At Esports Healthcare, we believe nutrition is one of four categories that complete what we call the foundation of wellness alongside sleep, mental health, and physical activity. These four broad categories create the foundation of your health, and you cannot live a long, healthy life if any one of these four aspects are ignored.
Of these four, sleep is the most universal; in other words, every mammal needs sufficient sleep (e.g. 8 hours per night). Unfortunately, for nutrition, there is incredible complexity and huge variations from person-to-person. Allergies, sensitivities, poor absorption, and many other factors may require specific changes in your diet.
However, there are some aspects of nutrition that are true across the majority of the population—energy needs, general nutrient needs, and the benefits of certain types of nutrients vs. others. We’ve compiled these facts to provide to you the basics of nutrition.
Nutrition, at its foundation, is simply the intake (most commonly by ingestion) of different types of nutrients necessary for your body to function and survive. This includes macronutrients (energy), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fiber, and water.
Calories are units of energy for the human body. Calories are specifically defined as the amount of energy required to raise 1 liter (L) of water 1 degree centigrade (+1° C). Calories come from five sources: fat, carbohydrates, protein, alcohol, and ketones. Each are described in more detail, below.
Energy needs are one of the many aspects of nutrition that can vary tremendously. The two major factors for determining energy needs are your basal metabolic rate and your physical activity (or exercise).
BMR is the number of Calories your body will burn, daily, to simply stay alive; it is the energy required to maintain basic bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration, and nervous system activity.
A visual of BMR is if you were to lie perfectly still with your eyes closed and do absolutely nothing for 24 hours. BMR does not include extra Calories burned via any level of movement or exertion (physical activity or exercise).
As you move, you burn more Calories. The number of Calories burned will be determined by the type, duration, and intensity of the physical activity or exercise you perform. Longer duration and higher intensity will burn more calories. Exercise types may vary based on additional factors.
As previously mentioned, energy comes in the form of Calories via macronutrients which are described, in detail, below. There are also micronutrients which do not provide energy. They do, however, provide your body with the molecules necessary for all body system functioning.
For example, iron is a micronutrient mineral that is used for hemoglobin in your blood. Without iron, your body cannot create hemoglobin. And, without hemoglobin, your body cannot transport oxygen throughout the blood. Later in this post, we provide a table for micronutrients and their primary function(s).
For reference, you should drink half your body weight in ounces of fluid. For example, someone who weighs 120 lbs should drink 60 ounces of fluid, and someone who weights 160 lbs should drink 80 ounces of fluid.
Water is vital for life, and it makes up 60-70% of the human body. Some organs, such as your blood, are >75% water (blood plasma is >90% water, lungs are ~83%, and skeletal muscle and the kidneys are ~79%).
For more-detailed information about water and its effects on the human body, check out our hydration page.
By definition, nutrients are substances that provide nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life. Macronutrients are a subcategory of nutrients; they are categorized as “macro” because they are nutrients that provide energy via Calories.
The three primary macronutrients are fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Additionally, alcohol and ketones provide Calories. Each of these have a different quantity of Calories:
Fat is the most energy-dense of all macronutrients at 9 Calories per gram. Fat is the favored energy source for prolonged, low-intensity activity. Fat is also the foundation of cholesterol and, therefore, many hormones. Most notably, cholesterol makes sex hormones and cortisol.
Saturated fats are long carbon chains with zero double bonds. Chemically, the lack of double bonds means the chain has the maximum amount of hydrogen atoms possible (full hydrogen saturation).
Higher-than-recommended amounts have been correlated with increased blood cholesterol and greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Common sources of saturated fat include red meat, whole-fat dairy products, butter, ice cream, coconut oil, and palm oil.
Monounsaturated fats are long carbon chains with a single double bond which leads to their name. Chemically, the single double bond means the chain has two fewer hydrogen atoms than a saturated fat with the same number of carbon molecules.
Monounsaturated fats tend to be anti-inflammatory in nature and are useful to reduce cardiovascular risk. Common sources of monounsaturated fats include peanuts and peanut butter, tree nuts and their nut butters, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil
Polyunsaturated fats are long carbon chains with two or more double bonds. Chemically, the two or more double bonds means the chain has 4+ fewer hydrogen atoms than a saturated fat with the same number of carbon molecules.
Similar to the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats tend to be anti-inflammatory and may help reduce cardiovascular risk. More specifically, marine-sourced (e.g. fish) polyunsaturated fats tend to provide greater health benefits. Common sources of polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna.
