When it comes to talking about food and diet in fitness circles, one of the terms you keep hearing about is macronutrients. The less discussed counterpart, micronutrients, is the topic for today.
Micronutrients are often ignored in the fitness industry, but they are essential for optimal body function and the achievement of your fitness goals – namely the purpose of body composition.
So if you want to improve your game, expand your knowledge, and improve your health, you need to start with micronutrients.
The difference between macro and micronutrients
Starting with the basics, the difference between macro and micronutrients is in the name – large and small nutrients. This does not refer to their physical size, but to the amount required in a healthy diet to perform bodily functions.
Macronutrients include the three staple foods that make up the majority of your calories::
Within the three macronutrients, you have micronutrients.
Micronutrients refer to the vitamins and minerals that are consumed in smaller amounts and are mostly found in the larger macronutrient group.
For example, avocados are also a fat within the macronutrient group and contain the following micronutrients:
However, some micronutrients are not found in macronutrients.
For example, vitamin D is produced directly from sunlight. When the UVB rays hit the cholesterol in the skin cells, vitamin D synthesis takes place.
In general, however, micronutrients are mainly contained in the three main macronutrients in food.
Daily body functions require a number of different vitamins, each with a unique role and function.
There are 13 essential vitamins, which means they are essential for your body to work optimally. Without them, adverse side effects can occur, ranging from dry hair, acne, increased fat storage, and less favorable side effects.
Vitamins are divided into two main categories::
- Fat soluble
- Water soluble
There are four fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.
When consumed with fat, they are easily absorbed as they are stored in adipose tissue.
Water-soluble vitamins are the remaining nine vitamins that are not stored in the body. This underscores the need for a healthy, vitamin-rich diet for maximum function and performance.
Some of the functions of vitamins include:
The role of minerals
Minerals also help your body function.
Some examples of minerals are calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Minerals play an essential role in bone health, growth, the regulation of body fluids, heart health, the transmission of nerve impulses and are precursors to many hormones.
As shown in a 2014 study, for example, the mineral iodine is found in the thyroid hormone, which plays a role in metabolism.
Eat the rainbow
As mentioned briefly, we mainly find micronutrients in carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Any whole food that is not processed is likely to contain several different vitamins and minerals. Often times, these micronutrients cause the food to have a specific color known as phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are found in plant-based foods and correlate with certain vitamins and minerals. That is why it is often recommended to eat the rainbow, with each color offering a unique density of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some example sources of micronutrients::
calcium:: Milk, yogurt, spinach, kale, sardines
Vitamin B12:: Beef, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs
potassium:: Bananas, spinach, potatoes
Vitamin C: oranges, lemons, strawberries, broccoli
Vitamin E: vegetable oils such as sunflower, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli
Vitamin K: kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, fish, beef
As you can see, whole foods and plant-based foods are high in micronutrients. If you are wondering if you are lacking micronutrients, the best advice is a whole plant-based diet that contains foods of different colors processed the least.
This is paramount when your body composition goal is.
Lose body fat and gain muscle mass
Body recomposition is a term used in the fitness industry to describe the process of losing body fat and building muscle mass.
The way you do this is over::
- Increase your energy consumption
- Effective and efficient training
- Implement progressive overload to strategically increase your strength, build muscle, and ultimately increase your metabolism.
- At the same time, the calories must be closely monitored. Eating around maintenance is most often recommended in order to lose excess body fat.
How is this related to micronutrients? It all depends on the magic word: optimization.
Optimize body recomposition
If you want your body to work as efficiently as possible, you need to provide it with the appropriate tools. As much as coaches would like to believe that it is as simple as calorie intake versus calorie expenditure, there is so much more to it.
For example, 100 calories of ice cream is not the same as 100 calories of kale.
Within a calorie you have various macro and micronutrient offerings. If you are lacking vitamins, you will not be able to optimize your fat loss or muscle building. You could prevent yourself from making progress.
For example, vitamin D deficiency is linked to fat storage.
A study looking at low vitamin D levels in a group of women found that those with the lowest levels gained weight throughout the study even though they did not change their diet.
Another example of this are B vitamins, which are essential for metabolic function.
If you are missing or not getting enough of any of the B vitamins, your body is in fat storage mode.
This is because the main function of B vitamins is to metabolize macronutrients. When you don’t have enough blood circulation, you save the calories instead of burning them. One study found that vitamin B supplementation could reduce body weight by increasing metabolism.
When it comes to building muscle and running out of nutrients, you will face similar problems as well.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage and helps flush out metabolic wastes.
During exercise, you create oxidative stress. When you don’t have enough circulating vitamin E, you will experience increased delayed muscle soreness (DOMS), poor recovery, and stunted muscle protein synthesis. Not ideal. A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that vitamin E supplementation improved recovery by reducing markers of muscle damage.
If you’re busy counting your macros without thinking too much about your mics, you need to re-prioritize.
Without micronutrients, your body will not function optimally, there will be adverse side effects, and your fitness goals will get further out of reach.
If you follow a diet high in whole plant foods of various colors, you can meet most of your micronutrient needs.