In today’s world, it is considered common knowledge that a healthy diet and regular exercise will improve your quality of life. Whether you are an elite athlete, a grandma, a high-school athlete, a teacher, or an accountant, proper diet and exercise will help you lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and much more. Many people are under the misconception that to eat healthy one must count calories, buy expensive foods, and that they will never get to eat “pleasure” foods. Similarly, in regard to exercise, many people think they need a gym membership and hours of extra time each day dedicated to being physically active. Unfortunately, these are all factors that stop people from eating healthy and exercising and most of them are not true! The best thing a person can do to start eating a healthy diet and to sustain a regular exercise plan is to become educated about the benefits of each. Following are the latest diet recommendations to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Proper nutrition is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, which includes energy levels, mental, and emotional health. To function in daily life, one must have energy. Carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats) are the sources of energy for the body. Vitamins, minerals, and water are also required for the regulation of the functionality of the body.
The majority of dietary CHO is derived from plant sources, primarily grains, seeds, fruits, and to a lesser extent, vegetables. In a practical context, the most common forms of dietary CHO are from simple sugars, such as soft drinks, candies, and cereals high in sugar. Although high in caloric content, these types of foods provide little in the way of other nutrients. These refined sugars lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A superior form of dietary CHO is derived from eating whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads, and fruits. The CHO in these foods is in the form of starch, commonly known as the complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates typically contain dietary fiber which may lower cholesterol absorption and is beneficial to the digestive tract.1
Recommended daily amount of CHO: The recommended percentage of CHO in the diet should range between 60% and 70% of the total calories consumed daily, depending on the amount of exercise performed that day. One gram of CHO is equivalent to four calories of energy.
Food sources: whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, whole grain cereals, bagels, starchy vegetables, legumes, and oatmeal.
Proteins produce as much as 10% to 15% of the energy requirements for activity. The body is capable of synthesizing protein. However, of the 20 amino acids required to construct the body’s proteins, only eight can by made by the body, therefore, protein must be ingested in the diet. Proteins are vital to metabolic functionality, cell functions, immune responses, and energy production. Proteins are often referred to as the building blocks of the muscles in the body and they also help in regeneration.1
Recommended daily amount of protein: The recommended percentage of protein in the diet should range between 10% and 15% of the total calories consumed daily. One gram of protein is equivalent to four calories of energy.
Food sources: eggs, meats, and dairy products.
Fats serve a variety of functions in the body including energy production, insulation, and the protection of vital internal organs. Fats are categorized into two forms: saturated and unsaturated. Generally speaking, saturated fats are the “bad” fats, and unsaturated fats are the “good” fats.
Recommended daily amount of lipids: The recommended percentage of lipids in the diet should be 30% or less of the total calories consumed daily.1 It is recommended that the majority of the lipids consumed be unsaturated to avoid the problems attributed to excessive amounts of saturated fats related to heart disease.
Food sources: saturated fats most often come from animal products such as beef, poultry, pork, milk, butter, and cheese. Unsaturated fat food sources include oils, walnuts, and fish (i.e., salmon, trout, herring).
Supplement and Vitamin Recommendations
Vitamins are chemicals that are needed by the body in relatively small amounts, yet adequate amounts of vitamins are essential to health and human performance.1 Vitamins contain no caloric value so they do not directly provide energy to the body. There is no evidence that taking any vitamin in an amount greater than the recommended level provides any sort of health enhancement. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet, as described above, are most likely getting adequate amounts of vitamins through their food and beverage consumption. In addition, there is no evidence that vitamins marketed as organic or natural provide any benefit over those that are manufactured synthetically and often sold at a higher cost.
Today, especially in the athletic environment, there is a huge commercial market for supplements, one of the most common being protein supplements. There are several problems with supplementing nutrients. For example, with protein, a high source of dietary protein is also high in saturated fat and often simple CHO, the most ineffective form of CHO. In addition, the body may be unable to to efficiently eliminate the byproducts of excess protein, causing extra stress on the vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. Most supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and they are extremely expensive, often exceeding the cost of the most common and natural sources of protein.
- Pfeiffer, R.P., & Mangus, B.C. (Ed.) (2008). Concepts of Athletic Training. (5th ed.). Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.