If you are already conscious about your health and performance, or looking to start, you have probably been told to improve your diet.
When I first started my own health and fitness journey, I assumed that meant cutting out fast food & sugary drinks, and to start eating more chicken breasts with some veggies.
This caused me to cut back on calories from all the junk I had been consuming, while drinking more water ... which is not a bad place to start!
Now that definitely isn’t wrong, in fact those are some really good starting tips. But one thing I want to stress the importance of is that this isn’t just about consuming the right amount of calories or “MACROnutrients”.
A commonly overlooked aspect of being healthier is the proper intake of “MICROnutrients." These are a game changer when it comes to being healthier, performing better, losing fat, and even gaining muscle.
Lacking on micros or macros will leave you deficient on what your body needs to operate properly, which can cause your results to slow down ... whether it is losing body fat, building muscle, or just being healthier overall.
So simply put, both play vital roles in our overall health and understanding those roles can be a key in improving your health AND results.
Difference Between Micronutrients and Macronutrients
Vitamins, minerals and other trace elements are all called micronutrients ... whereas carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are called macronutrients.
Micro- means small, whereas macro- means big.
Vitamins, minerals, and trace elements are considered to be micronutrients, because they are needed by the body in small amounts (milligram amounts and sometimes microgram amounts).
What is a milligram?
Well, one milligram is 1/1000 of a gram and one microgram is 1/1,000,000 of a gram … that’s really small.
In contrast, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are needed by the body in gram amounts, and for this reason are called macronutrients, because they are needed by the body in much larger amounts.
For example, a chicken breast that is 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards, is 84 grams.
Micronutrients are like the foundation of a house. Whereas the macronutrients are the rest of the house (walls, ceilings, etc.)
Without a good foundation, your house will not be as strong and will not last as long.
Which One is More Important?
Both micro and macro nutrients are important and essential to our results and health.
They are essential because our body doesn’t produce them, which creates a gap that must be filled by food or supplementation.
So, if you break down muscle in the gym, your body needs protein, which is a macronutrient to repair it.
But when you work out, you also deplete vitamins and minerals, so that means there is a need for those micronutrients you depleted.
Really, neither one is more important than the other. In fact, let me explain how they complement each other and are both necessary.
Energy Producing vs. Non-Energy Producing Nutrients
A common way in which these nutrients are classified is ‘energy-producing’ and ‘non-energy producing’ nutrients.
Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are energy-producing nutrients because their breakdown results in energy being produced inside our body's cells.
Vitamins, minerals and other trace elements are non-energy producing nutrients, because their breakdown does not result in energy production.
Now, if vitamins and minerals don’t provide energy, why are they so important?
Without energy how can your body burn fat, build muscle, etc.?
That is where understanding that if we consume the right amount of these micronutrients, we will allow our body to produce more energy. Which in turn, will increase our ability to see more progress, no matter what the goal is.
Also, many vitamins and minerals are needed for healthy bones, immune function, metabolism, hormone production, and protecting cells from other forms of damage.
Difference Between Water-Soluble and Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Water-soluble and fat-soluble are the two general classifications of vitamins that exist based on what medium is needed for them to be absorbed into the body.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve readily in water.
Considering your body is close to 70% water, they usually don’t have a problem being dissolved and absorbed.
Because of this, they are also excreted daily in our urine.
For this reason, they aren’t stored in our bodies and we need to consume them in our diets on a regular basis.
All of the B vitamins (aka, B-complex), which includes thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, folic acid and cyanocobalamin (B12) and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are water-soluble vitamins.
Below are brief bullet points on each item.
