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Energy Yielding Nutrients

Posted on June 1, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Here is some basic 101 on nutrition about energy-yielding nutrients.

In the body, three organic nutrients can provide energy: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The best fuels for workouts are carbohydrates. Although protein can be used as fuel, it is not a direct source. As a dietary source, it will be used to build muscle. Once in the body, if no carbs are available, your body must break down muscle to be used as a fuel source. This is where protein is stored, in the muscles. That is why you should use carbs to fuel your workouts and protein to repair your muscles. Eggs and greek yogurt are great recovery foods because of the protein they contain. Add a little whole fruit to replenish the loss of carbs. Your body uses fat as energy during exercise that lasts for a long time, like during a long-distance run. However, most of the time your body can use the fat it has already stored and, therefore, you don't need to eat a high amount of fat unless you’re at your ideal weight or underweight, in which case fat is more important. Good fats (e.g., avocados) are also vital to helping your body use the nutrients you eat. Energy-yielding nutrients provide the following calories:

Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram

Fat: 9 calories per gram

Protein: 4 calories per gram

*NOTE: Alcohol contributes 7 calories per gram that can be used for energy, but is not considered a nutrient because it interferes with the body's growth, maintenance, and repair. See the article here:


In contrast to these energy-yielding nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and water do not yield energy in the human body. Of course, this doesn't mean you don't need vitamins, minerals, and water every day! Quite the opposite! These are vital to your life force. Vitamins and minerals are even more important while dieting and exercising because these are what keep your physical energy levels high and help your body maintain and repair your muscles after your workout. Although vitamins and minerals are not a direct energy source, they assist the enzymes that release energy from carbs, fats, and proteins. This is a major reason why they are vital to life. Therefore, you should strive to make the calories you eat as nutritionally dense as possible!

Eat a little bit of good carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals with each meal. For breakfast and preworkout, eat 100% juices, whole fruits, and whole grains. For lunch, eat whole proteins, like boiled eggs or tuna with spinach salad. For a snack, eat a handful of nuts with a little dried fruit to get your carbs, fat, and a little protein. Note that green, leafy vegetables will give you the highest yielding nutrients and thereby help sustain your body for workouts and high energy levels. They have small amounts of carbs and are packed full of those vitamins and minerals that will assist you in utilizing the energy-yielding nutrients.

To lose weight, be careful with the carbs. Eat small amounts of whole fruits, such as oranges and apples. Avoid white pasta. Eat carbs 1 to 2 hours before your workout for optimal performance. Then, immediately replace the carbs you burned with perhaps an orange or apple and some nuts, and protein such as greek yogurt or a boiled egg. If you are working out for longer than 1 hour a day, then you may need to increase the carbs, protein, and fat ratio, depending on your weight-loss goals. For thinner, leaner bodies, eat a little less protein. For a more muscular physique, eat a little more protein. (If you want more specific amounts, let me know and we can figure out requirements based on your own personal body specifications. The bottom line is all the nutrients work together, and we can customize a plan to suit your needs)

Many of my clients will attest to my having them pay close attention to what is happening in their body as opposed to giving them some general menu plan that applies to everyone. Balancing the calories in, calories out, and overall weight loss is a difficult task. When you are working out every day, you must become familiar with your body’s needs by paying close attention to the scale, and even more, your waist size. This can take some careful planning in the beginning, but once you develop the habit, this will become second nature! Keep your "eye on the ball" and stay focused to achieve your goal!

Categories: Foods To Eat/Nutrition Articles