How To Fuel Your Body Appropriately
Written by Elizabeth Gunner, RDN
Have you ever left the gym feeling exhausted and ready for bed? Maybe you notice that you become light-headed during certain times of the day or that your energy peaks and valleys.
If this is you then you’re in the right place! Because today I will be teaching you how to fuel your body appropriately for optimal bodily function — so that you can conquer your day the way you were meant to!
First, let’s begin by breaking down each macronutrient, the recommended amounts, ideal times of day to consume each one, and of course examples of each macronutrient in it’s food form!
Power up with protein!
Most of you have probably heard of the macronutrient protein. But do you know why it’s important?
When consumed, protein breaks down into amino acids through the enzyme protease. Those amino acids are then shuttled throughout the body for various reasons. From muscle repair to complex cellular function, amino acids are needed. On top of this, our bodies need enough amino acids in large enough quantities to function well.
There are 20 amino acids that make up proteins found in the human body. These amino acids can be further broken down into what’s called essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids which our bodies cannot make on our own and therefore must be consumed through diet. Whereas non-essential amino acids can be made within our bodies. There is also a class of amino acids called “Conditional Amino Acids” which, as the name suggests, are required on a conditional basis — likely during a chronic illness, high stress, or chronic disease states.
Now that we know our body fundamentally requires amino acids (which are a part of the protein molecule), how much of this macronutrient should we consume?
Well, like most answers within nutrition, it depends. It depends on your age, activity level, metabolism, health goals, medical diagnosis(s), and much more. However, to make it simple The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for a healthy individual.
To put this into context, a 140lb female would require about 50-63 grams of protein per day. This looks like scrambled tofu or tempeh, 4oz of chicken, 1 cup of cooked lentils or black beans, a handful of a nut & seed mix, and a Munk Pack Keto Granola Bar.
It’s also important to note that it’s recommended to vary your protein sources: AKA don’t consume the same protein source every single day. Try to mix it up!
Remember those amino acids and how there are so many different forms and types? Well, it turns out different foods contain different amino acids, so mixing up your protein sources will likely expose you to ALL the different kinds of amino acids. That way, your body is fully stocked with all the molecules it needs to do its job appropriately.
It’s ideal to include protein in each meal and snack throughout the day!
Fill up with fat!
Fat, likely the most controversial and feared macronutrient, is also essential for proper fueling. Our bodies need fat for proper brain and nervous system function as well as to carry fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body.
So what is fat exactly and how much of it do we need? As it turns out the amount of fat we eat doesn’t matter nearly as much as the kind of fat we eat.
There are mainly two different types of fats; saturated and unsaturated fat. What differentiates these fat molecules are their configuration and form. Let’s get nerdy for a minute. All fat is made up of a glycogen backbone with attached fatty acid components. It’s the variation in fatty acid formation, specifically the bond formation (double or single bond and cis or trans formation) that creates a saturated or unsaturated fat.
This matters because our body responds to different types of fat well…differently! Saturated fat contains single bonds and is therefore fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. This type of fat is associated with increased risk of elevated LDL cholesterol. Therefore, saturated fat intake should be limited to ~5-6% of your total daily consumption according to the American Heart Association. Although, not all forms of saturated fat are created equal. Research shows that whole food sources of saturated fat are likely better for you than processed and packaged forms. However, this doesn’t mean you have to fear any foods with saturated fat in them! I always encourage my clients to listen to their bodies and consume what energizes and nourishes you best in that moment.
Unsaturated fat can be broken down into three subtypes; monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and trans fat. You can tell what kinds of fats are unsaturated because they are typically liquid at room temperature and turn solid when cooled. The American Heart Association recommends total fat intake to be around 25-30% of total caloric intake. However, everybody’s needs vary so I recommend working with a Registered Dietitian to find out your specific needs.
Monounsaturated fat contains one (mono) double bond. This double bond promotes fluidity in the cell membrane so nutrients can easily pass in and out as needed. The Munk Pack Keto Granola Bar contains ~5 grams of this type of fat per bar!
Since the word “poly” is a prefix meaning “many” it makes sense that polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds. There are two types of polyunsaturated fat; Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids which are considered essential for our bodies. Whole foods like almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain poly- and mono-unsaturated fat. These whole food ingredients are readily incorporated into many Munk Pack keto bar products.
Trans fat has been shown to contribute to many negative health outcomes and therefore it’s recommended to avoid this kind of fat. Munk Pack products contain zero grams of trans fat.
Capitalize on carbohydrates!
Just like fats and proteins, carbohydrates come in different forms. The two main forms being complex and simple carbohydrates. Each form is digested and absorbed differently.
Simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed very easily. This results in a quicker rise in blood glucose accompanied by a sharp crash, if a simple carb is consumed alone. Simple carbohydrates include white bread, crackers, and cakes. Chronically overconsuming simple carbohydrates alone could lead to insulin resistance which can then lead to cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are harder for our bodies to digest and therefore these types of carbs do not quickly raise blood glucose levels. This is because they are often accompanied by insoluble and soluble fiber as well as phytonutrients. When combined, all of these components support a healthy gastrointestinal tract and optimal bodily function! Foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, vegetables, and brown rice are all examples of complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates our bodies main source of energy. So, they are not to be feared! If you’re avoiding carbs to stay in ketosis, the body will defer to utilizing fat as a source of energy. This mechanism is actually ancestral because when we didn’t have access to enough food, in our hunting and gathering days, our body needed another way to continue to provide us energy and keep us alive.
If you are thinking about engaging in the ketogenic diet, I recommend speaking with a Registered Dietitian and a Doctor to make certain that this is right for you and your needs. If it’s determined that this is the right protocol for you, long or short-term, then you may need to be aware of “net carbs.”
Net carbohydrates, or net carbs, is the total amount of carbohydrate your body is absorbing. If a product has fiber in it, for example, the net carb will likely be lower since the fiber is essentially sweeping away some of the carbs with it. You can calculate the net carbohydrate a product contains by subtracting the total carbs by the grams of fiber… And voila you get net carbs!
This is important for individuals who require lower carbohydrates because even if a product has X amount of carbs, if the fiber content is high you aren’t actually receiving that amount of carbs noted on the label.
The bottom line, fuel up on complex carbs, always speak with a healthcare professional before engaging in any dietary or lifestyle change, and learn to become more in tune with what your body needs. 🙂
P.S. – Don’t forget to hydrate!
I know, I know… The last thing you want to hear again is “make sure to drink water”! However, this is said over and over again for a reason. Water is needed to carry nutrients throughout our body, but especially to our muscle cells. This helps combat muscle fatigue for quicker recovery!
I recommended drinking a cup of water when you wake up in the morning, and then sipping on it throughout the rest of the day. If you’re planning on exercising, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests that you start drinking fluids at least four hours before your workout.
If you’re sick of plain ol’ water, try infusing it with lemon, lavender, or orange!