Nutrition 101

Nutrition 101

Posted by Anthony Lawrence on

For our first blog post we wanted to give you a basic overview of THE number one thing that determines our long term health, training efficiency, performance and our recovery; OUR DIET! 

In this article we will cover the very basics of nutrition and hopefully give you bits of take away information you can use to formulate your own ideal individual diet and expand your own knowledge on food as a whole. 

In this written format I hope to supply you with a reference tool for you to go back too, as well as to be able to share with family, friends and other gym/health/fitness enthusiasts that might be struggling to grasp these basic concepts. 

First a little history about me; 

When I was younger I was an overweight child and had no idea about food , I had know clue about its function in the body  and had very little guidance about how to actually eat for long term health.

As you can imagine this carried over into my early teenage years and when I hit high school (and puberty), I realised really quickly that I had to change my growing obesity issue. I was so confused and didn't know where to start. 

It was upon investigation and conversations with one of my favourite PE teachers, Mr White that I began my weight training journey and my interest in dietetics.

I started a training regime in year 8 with a very basic knowledge of food from Mr White and an eagerness to change my physique, all the while learning and picking up everything I could along the way. I just started, pushups every morning and runs or BMX in the afternoon. 

I took every tip and trick along the way to try and change my exterior as fast as possible. I read books, muscle magazines and chatted to everyone and anyone who had bigger muscles than I did in attempt to gaining the secrets. 

Some of these shortcuts and tips were good; but for every one good tip I found there were many more bad, unhealthy, uneducated, confusing and sometimes outright wrong pieces of information that did nothing but waste my time. 

From year 8 to year 9 I changed my body fat levels substantially. From Year 10 to 11 I changed even more, this time building muscle; so much so that even the girls began to notice.

By year 12, I was being told by the Deputy Principle that I wasn't allowed to wear singlets while playing sport because muscles made our students look unapproachable and it was a bad look for our school. At the time I thought that was cool (I kind of still do), but what was cooler than that was that I had succeeded at the goal. I changed my body fat problem! 

It was between Years 10 to 11 that I actually began to develop and apply basic food principles that I had learned from varying places. This is when I first realised that the old saying was true, "You are what you eat!"

Quite literally the food we eat becomes us. It nourishes our cells and builds new tissues. It is here that we take a look at food and what it breaks down into and what its basic functions are; I do want to point out that I will try to keep things as less confusing as possible as this article is our attempt to make things easier not harder. 


As stated earlier, food is the magic that becomes matter. Our body breaks food items into smaller parts, it does this via our digestive system. The digestive system alongside a complex network of the bodies organs, hormones, enzymes and chemical reactions. 

Some of the organs in the digestive system are hollow (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus)  some of these organs are solid (liver, pancreas, and gallbladder). 

Generally the hollow organs function is to allow the food matter to pass through the varying stages of the food items breaking down process. Along this journey the body has a large number of reactions and processes that occur to deal with different foods and their content. 

The solid organs function in the digestive system are used to create hormones and chemicals within the body to aid the breaking down and processing of food. The production and creation of these chemicals and hormones are present and different along the entire digestive journey of all food items. 

The complexity of these processes are a little too advanced for this article and not necessary to explain at this point, however it is necessary that we understand that these processes do occur so that we understand the overview of how the entire system works. SO FOR NOW LET US MOVE ON. 

Most of us understand the idea of the basics of food content, at a minimum most of us a familiar with terms like Protein, Carbohydrate or Fat. 

These terms indicate nutrient types known as MACRO NUTRIENTS.

MACRO = LARGE   (Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat, Fibre)

MICRO = SMALL (Vitamins and Minerals)

This larger nutrients needed in larger quantities and the smaller nutrients are needed in smaller quantities.  Both are needed in the diet to have optimal health and performance. Both are important!

As stated above, the macronutrients are the larger nutrients. They are also familiar to most people. Micro nutrients are very complex in their functions so we will leave those for further exploration at a different time. For now we will stick with explaining the larger nutrients, Macronutrients! 

