Micronutrient Importance in Metabolism

As a coach whose job it is to get people closer to their ideal body composition, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing how food affects clients and athletes physically, mentally, and emotionally. Food quality is important to consider no matter what your physique goals are but when you are dieting, food quality is paramount. When the source of your energy is restricted it is best to make sure that the limited energy you are able to consume is of good quality, makes you feel good, energized, and satiated. Furthermore, our metabolisms don’t just run on macros, but micros play a vital role in ensuring that our metabolisms are functioning properly.
 
Macronutrients vs Micronutrients

Macronutrients are what we measure in grams because your body requires quite a lot of them. Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that we use to convert to energy and sustain our daily metabolic needs.
 
Micronutrients, we measure in milligrams because our bodies don’t require them in huge amounts. However, micronutrients help our bodies digest and properly utilize those macronutrients. Micronutrients are what we consider to be vitamins and minerals. These smaller compounds tend to have more specific roles in metabolism and are often precursors to important compounds that help our metabolism run smoothly.
 
Deficiencies of macronutrients typically just result in fat loss or muscle loss; however, deficiencies of micronutrients can result in increased risk for certain cancers, metabolic diseases, and structural damage. Not to neglect vitamin or mineral toxicity however, too much of anything isn’t necessarily good either! 
 
 
How Micronutrients Play a Role in Metabolism

Our metabolism is made of up of pathways. Within these pathways are units of transportation called enzymes that carry out specific functions to make sure that everything is working up to 100% functionality. Micronutrients are often converted into important structures in metabolism that can serve as the “keys” to these units of transportation and activate the enzymes to move down the pathways and do their job. Therefore, vitamins and minerals have a fundamental role in cellular energy generation or metabolism and help cells and organs function properly (2,3).

 

Speaking of food quality and metabolism, I feel like this would be an appropriate time to share an interesting study I found on food quality affecting metabolic rate. In this study, 2 groups ate cheese sandwiches post-workout. One group ate whole wheat bread and cheddar cheese and one group ate white bread with a cheese that was deemed more processed. The group that ate the less processed whole wheat bread had an overall greater number of calories burned post-workout. 
 
It is important to note that it was not a major amount of calories for this short term study, and to also consider the fact that the whole wheat bread likely had more protein which could have an effect on why the whole wheat group burned more calories. However, when thinking of this amount over a culmination of several weeks and months, that actually ends up being a lot more calories burned than the higher processed, white bread group and could serve as a point for future implication (1).
 



How Our Macronutrient Intake Affects Our Micronutrient Intake
 

Higher quality macros tend to have more micros by proxy of being less processed, and not being subject to as much degradation. Therefore, the foods in which we choose to hit our macros, affect the variety of micros we take in. If we decide to only fulfill our daily carbohydrate needs with rice and bread, we miss out on the antioxidants, minerals, and fiber that we could get from a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. If we only get our protein sources from shakes and egg whites, we miss out on the iron, B12, and zinc we can get from meats. Same goes for fats; avocados and nuts have a lot more micronutrients to offer for our brain, heart, and digestive health than a stick of butter does.

 
How to Improve the Quality of Your Diet
 
Luckily, this isn’t difficult to do! When you go grocery shopping, go for the outer aisles first. Stock up on your veggies and fruits and keep processed foods limited. I typically recommend that clients follow an 80/20 rule: 80% of the foods you choose to eat should be whole and minimally processed, and the other 20% can be for the flexibility you need to fulfill a craving, etc. For someone like me who eats 4-5 meals a day, I’ll have at least 1 serving of vegetables with all but one meal or at least have a serving of opti-greens 50 by 1stPhorm with a “veggie free” meal. 
 
Here is a list of some foods I currently eat regularly and their respective benefits:

  • Leafy Greens: Folate
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Sulforaphane
  • Sweet Potatoes and carrots: Beta Carotene
  • Tomatoes: Vitamin A, Vitamin C
  • Salmon: Omega 3’s, potassium, B vitamins
  • Avocado: Folate, Vitamin K, potassium
  • Berries: Antioxidants
  • Almonds: Vitamin E
  • Egg Yolks: Vitamin D

 
 
Opti-Greens 50 and Opti-Reds 50
 
If you’re someone who hardly eats 1 serving of vegetables a day, then going from none to 3-4 servings may be tough. Therefore, I would strongly recommend starting with at least a greens supplement like 1st Phorm’s Opti Greens 50 and Opti Reds 50 to at least cover your bases while you start to work in some good old-fashioned vegetables. You can order yours here! 
 
Our health is a culmination of what we feed it day in and day out, make sure you are fueling your body what it needs for your short-term goals and your long term health!