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The Role of Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats

Balanced Meals, Every Time.
Uriia Underhill, B.Sc.

 There are four main ingredients needed to perfect the fuel of the human body. All of these four things are needed in order for a body to survive and flourish. Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, and Water, without these things the body would not be able to function. Each macronutrient is used for something different yet they all rely on others to keep the body in homeostasis. An athlete’s body would need an even more specific macronutrient breakdown to ensure that the athlete is replacing the calories used as well as replenishing low supplies of needed nutrients and vitamins. It seems beneficial for an athlete to follow a structured eating program in order to ensure that all energy, vitamins and nutrients requirements are met. The athlete is recommended to eat every two-three hours. One hour prior to intense physical activity and consuming a snack within thirty minutes after. The eating plan should incorporate at least 5-6 eating times a day.

             Protein is constantly being broken down to repair, and build new muscles and cells. When protein is broken down into amino acids it is called protein anabolism.  Amino Acids are important building blocks that structure the foundation of protein. Amino Acids are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Amino acids are mainly used in the formation of proteins needed within the body, however amino acids can also be used for energy if metabolized in the muscle and liver (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky, Chapter 5, 2011).  Protein helps hormones stay balanced and helps the body’s immune system. Proteins also play a hand in the formation of enzymes within the body. Protein also has the ability to help the body maintain a normal pH balance. During exercise lactic acid is produced, this lactic acid can fatigue muscles and hinder the athletic performance. It is encouraged that the protein quality be good and if the physical intensity and duration increase changes are your protein intake should increase as well. Protein utilization is related to duration and intensity of physical activity. If the activity goes over certain durations of time and glycogen stores are depleted, if the storage becomes too low the body must then utilize the protein and muscles available. Protein is not the bodies first go to for energy however will be used in place of as needed. If needed Amino Acids are slowly converted to glucose or ATP. Daily protein is needed to maximize protein synthesis needed for every day activities and physical activity. Good sources of protein include lean meats, beef, chicken, fish, and diary.

            Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the human body. Carbohydrates are also one of the fuels that increase an athlete’s performance. Carbohydrates are molecules formed of Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen. Carbohydrates are good for the body because they can be broken down into glucose and other simple sugars. Once broken down these sugars can be used as food, absorbed and used for energy. Blood glucose levels are affected by carbohydrates, which help regulate energy to all vital organs and brain. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down easily and are only made up of one to two sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates consist of longer chains of sugar and take more time for the body to breakdown. The body stores the carbohydrate as glycogen and can easily break it down into glucose for energy (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky, Chapter 3, 2011). Carbohydrates are used to provide energy as well as be able to metabolize fats in a short amount of time if needed. The need of carbohydrates increases with the duration and intensity of training present that day. Good sources of carbohydrates include fresh fruits and vegetables of nearly all varieties.
            Fats are important to the healthy functioning of the human body. Fats provide energy during rest and during light to moderate activities. Fats are beneficial because they provide fatty acids needed to have normal functioning of the body. Fats can help add flavor to food as well as provide fuel for high activity athletes. Fats are molecules belonging to compounds of lipids. Lipids are carbon-containing structures that are water-soluble and fat-soluble. Fats are different in the aspect that if the body over consumes either protein or carbohydrates it will be stored as fat. This fat will be stored in the adipose tissue until it is needed for energy. Fats are responsible for carrying vitamins A, D, E, and K within the bloodstream. The average athlete consumes nearly 35% of his daily calories from fats. Good sources of fats are walnuts, fish, flaxseed, olive oil, and coconut oil.

            Each one of the three macronutrients is required at every meal to ensure that the body receives a perfect portion of vitamins and nutrients. It is important that any body to intake healthy amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. It is even more important for an athlete to know the specifics in which their body needs to run to the best of its ability. In doing so it helps prevent ailments and diseases of the body. An athlete’s body must be able to train and withstand hardships of their sport. If the athlete is not ingesting enough nutrients and vitamins the body will not perform the way it should. If Carbohydrate consumption is low energy will not be present, if the body has no energy and no stores it will attack the muscle. Without muscular strength and endurance the athlete will not be able to preform. With out the specific science of food (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) no body will be able to perform or for that matter survive.


Fink, H., Burgoon, L., Mikesky, A., (2011) Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition, (2nd edition, Chapter 5), Protein, Jones & Bartlett

Fink, H., Burgoon, L., Mikesky, A., (2011) Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition, (2nd Edition Chapter 3), Carbohydrates, Jones & Bartlett

Fink, H., Burgoon, L., Mikesky, A., (2011) Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition, (2nd Edition Chapter 4), Fats, Jones & Bartlett

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