a food or not, you should check what the composition of the food is. For example, if your dietary plan still allows you to have enough carbohydrates and fatty acids, then you can also allow yourself a pizza in this situation. You should follow the 80/20 rule. If you eat 80% "clean", i.e. nutritious food, you can easily consume 20% food with a lower nutrient content. There is the saying "You are what you eat". However, the correct phrase is actually "You are what you absorb. In the next article I will show you how you can create a nutrition plan for yourself with the help of a free app and provide you with a shopping list. With this "blueprint" nothing should stand in the way of your summer body.

References: Jeremy M. Berg et al. (2018): Stryer Biochemistry. Eighth Edition. Springer Spectrum, Berlin / Heidelberg ELMADFA, Ibrahim (2009): Dietetics. 2nd edition. Stuttgart. Eugen Ulmer Giulia Enders (2014): Gut with charm. 1st edition. Heidelberg. Ullstein publishing house

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