Polyunsaturated fats from industrial seed oils (e.g. corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil) often contain higher amounts of the omega-6 fatty acids which tend to be more pro-inflammatory than the omega-3’s (e.g. fish and fish oils). This is especially true if your consumption of these omega-6 fatty acids exceeds omega-3 consumption. The general recommendation is to lean towards marine-sourced polyunsaturated fatty acids, as mentioned above.
Unlike the previous three fats, trans fats are synthetic; trans fat does not exist in nature. They are named based on the trans-configuration of the molecule (see the image blow for reference). According to the US Food & Drug Administration, there is no reference daily intake nor daily value.
It is our recommendation at Esports Healthcare for you to avoid trans fats in your diet. On the ingredient labels, trans fat must be listed. However, nutrition labels may read 0 g when trans fat still exists. Look for “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated” to identify the presence of trans fats.
Cholesterol is a category of molecules derived from fatty acids. It is an oily substance created by all cells in your body. Each cell makes cholesterol for its own use (e.g. cell membranes), and additional cholesterol is transported to the liver via lipoproteins (e.g. LDL and HDL).
Cholesterol is also the precursor to bile salts and steroid hormones. Generally speaking, your body will not absorb cholesterol from other sources such as egg yolks and meat products.
In blood screenings, cholesterol values are reported via their lipoproteins (carrier molecules) such as low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). A common misconception is that LDL is “bad” cholesterol and HDL is “good” cholesterol.
While it is true that an elevated LDL is associated with increased risk for heart disease, it is not appropriate to describe LDL as “bad” cholesterol. For more information about cholesterol molecules, check out Dr. Thomas Dayspring‘s conversations with Dr. Peter Attia on Dr. Attia’s The Drive Podcast.
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for working muscles. Each gram of carbohydrate is 4 Calories. Carbohydrates are the category of macronutrient that includes dietary fiber and sugar. An inappropriately high volume of carbohydrates (specifically, sugar) in your diet may lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type-2 diabetes.
Sugar is a subcategory of carbohydrate molecules with two of its own primary subcategories: monosaccharides and disaccharides. The hallmarks of sugar include the sweet taste, an elevation of blood sugar following consumption, and the often-significant insulin response that follows an increase in blood sugar (assuming the absence of diabetes or other metabolic ailment).
Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar and include glucose, fructose, and galactose.
As previously mentioned, monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar; this means they cannot be broken down into simpler molecules and are instead used in an energy process called glycolysis.
Disaccharides, as the name implies, are two monosaccharides joined together. These sugars include sucrose, lactose, and maltose. Each of the disaccharide molecules can be broken down into their individual monosaccharides—listed below.
Dietary fiber is another subcategory of carbohydrate molecules that also has two of its own subcategories: soluble fiber and non-soluble fiber. Dietary fiber supports bowel function by helping to regulate nutrient absorption and fluid balance within the bowel.
For example, sufficient quantities of dietary fiber will result in slower, less intense blood glucose spikes. And, in response, insulin spikes will also be slower and less intense. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are necessary for the full benefits described in each subcategory below!
Soluble fiber creates a gel-like substance that slows down gastric (stomach) emptying. Sufficient quantities of soluble fiber will make you feel fuller for longer periods of time. In addition, slower gastric emptying may improve nutrient absorption.
Soluble fiber can also bind to and therefore reduce intestinal reabsorption of cholesterol that has already been removed from blood circulation by the liver. Similarly, soluble fiber will also bind to sugar molecules—reducing their absorption and therefore reducing blood sugar spikes following ingestion of carbohydrates.
All fruits and vegetables have soluble fiber. Of these, some of the best sources of soluble fiber include beans, Brussels sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
Unlike its counterpart, insoluble fiber creates a rigid, lattice formation in the bowel. The insoluble nature of these molecules will increase fluid volume within the bowel to help regulate bowel movements.
Additionally, the gel-like substance formed by soluble fiber will fill in this lattice formation; the combined structure of the two fibers types is what allows for the binding to molecules such as cholesterol and sugar. Without both, the effects are significantly dampened.
Common sources of insoluble fiber include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower and potatoes.
Although categorized as a macronutrient due to the energy value—4 Calories per gram—protein generally should not be used as an energy source for your body. Instead, protein is more important for building body tissue, carrier proteins, and ligands.