Keep in mind for the body to use these large nutrients it needs to break it down into smaller parts. This is where our body utilises the aforementioned organs, hormones, chemicals and enzymes to ensure this process happens efficiently. 

The following is a basic rundown of what the major roles of the macronutrients are and what they are used for:

PROTEIN: The linguistic origins of protein are from the Greek proteios, meaning “first place” or “primary” this is fitting for a substance that is one of life's chief components. Protein is broken down into the building blocks of all tissues. Without it, our body could not rebuild itself. 

Our body is in a continual process of breaking down unhealthy cells and replacing them with healthy cells. Protein is broken down into Amino Acids. These amino acids are the things that form new tissues. 

In addition to providing your body with a structural framework, proteins also maintain proper pH and fluid balance. It does this by maintaining tissues used to transfer fluids and nutrients throughout the entire body.

The average person requires 0.8- 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.

For highly active or athletic people. protein is needed in higher values as cells are broken much faster than the average person. These people require between 2-3g of protein per kg per day. 

Protein has an energy value of 4 calories per gram. 

CARBOHYDRATES: Carbohydrates are vital at every stage of life. They're the body's primary source of energy and the brain's preferred energy source. If anyone has ever been a low carb diet they will understand this thoroughly. 

Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose is used as fuel by your body's cells, tissues, and organs. 

Glucose in the blood is taken up into your body's cells and used to produce a fuel molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through a series of complex processes. This molecule is necessary for our muscles to contract. This is not limited to skeletal muscle.

Sport supplements fans will know the importance of Creatine supplementation to maximise ATP production to enhance performance and strength. Glucose metabolism is used to produce our bodies on ATP.

Glucose is also the essential metabolic fuel for the brain. Acute and severe reduction of brain glucose leads quickly to impairment of cognitive and reflex function, autonomic failure, seizures, loss of consciousness, and permanent and irreversible brain damage and, if not rapidly corrected, can also be lethal.

Carbohydrates are varying in their complexity. Simple sugar is described as such because it breaks down much easier. Complex carbohydrates; as you can imagine, need more work and processes to occur within the body to break them down. This is largely due to things like fibre and pectins in the food item. 

Carbohydrates are fuel for our bodies cells, so active individuals would benefit from keeping this in mind when trying to perform at optimal levels. More sedentary people may opt to a lower carbohydrate approach. 

It is recommended to keep faster digesting carbohydrates around exercise times and lower, slower digesting carbohydrates throughout the day to better control blood sugar levels. This prevents cravings and drops in energy throughout the day. 

Like Protein, Carbohydrates have an energy value of 4 calories per gram.

FATS: Fats have a broad range of functions in the body. 
Dietary fats are essential to give our body energy and to support cell function. They also help protect your organs and help lubricate joints.

Fats help our body absorb micronutrients (Vitamin A, D, E and K) and produce important hormones. These functions are often vital for optimal health, fats being an indispensable nutrient in their function. 

It is recommended that we get 30% of our total calories from fat to optimise our hormonal health as well as cellular health. 

Fatty Acids are categorised into four different types; saturated, unsaturated, poly unsaturated and trans-fat

The difference between dietary fats lies in their chemical structure. All fats are made up of a chain of carbon atoms that are bonded to hydrogen atoms.

In saturated fats, the carbon atoms are totally covered, or "saturated," with hydrogen atoms. This makes them solid at room temperature.

In unsaturated fats, fewer hydrogen atoms are bound to carbon atoms. These fats are liquid at room temperature.

In Trans fats, these occur both naturally in foods and can be formed or added to foods during manufacture. These are typically unsaturated fats. Manufactured Trans fats are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated or ‘hardened’ during processing to create spreads such as margarine, cooking fats for deep-frying and shortening for baking. Some Trans fats are also formed during high temperature cooking.

These are the fats that are considered the worst for our health as they impact our cholesterol negatively, increasing chances of heart disease and blood pressure. 

Fats break down into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride.

Triglycerides are also made in our bodies from excess the carbohydrates that we eat, these can then store as body fat if it unused. This is most common with simple sugar and alcohol. 

