Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients? What are we talking about?
Simply put, macronutrients are the sources of food that we need in large quantities to provide energy for daily tasks and physical activities. They are proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Micronutrients are nutrients we need in small quantities to orchestrate a wide variety of physiological functions. They include vitamins and minerals.
Why do I need supplements if my diet is good?
The reality is that the idea of a “balanced diet will provide all you need” is a myth. You cannot obtain all of the nutrients your body requires from your diet, and here’s why:
- Studies show that food alone does not supply all of the micronutrients we need to prevent deficiency, let alone achieve optimal health. Forget about providing enough nutrients to promote optimal health, many people do not eat enough quality food to meet the minimal Referenced Daily Intake (RDI) micronutrient requirements for preventing deficiency-related disorders. For hard-training swimmers and athletes, that’s even more sobering because it’s a well-accepted truth that athletes use up more nutrients than non-athletes do.
- Very few of us have routine access to fresh, locally grown foods. Much of our diet comes from foods grown far away, picked when unripe, and then sent packing. Nutritional content is questionable and usually depleted.
- Even if we could obtain all the nutrients we need from our diet, it’s highly unlikely that any of us eats an ideal diet as consistently as we think we do.
Eating Healthy Means:
- Eating whole grains (brown rice) and locally grown organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
- Avoiding packaged, processed foods and junk foods at all times
- Consuming a low-sodium diet
- Consumption of a variety of foods, including the aforementioned organic fruits and vegetables, plus foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids
- Avoiding foods containing artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours, and preservatives.
- Avoid fruit juice (fibre is removed so sugar is absorbed and stores immediately as fat).
- Minimal consumption of simple sugars (sucrose, fructose, glucose, etc.) processed carbohydrates and saturated fats.
- Follow a balanced training program that emphasizes regular exercise and eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day. This will ensure that you are developing your inherent antioxidant systems and that your diet is providing the necessary components.
The Goal of Supplementation:
As mentioned earlier, the more active you are, the more nutrients (vitamins, minerals) you’re depleting from your body. That’s why taking supplements is a wise strategy to employ; they help bridge the gap between what you should be receiving and what you’re actually getting from your diet. Consuming the best possible diet as consistently as possible, and augmenting that with an intelligent supplement program, is the best way to cover your nutritional bases. The nutrients that you take should accomplish one or more of the following:
- Provide adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to optimize overall health. Remember, as a swimmer/athlete you need more vitamins and minerals than sedentary people do, so you want a multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains more than the minimum Referenced Daily Intake (RDI) amounts.
- Provide a wide range of antioxidants to support enhanced immunity and cardiovascular system functioning via neutralization of free radicals produced by increased physical activity. And while the benefits of training always trump any potential downside, it’s important to remember that swimmers, like all athletes, generate free radicals on the order of 12–20 times more than non–athletes. Unchecked, free radicals cause cell damage and lead to many disease states, which is why antioxidant supplementation is so vital for athletes and active people. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Cells may function poorly or die if this occurs. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defence system of antioxidants.
Supplements are just that – they supplement a good diet and provide ideal amounts of important nutrients that you can’t obtain even in the best of diets. Remember, supplements don’t replace a good diet, nor are they a substitute for consistent, high quality training and adequate recovery. You need to make sure those two things—a good diet and a quality training and recovery plan—are already in place. When they are, supplements can definitely help take your swimming performance to the next level, allowing you to make increases in the volume and quality of your swim training, without your immune system taking a hit. If you want to achieve your best performances in your swim workouts and races—and, even more importantly, enjoy optimal health (not minimal, optimal)—then daily supplementation is a necessity, not an option.
For more information about our supplements please contact Jessica under Email: Jessica@meta4mance.co.za