Work It Out: Is all food the right kind of fuel?
May 5, 2016
Many people see all the food we eat as fuel. This is essentially true, but they do not understand exactly what kind of fuel different foods can be.
You have your macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are your primary fuel sources. Then there is your micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals that help with the essential functions of the body. These can also regulate the digestion of your macronutrients to make them more fuel-efficient.
The most important macronutrient is carbohydrates, like pasta and bread. These foods are broken down into simple and complex carbs that allow your body to have a quick and sustainable form of fuel, which can either be a quick form of fuel from your simple sugars (items like candy) or sustainable fuel from complex sugars, such as granola and whole wheats.
This form of fuel is the one your body uses to deliver all kinds of energy to every systems of the body, but it's constantly misconstrued as a problem. There is some truth behind this because all kinds of carbs can be turned into sugar, and this can lead to weight gain.
The second most common form of energy is proteins, which can be found in meats, some grains and tofu. Protein allows your muscles to function properly and gives them the fuel they need to go through any workout, as well as daily tasks.
Finally you have fats, which can give you the long-lasting energy your body needs when it is in really stressful situations, such as surviving in the wild or running an endurance race that pushes your fuel supply to the extreme.
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Working with everything are vitamins and minerals. These regulate your body's homeostasis and help with digestion. They also maintain homeostasis in your joints, ligaments, heart muscles and other complex systems that your body needs to function properly.
Your body is a complex system that requires constant work to maintain homeostasis and any deviation of that will cause your body to react differently. In the worst case, the body can collapse from unwanted stress.
Nutrition for specific sports
When you are a runner or endurance athlete training for a race, you will find that your body needs a form of fuel consumption that allows it to store a lot of fast and easily digestible foods, such as carbohydrates and some forms of vegetables. When your body does this, it can pull from different storage centers in your body to help you complete a race at any distance.
When you weight train, your diet will need to reflect the new stimuli being used: your proteins. Weight training requires more proteins so that your muscles do not give out during a workout. This is important for preventing injuries, as well as building the muscles you're targeting to make them stronger.
Finally, when you train for a triathlon, your body needs a mixture of protein intake and carbohydrate intake because triathlons use energy systems similar to weight training and endurance training.
Poor diet for training
If you do not eat the proper foods for your sport or if you eat a lot of foods high in sugar and far before a big race or during training, your body will experience a loss of homeostasis. This can lead to unusual issues with your body.
One of the most common side effects of poor diet is a loss of performance during a race or during training. You will experience extreme exhaustion, on top of the inability to complete a distance that seemed much easier during training. You can also experience low energy levels, which can impact your body's ability to train the cardiovascular system or musculoskeletal system. It can also lead to pure laziness at the mental level and your motivation will suffer.
While you're experiencing lo-energy levels, you might notice that your muscles become strained. You might also experience cramps during your training process. Both of these side effects will set you back on your workouts until your body recovers. Once it does, it's important to take up a proper diet based on your training goals. Your diet should reflect what you are training for: If you're training for cardiovascular endurance, then you want to take in more carbohydrates. If you are training for strength, including weight training, then you want to eat more proteins, so your body will respond most effectively to your needs.