Amino acids are smaller molecular structures that are the foundation of larger protein molecules. There are two subcategories of amino acids: essential and non-essential (described below). Essential amino acids must be obtained via your diet while non-essential amino acids can be formed within your body.
Chemically, amino acids are categorized by carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Specifically, each amino acid has both amine (–NH2) and carboxyl (–COOH) groups.
Protein is the least-favored source of energy due to the nitrogen. When broken down for energy, proteins (amino acids) will release their nitrogen molecules into the blood stream in the form of ammonia—a compound that is toxic to the blood in high volumes.
Fortunately, if you ingest appropriate amounts of fat and carbohydrates, protein will be spared, and any ammonia in your blood will be converted to urea and excreted in the urine.
There are nine essential amino acids that cannot be created in your body. Therefore, they need to be ingested. These amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. For summaries of the importance of each essential amino acid, read Their Roles in Your Body on Healthline.
Common sources of all nine essential amino acids (described as complete proteins) include animal-sourced protein: meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Plant based complete proteins include soy, quinoa, and buckwheat.
There are eleven non-essential amino acids that can be created in your body; therefore, you do not need to ingest each of these individually. These amino acids include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
Because your body can create these eleven amino acids, it is important to eat sufficient amounts of carbohydrates and protein, in general. Foods high in protein include most animal products: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant foods such as nuts, spinach, seeds, and tofu.
Alcohol (ethanol) is also considered a macronutrient because it provides Calories. However, there are no nutrients in alcohol. Thus, these Calories are often described as “empty calories.” For consistency with other macronutrients, alcohol is measured at 7 Calories per gram, although generally we do not measure beverages in grams.
For reference on the Calorie count for common alcoholic beverages, check out Medline’s reference page for Calories per serving.
Ketones are an additional form of macronutrient produced from fat and amino acids. A gram of ketones is equivalent to 4 Calories. The primary purpose of ketone production is to fuel the nervous system in times of starvation.
The nervous system—and most importantly, your brain—is only able to use glucose or ketones for energy. In the absence of sugar (namely, glucose), your body will produce ketones to fuel the nervous system.
For an individual whose body can create insulin (anyone without type-I diabetes), consuming a balanced diet including carbohydrates will eliminate the need for ketone production.
Ketone production is the hallmark of the ketogenic diet, whereby an individual will eat a low-carbohydrate diet (30 g or fewer) so their body will elect to burn fat as a primary source of energy. We will go into the details of the ketogenic diet and other daily eating habits in a future post.
For more information, check out Dr. Peter Attia’s post on ketosis and browse his website for additional posts and podcasts discussing ketones and ketosis.
Micronutrients are all the remaining nutrients that do not provide energy (Calories). The two subcategories of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Each of the micronutrients are important for supporting body system functioning.
Below is a list of vitamins and minerals including the FDA’s daily values, uses in the body, food sources, and additional notes, if any. There are four different measurements you’ll see on the daily values, defined below.
There are two subcategories of vitamins: fat soluble and water soluble. They are named based on their absorption and transport. Water soluble vitamins, on the other hand, dissolve in blood and travel freely.
Vitamins are considered fat soluble when they absorb and transport in the same fashion as fats. Similar to cholesterol (molecules from fat) transport, fat soluble vitamins cannot travel through the bloodstream without a carrier molecule.
Additionally, fat soluble vitamins store in the liver, adipose tissue, or in muscles. Due to their storage, it is possible to experience toxicity or overdose with any of these four vitamins.
Vitamins are considered water soluble when they are able to dissolve and transport freely through blood stream. Unlike fat soluble vitamins, the water soluble vitamins do not store in your body. Instead, the unused water soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine.
Due to the rapid excretion, it is unlikely to experience toxicity or overdose with any of these vitamins. However, toxicity is possible with significant doses, and larger-than recommended doses of some of these vitamins may cause unwanted and sometimes uncomfortable side-effects.
Minerals are natural, inorganic substances found in the earth’s soil. Below is a list of minerals, the FDA’s daily values, uses in the body, food sources, and additional notes, if any.
We’re also on Twitch! Give us a follow and catch up with our live streams discussing all topics in health & wellness both in and out of gaming.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Esports Healthcare disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
The information contained on this website does not establish, nor does it imply, doctor-patient relationship. Esports Healthcare does not offer this information for diagnostic purposes. A diagnosis must not be assumed based on the information provided.
© 2020 Esports Healthcare, LLC - All Rights Reserved
Esports Healthcare® is a registered trademark of Esports Healthcare, LLC