What Runners Need to Know About Micro- and Macronutrients

Do you love to run? Heard the words micronutrients and macronutrients and wondered what the heck they are? Kevin Jones is breaking it down for us today. Keven writes about solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and healthy editing. Connect with Kevin and read more of his writings online on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The buzzwords “micronutrients,” “macronutrients” and “nutrient-dense” foods seem to circulate through the medical and athletic community. However, the exact meanings of these words aren’t always clear. “Nutrient density” refers to the nutritional value that a food has when compared with its amount of calories. When your diet provides the proper fuel for your body’s nutritional demands, your health will benefit, as well as your running game. But what about those other words?

Micro- and Macronutrients

As their names suggest, we need macronutrients, such as protein, fat and carbohydrates, in larger amounts and micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, in smaller ones. The World Health Organization defines micronutrients as those needed in only minuscule amounts, which enable the body to produce enzymes and hormones essential for proper growth and development. Your body doesn’t naturally produce micronutrients, so eating the proper amount is crucial, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, you can only obtain them through a proper diet.

Nutrients and Weight Management

Research has shown that when you replace foods of high-energy density with foods of lower density, such as a fruits and vegetables, you can better manage your weight overall. When you don’t consume enough micronutrients, normal body processes don’t occur at the most efficient level, resulting in increased risks of age-related and chronic diseases.

Oxidative Stress and Running

Proper nutrition is a lifestyle just like running. Failing to give your body the needed nutrients affects you over time and can weaken your performance. Runners are more susceptible to oxidative stress than others because they breathe in more when running. Your body constantly uses oxygen as you breathe, and your body’s cells produce energy. As a result, highly reactive molecules are produced within our cells when a process known as “free radicals” oxidation, as chemists call it, occurs. Think of rusting metal as a result of oxidation. The same thing is happening inside your body, and even more for athletes since they breathe more deeply during workouts or while running.

Micronutrients help slow down this destructive process and the rate of cell damage. Eating your fruits and vegetables and getting the proper amount of micronutrients can help keep you in tip-top shape. In fact, micronutrients help all of the systems of your body run at full capacity, also ensuring that your brain, heart, liver, lungs and all of your organs have all the needed resources when you operate at full capacity, which you will reach while running.

Nutritional Needs for Runners

Runners will want to make sure to include foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Almost anything that comes from the ground or grows on a tree, vine or stalk is safe. Kale and spinach are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but if you can’t stand the taste, you can always mix them into a smoothie with other fruits. Add salmon or other fatty fish, low-fat dairy products, as well as snacking on nuts and seeds throughout the day, and you’ll be packing the micronutrients in.

Remember to include one essential micronutrient that isn’t a food: sunshine. When running outdoors, your body creates a hormone with the UVB rays to synthesize vitamin D, which most people can’t get enough from dietary sources alone.

Have a better understanding of those buzz words now? —Kevin Jones

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