As I continue studying to become a Group Fitness Instructor, I am becoming increasingly aware that the world of fitness and nutrition are indelibly connected. In recognizing this reality, I am attempting to learn as much about nutrition as I possibly can so that I will be able to provide my future clients with the information they will need to get a great workout and have energy throughout the day. In studying nutrition, I have come to understand that one of the foundational concepts that future fitness instructors such as myself need to be aware of are the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Here is a brief overview of each macronutrient.
As many health and fitness experts know, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. Each carbohydrate is comprised of a chain of sugar molecules and contains 4 calories per gram. The dietary sources of carbohydrates include sugars, grains, potatoes, rice, and beans. In order to do its job of providing our bodies with energy, carbohydrates are stored as glycogen within our muscles and liver before being transported in our blood as glucose. While this glycogen storage can be beneficial when individuals need a rapid source of energy, glycogen is large and bulky, a factor which makes it unsuitable for long-term energy storage. If an individual chooses to consume more carbohydrates than her or his body can store or use, the body will then convert the sugar into fat for long-term storage (160).
Although broadly defined, a protein is basically a compound comprised of 20 amino acids. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories. In addition to being the major structural component of all our body tissue, proteins serve numerous functions in the human body. Some of them include formation of the nervous system, brain, muscle, blood, skin, and hair. Additionally, protein is the transport mechanism for iron, minerals, vitamins, oxygen, and fats. It also plays a role in maintaining our fluid balance and acid-base. Proteins also form enzymes that speed up chemical reactions. The antibodies that enable our bodies to fight infection are also made by proteins (160).
As the most energy-dense of all the macronutrients, fat contains 9 calories per gram. This is 2.25 more calories than those provided by protein and carbohydrates. Fats have many functions in the human body, and some of them include vitamin absorption, nerve transmission, insulation, and hormone production. Fats that are not utilized immediately are stored in the body as triglycerides (161). There are several types of fat, including unsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. Unsaturated fatty acids are fatty acids that contain one or more double bonds between their carbon atoms. Monounsaturated fats are a type of unsaturated fat that has one open spot on the fatty acid for the addition of a hydrogen atom such as the oleic acid in olive oil (282).
If you are preparing to be a fitness instructor or trainer, you should recognize the role that nutrition plays in affecting the chemical and physiological processes of the human body. These processes play a profound role in the level of fitness an individual attains and should thus be studied carefully. By understanding basic nutrition concepts such as those I’ve listed above, you will be on your way to gaining the nutritional expertise necessary to be of great benefit to your clients. Good luck! :)
Bryant, Cedric X. and Daniel J. Green. ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science For Fitness Professionals. San Diego: American Council on Exercise, 2012.