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How to eat a balanced meal

Nutrition:  Just the Basics

Not only does what you eat affect your overall health, your diet will help you achieve your goals – whether you’re aim is to build muscle or get lean.   Food provides you the nutrients you need and also fuels your workouts.  Before you take a dive into learning about nutrition for sports and exercise, it’s important to understand the basics.  Here are answers to your frequently asked questions:

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Why is nutrition important?

On a fundamental level, nutrients are the building blocks of the body because they allow the body to grow and to repair itself.  Healthful eating, which provides the nutrients your body needs, is essential to achieve peak performance in working out and in maintaining health.

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What are nutrients? 

There are six major classes of nutrients: water, carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Water:  The body is made of as much as 75% water.  Staying hydrated is essential for basic physiological actions inside the body, including digestion and absorption of the food and nutrients you consume.

Carbs:  Carbohydrates help provide energy—as calories—for fueling your workouts, and many carbohydrate-containing foods also provide fiber to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy.

Fat:  Fat provides energy and is essential for transportation and absorption of some vitamins in the body.  Stored fat helps protect organs and maintain body temperature.

Protein:  Protein provides energy and is involved with your immune system and with enzymes that drive chemical reactions in the body.

Vitamins and Minerals:  Without providing caloric energy, vitamins and minerals perform numerous roles, including keeping bones healthy, helping in fuel metabolism, serving as antioxidants that may help ward off chronic illnesses, and helping the blood clot properly.

Bottom line: the food you put into your body determines how healthy you will be and how you function during your workouts.  Furthermore, no amount of exercise will compensate for a poor diet.

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How much do I need?  

This is highly variable depending upon your unique nutritional needs.  General health status, activity levels, lifestyle, age, and biological sex are some of many determinants of optimal nutrition.  In general, a healthful diet comprises mostly unrefined, whole grain carbohydrates (e.g., oats, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa), lean proteins (i.e., chicken breast), unsaturated fats (i.e., vegetable oils and foods made with vegetable oils, and nut oils), and as many fruits and vegetables as desired.

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A Registered Dietitian or a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics can assess your unique needs and provide you with personalized guidance. 

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