Fats are the most energy dense macronutrient.
Fat has an energy value of 9 calories per gram. 

Fat being so calorie dense is why they use to get a bad wrap for making people fat, however we now know this is not true. We must remember that fat is essential for our bodies and it needs to be present and controlled. It is too much overall CALORIES that makes us fat, not fat itself!

Cholesterol: Fatty acids can have a direct effect on cholesterol, as can excess sugar. 

Cholesterol being a fat covered in protein particles, this is called Lipoprotein. this lipoprotein comes in two types Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and h
High Density Lipoprotein. 

Cholesterol is really important for hormone manufacture and production, however over production, or excess intake rather of LDL can lead to risks in heart disease. 

Unsaturated fats/ Polyunsaturated fats will encourage a better HDL cholesterol balance. This is thought to be the better form of Cholesterol however we tend to lean towards getting all forms of fat in moderate amounts. 

Saturated Fats and Trans Fats will encourage higher LDL, this type of cholesterol tends to stick to artery walls and in turn increase blood pressure and pressure on the heart as it is harder by the body to get rid of via our digestive system. 

NOTE: Excess sugar can encourage high triglyceride levels which will also have an impact on Cholesterol. Its recommended to moderate both sugar and saturated fat intake to keep optimal cholesterol levels.  


An electrolyte is a salt or mineral substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are essential for a number of functions in the body but its primary function is hydrating all of the bodies cells. 

The most commonly known electrolyte is Sodium, mainly because its added to all electrolyte drinks (Gatorade being the most well known), however to get proper hydration we need all electrolytes to some degree.

These electrolytes are Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Calcium, Chloride, Bicarbonate and Phosphate. 

Water will contain very small amounts of these trace minerals, but will do very little for optimal hydration. 

Everyone needs electrolytes to survive. Many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, electrolytes provide this charge.

Electrolytes interact with each other and the cells in the tissues, nerves, and muscles. A balance of different electrolytes is crucial for the body to function optimally, this carries over to sport as well as everyday life. 

ENERGY: As stated earlier, energy comes via the foods we eat. It does this by breaking them down into smaller particles. This energy is measured most commonly in the way of CALORIES. We gave you the Macronutrients earlier in the article and stated each of their calorie  (ENERGY) values.

We also stated that Carbohydrates is the body's primary and prefered fuel source. This however does not mean that the body cannot break the other Macronutrients in fuel in instances of low carbohydrate levels. 

Fat conversion into fuel is described as, Ketogenesis aka KETO.
Protein converting to sugar is a process known as Gluconeogenesis.

When looking at energy we need to be mindful that food items will contain more than one macronutrient and as such contain calories from multiple different macronutrients.

Calculating ENERGY needs.

It is important that we understand that your energy requirements is determined by your daily activity levels, weight, body composition (Muscle/Fat).

We can easily figure out our basic needs by using the following steps:


1. Weight in kg multiplied by 2.2 = 154
2. Multiplied by = 154 x10 = 1540 calories

The following steps are used to evaluate your energy output. 

3. Divide above value by 100 = 15.4
4. Multiply by your estimated daily activity percentage (50%) 15.4 x 50 = 770
5. Add these values together to get your total daily requirements. 

70kg (50% energy requirements) = 2310 calories

With a person's goal in mind, we can use this basic guideline value as a starting point. All individuals are encouraged to monitor their food intake to some degree. Our intake will largely change based on our daily activity and circumstances, so knowing how to adjust things is a skill we aren't taught in our traditional school systems. 

Whilst we shouldn't be overly obsessed with these values, we should at least have the knowledge of how to calculate these values if we choose too.

We should also understand that there are multiple approaches to achieving a desired goal, some of them not so good for us. Nutrition is the number one pathway and optimising our health and our athletic goals and endeavours, we should aim to overlap these to concepts for a better long term approach. 

In this blog : 

We went through the very basics of nutrition, we hope that you can use this article to better help yourself and other people grasp the basic overview of food our body and what it contains. We hope that you will use it as a reference tool to build upon in your journey.

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