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Getting Started

Fuel for Exercise (Nutrition Basics)

It is important to prepare your body for exercise with proper nutrition. Here is some basic information followed by a few guidelines.


A calorie is a measure of the amount of energy we can get from food. There are three macronutrients that provide us with energy: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Calories provide fuel for the body not just to exercise, but all life functions have an energy demand. Daily calorie needs of an individual can vary depending on many factors.

Macronutrient Intake

Our energy needs are met by consuming macronutrients. Each of the three macronutrients are important for various reasons.

  • Carbohydrates
    • Provide energy at 4 calories per gram.
    • Typically we want to consume about 45-60% of our calories from carbs.
    • Primary functions
      • major source of energy
      • needed for brain, muscle, and nervous system function
      • help regulate fat and protein metabolism
    • Examples
      • Helpful, high performance carbs: whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, whole grain pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes, veggies, fruits
      • Low performance carbs: processed items and products higher in sugar like many varieties of muffins, donuts and pastries, pop, white bread, candy
  • Fats
    • Provide energy at 9 calories per gram.
    • Recommendation is to consume less than 30% of total daily calories from fat.
    • Primary functions
      • stored energy
      • supply essential fatty acids, carry certain vitamins
      • provide shock absorption, insulation
      • helps make things tasty and provides a sensation of fullness (satiety)
    • Examples
      • Helpful, high performance fats are found in: almonds, walnuts, other nuts, olive oil, avocados, cold water fish
      • Low performance fats are often found in: fast food, fried foods, many baked goods and processed foods
  • Proteins
    • Provide energy at 4 calories per gram
    • Recommendation for consumption is dependent upon fitness goals and can range between 10-30% of total daily calories consumed. Note the recommendations are based upon the weight of the individual in kilograms.
      • sedentary individuals need 0.8 g/kg per day
      • somewhat active individuals need 1.0 – 1.2 g/kg/day
      • endurance training needs are 1.2 – 1.4 g/kg per day
      • strength training needs are 1.6 – 1.8 g/kg per day
    • Primary functions
      • build and repair tissues
      • not typically used for energy
    • Examples
      • Helpful, high performance proteins: lean protein sources like chicken (baked or slow cooked, no skin), fish, venison, almonds, walnuts, other nuts, tofu, legumes, lean dairy products, eggs
      • Low performance proteins: fast food meats like burgers and fried chicken, hot dogs and other processed meats


A Guide to Physical Fitness Copyright © by Jen Hilker. All Rights Reserved.

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