If you want to look awesome, break training PBs, and feel good, you have to make sure you’re not missing a key nutrient from your diet.
Something as simple as not getting enough magnesium will lower testosterone, negatively affecting body fat and muscle mass. Or, a lack of B vitamins or iron can decrease energy production, leading to extreme fatigue and an inability to improve body composition. According to a research review, there are three primary reasons that you may be at risk of a nutrient deficiency and not know it:1) Medicine uses a model of nutrition whereby a deficiency is associated with a particular disease. Scientists identify adequate intake as the smallest amount you can take and not have the disease in question. Obviously, there’s a big difference between having a disease and not feeling up to par. For example, the softening of bones that precede osteoporosis (called osteomalacia) can be avoided if vitamin D is at a level of at least 15 ng/ml, so until more recently, this was the minimum recommended level. However, more recent studies show that for optimal metabolism and gene function, three times that level is necessary.2) Official nutrient recommendations don’t consider different genotypes, dietary make-up, or physical activity levels. Just as post-workout refueling requires extra protein, possibly carbs, and water, your body will recuperate best in the presence of large amounts of specific nutrients that aren’t accounted for by recommendations. For example, masters sprinters will need extra magnesium and taurine. Or many people have a genetic variation such that their bodies can’t absorb folic acid effectively, so they need to supplement with a form that can be absorbed. Simply relying on food for folic acid will lead to a severe deficiency and cause fatigue, among other problems.3) Nutrient-poor soil, the use of pesticides and antibiotics in produce and meat, and high-stress lifestyles lead to huge nutrient intake gaps. Consider that something as simple as increasing your intake of branched-chain amino acids will deplete your body’s pool of B vitamins. Likewise, the body needs raw materials to manage psychological stress and help the body metabolize stress hormones like cortisol. In a review article in the journal Nutrition Reviews, Dr. Robert Heaney suggests that rather than choosing to base our nutrient intake off of the lowest amount needed to prevent a mortal disease, we should identify intake quantities based on the level at which humans adapted prior to the agricultural revolution. He suggests looking back at what our body’s needed in the Paleolithic era for nutrient recommendations and adjust based on guidance from the amazing science of today. Take away the following points for optimal body composition and performance:
• Shoot for a dietary intake of nutrients to support optimal cell, tissue, and gene function in the body. For virtually all nutrients, this level will be higher than the amount needed to prevent “pre-mortal” symptoms or the development of a disease that will kill you.
• A smart place to start is with vitamin D and magnesium. The Vitamin D Council recommends a level of 50 ng/ml, whereas Nutritional Magnesium, the leading magnesium research organization doesn’t make a clear cut suggestions on magnesium needs, but if you read their articles, you’ll find that a daily intake of 500 mg will lead to less disease risk and better health.
• Balance your omega-3 fat intake with your omega-6 intake (the kind of fat that comes from vegetable fats) and eliminate all trans-fats.
• Get a nutrient deficiency test.