- Primary Function: Carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism
- Food Sources: Pork, fortified grains, cereals, legumes
- Primary Function: Aerobic metabolism (cardio-type activity or exercise)
- Food Sources: Milk, almonds, eggs, bread, fortified cereals
- Primary Function: Aerobic metabolism (cardio-type activity or exercise)
- Food Sources: Meats, fish, legumes, peanuts, some cereals
- Primary Function: Metabolism or breakdown of fatty acids, amino acids, and carbohydrates
- Food Sources: Egg yolks, mushrooms, peanuts, yogurt, broccoli, sunflower seeds
- Primary Function: Glucose (sugar) production inside your body
- Food Sources: Meats, whole-grains, vegetables, nuts
- Primary Function: Fats and glucose production; Breakdown of leucine (a key essential amino acid)
- Food Sources: Egg yolk, soybeans, cereals, legumes, nuts
- Primary Function: Oxygen transport, genetic material production
- Food Sources: Fresh green vegetables, strawberries, liver
- Primary Function: Formation of key molecules that transport oxygen to our cells
- Food Sources: Shellfish, dairy products
In addition to the B-vitamins, vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin C is quite popular for its ability to help prevent illness and its function as an antioxidant.
Also, vitamin C assists with collagen (connective tissue) formation and iron absorption.
Short-term decreases of this vitamin do not influence performance, but long-term deficiency negatively impacts performance (REF).
Results associated with supplementation to improve performance has been mixed with some studies showing positive effects (REF) and some studies showing no positive effects (REF).
- Primary Function: Antioxidant (protecting cells) and immune health
- Food Sources: Citrus fruits, green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, berries, potatoes
The other primary class of vitamins is the fat-soluble vitamins or those that are only soluble when consumed with fat.
These vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K.
Due to their solubility, fat-soluble vitamins are readily broken down and stored by the body.
Because of this, if they are consumed in excessive amounts on a regular basis, the chance of toxic levels being reached is much greater than with water-soluble vitamins.
All four of them play key roles in our optimal health:
- Primary Function: Vision, immune function, cell growth and repair
- Food Sources: Broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, eggs, cantaloupe, pumpkin
- Primary Function: Bone function and health, optimal absorption of calcium
- Food Sources: Fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk and cereals, sunlight
- Primary Function: Cell function
- Food Sources: Vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, nuts, cereal grains
- Primary Function: Blood clotting
- Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, cereal, organ meats, dairy products, eggs
In summary, vitamins are critically important for optimal health, and that’s the case for everyone.
If you are exercising regularly and stressing your body in this manner (or any manner) you want to make sure you are getting enough for better overall health and results.
For those of you that are dieting, restricting your calories, trying to make weight, etc. and exercise a good bit, it becomes even more important to get enough vitamins.
The more you "use" your body and the more active you are, the more macro and micronutrients your body will need for proper function and repair.
Even for someone who is trying to put on weight or gain lean muscle, proper micronutrient intake can play a huge role.
Everyone is concerned about having enough fuel (carbs, fat, protein, etc.), but if you don't have enough vitamins you will be short-changing your results.
We must have optimal amounts of micronutrients for our body to run properly each and every day.
To do this, it's important to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and quality protein sources. This will get you started on the right path.
If you're struggling with that, supplementing with a high-quality multi-vitamin, like Micro Factor, can be extremely helpful in meeting your body's micronutrient needs.
Micro Factor can help fill the gaps that are most commonly found in a person's diet. A few factors play a role in this, such as a lack of variety, lower quality, and total volume of nutrient-dense foods.
Many of us eat the same things each day, so there is little diversity. Plus, the foods that are rich in micronutrients are typically not the bulk of our plan. These factors will leave gaps, and filling these gaps can help with overall metabolism, energy levels, immune function, and hormone production!
Set yourself up for success by starting at the foundational level to make sure your body has what it needs for optimal health AND results!
If you have any questions on which multivitamin product can benefit you the most, reach out to our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Fitness Nutrition Specialists. They will get you set up with the right plan for you and your goals ... and help make sure you get the best results possible!
- Antonio J, Kalman D, Stout J, Greenwood M, Willoughby D, and Haff G, eds. Essentials of sports nutrition and supplements. 2008, Humana Press: New York, NY.
- Greenwood M, Kalman D, and Antonio J, eds. Nutritional supplements in sports and exercise. 2008, Humana Press: Totawa, NJ USA.