When it comes to nutrition, so much talk is about macronutrients. Many of you probably know your “macros”, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, but what about micronutrients? Micronutrients are only needed by the body in small amounts, however, that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, they are essential for proper growth and development.
Vitamins are vital for normal physiological function. They must be consumed in the diet with the exception of Vitamin D (produced with sun exposure), Vitamin K, and biotin (produced by intestinal flora).
There are water soluble vitamins, Vitamins B and C, and fat soluble vitamins, Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water soluble vitamins, excluding Vitamin B6 and B12, cannot be stored in the body and are excreted in urine therefore making regular intake necessary. Risk of toxicity from these vitamins is much lower. Many B vitamins, specifically Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Pantothenic Acid, are needed for energy metabolism. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, improves iron absorption, and aids with collagen and hormone production.
Fat soluble vitamins are found in fat containing foods. They are stored in the liver adipose tissue until needed which decreases the risk of deficiency but increases the risk of toxicity.
Vitamin A- Important for vision, growth and development, and reproduction.
Vitamin D- Important for calcium and phosphorus absorption. Low intake associated with osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
Vitamin E- Important for cell metabolism and may help protect us from the effects of oxidative stress. Can be found in plant oils, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin K- Important for blood clotting and strong bones. Found in green leafy vegetables.
Minerals can be found in the body as well as in food. There are macrominerals, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, and potassium, and microminerals, iron, iodine, selenium, and zinc. Before considering supplementation, a doctor should be consulted to make sure it will not interfere with other nutrient processes.
Calcium- Important for structure of bones and teeth, muscle contraction, and blood coagulation. Food sources include dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and some fish.
Phosphorus- Important role in bone development and macronutrient utilization. Found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, grains.
Potassium- Important for fluid balance and cardiac muscle, nervous system, and kidney function. Found in lean meat, vegetables, and fruit.
Iron- Critical for oxygen transfer to cells (hemoglobin in blood and myoglobin in muscle) and increases resistance to stress and disease. Found in meats, poultry, fish, egg yolk, and legumes.
Zinc- Important for digestion, metabolism, reproductive development, and healing. Found in lean meats, liver, eggs, seafood, whole grains.
Magnesium- Aids in energy metabolism specifically carbohydrate and fat metabolism, protein synthesis, water balance, muscle contractions.
Balance between ALL nutrients is important for performance and optimal health. Macronutrients may provide us with energy, however, the conversion of that energy as well as other crucial bodily functions would not be possible without micronutrients. Eating a variety of nutrient dense foods, limiting empty calories, consuming smaller more frequent meals, and drinking lots of water are fundamental for maintaining a well-balanced diet.
Bryant, C. X., Green, D. J., & Merrill, S. (Eds.). (2013). Basic Nutrition and Digestion. ACE health coach manual: the ultimate guide to wellness, fitness, and lifestyle change (pp. 138-150). San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise.
Bushman, B. A., Battista, R., Swan, P., Ransdell, L., & Thompson, W. R. (Eds.) (2014). American College of Sports Medicine: resources for the personal trainer [Table 6.12] Adapted from Sports Nutrition for Health and Performance.