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Your nutritional needs will vary depending upon your health and fitness goals. If your aim is to lose body fat and body weight, you need to become familiar with the variables that affect weight loss and body fat loss. Above all, you should realize that it 's more important to lose body fat than to lose overall body weight. Losing body fat reduces your risk for coronary artery disease, while losing overall body weight doesn 't neccessarily reduce this risk. In other words, you shouldn 't just cut your calorie intake. Instead you should reduce your intake of fatty foods and increase your physical activity level.


Essential Nutrients

There are six essential nutrients that you need on a daily basis.

Water
Vitamins
Minerals
Carbohydrates
Fats
Proteins



Water

Water is the most essential nutrient the body needs. Forty to sixty percent of your body weight is water. Muscle composition is approximately 70% water. When you exercise, your body loses water through perspiration (dehydration). It is important that you continuously drink water while you are exercising and throughout the day. Eight to ten glasses (8 fluid ounces) of water are recommended throughout the day for the average person. Your individual level of water intake relates specifically to your body weight, height and activity levels. Consult a registered dietitian for specific details about your own personal consumption.



Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential to your daily diet and are found in the natural foods that we consume in our daily diet (fruits, vegetables, meats and whole grains).

Vitamins are organic compounds (natural and contain carbon) which provide energy to the body and are needed in small amounts to assist with chemical reaction within the cells. Vitamins come in two forms; fat soluble and water soluble.

-Fat Soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K) are stored in the adipose tissue (fat tissue) and can build up high levels of toxins in the body if they are not utilized. -Water Soluble Vitamins (B, C) are excreted if your daily amount of intake is too great and can be toxic in the body if they are not utilized.

Minerals are inorganic substances (unnatural and man made) and they regulate processes within the body. Minerals are incorporated into different structures within the body to create enzymes, hormones, skeletal bones, skeletal tissues, teeth and fluids. Calcium and phosphorus are the two most common minerals found in the body. Some of the other prevalent minerals found in the body are; iron, zinc, sodium, potassium, magnesium, fluoride, sulfur, copper, and chloride.

If mineral levels are overabundant in the body, such as sodium, they may facilitate negative effects in the body. High sodium levels may elevate blood pressure. If mineral levels are inadequate in the body, such as iron, they may facilitate negative effects in the body. Low iron levels in women can produce anemia (a deficiency in blood iron levels). Anemia can restrict oxygen and carbon dioxide removal from the cells. Low calcium levels can facilitate irregular muscle contractions, bone density loss, blood clotting and improper brain functioning.

For further in-depth information about vitamins and minerals, consult a registered dietitian or your physician.



Calories

A calorie, or kilocalorie (Kcal), is a measure of heat energy. Food calories are nutrients and supply energy to the body. It is essential that you take in the recommended amount of calories per day. The caloric intake level that 's appropriate for you depends on a number of factors, including your height, weight, and gender. If you want to determine a specific figure that is, approximately how many calories you should consume in a day again, consult a registered dietitian.

There are three types of calories:

-Carbohydrates
-Fats
-Protein
 

The American Heart Association and RDA recommends a daily total food diet that consists of the following caloric breakdown:

-50% carbohydrate
-30% fat
-20% protein
 

For individuals who are exercising on a consistent basis, it is recommend that a daily total food diet consist of the following caloric breakdown:

-65% carbohydrate
-10% fat
-25% protein (1.5 gram per pound of body weight)
 

This caloric breakdown is based upon a higher carbohydrate storage (glycogen storage) that enhances muscular strength, muscular endurance, and athletic performance. The higher level of carbohydrate (65 percent) supplies a greater level of energy to the muscular system. The lower fat level (10 percent) decreases your risk for coronary artery disease. The protein level (25 percent) is increased to offset the nitrogen expenditure from the body during intense exercise activity and to increase the amount of amino acids supplied to the body which help build muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle cell size).



Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are converted into sugars. Your level of carbohydrate intake will depend upon your desired health and fitness goals. Carbohydrates come in two forms:

1. Simple sugars

Simple sugars are used almost immediately during exercise. Examples of simple sugars are processed sugar and fruit sugar. Consuming simple sugars alone will not help during endurance exercise.

2. Complex sugars

Complex sugars, also called complex carbohydrates, supply energy to the muscles during exercise. Muscles store large amounts of glucose or glycogen that supply energy to the muscles during prolonged exercise. Complex carbohydrates fuel the body during prolonged exercise. Examples of complex sugars are breads, cereals, grains, pasta, rice, fiber, potatoes, vegetables and fruits.



Fats

A fat is another term for lipid. High fat intake can lead to obesity, heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. The lower your level of fat intake, the lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease.

However, fat has positive attributes, too. The body must maintain a certain level of body fat to insulate its inner systems, and to help process vitamins and minerals. Like carbohydrates, fat also fuels the body during exercise. Your level of fat intake should depend upon your health and fitness goals.

Examples of foods that are high in fat are cheese, nuts, avocados, cooking oils, and ice cream. It 's a good idea to restrict your consumption of these types of foods. There are three types of fat:

1. Saturated fat

Saturated fat intake is the most detrimental to the body. Saturated fat has the highest number of fatty acids. It can cause clogged arteries, decreased blood flow transfer, heart attacks, strokes, and other coronary diseases.

2. Polyunsaturated fat

Polyunsaturated fat has fewer fatty acid molecules than saturated fat, and is therefore better for you than saturated fat. You should have a higher intake of polyunsaturated fat than saturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat is still detrimental to coronary arteries and increases your risk for coronary artery disease.

3. Monounsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fat has even fewer fatty acid molecules than polyunsaturated fat, and for this reason is the best of all three fats. You should have a higher intake of monounsaturated fat than the other two fats. Monounsaturated fat is still detrimental to coronary arteries.



Protein

A protein is composed of amino acids, which help to build muscle mass. The higher your level of muscle mass, the more efficient your basal metabolic rate. An efficient basal metabolic rate, in turn, increases fat and calorie expenditure at a resting state. Your level of protein intake depends upon your desired health and fitness goals; consult with a dietitian to determine your specific protein requirements.

Some foods that are high in protein include egg whites, chicken (white meat), lean beef (red meat), beans, and skim milk.