Lately in the health and fitness world, counting macros has been on the rise. The majority of fitness fanatics, trainers, and endurance athletes allude to tracking macros to meet their fitness goals- and while that holds true in many regards and may help with weight loss or meeting those lean cuts for body builders, it often cuts out and neglects their important counterpart- the micronutrients.
What I mean when I talk about macronutrients are your proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The main food labels that we think about when considering what a meal is made up of. This can be good for developing food awareness or gaining control of your eating habits if you are someone who easily falls off the wayside for healthy eating. However, I dont personally recommend macro tracking for long periods of time as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and often leads to disordered eating and obsession. There are other ways to become deficient in micronutrients too – such as the ketogenic diet which has also gotten lots of popularity lately. “Keto” is mostly fat based with the aim of putting your body into a state of ketosis. Ketogenic diets, similarly to macro tracking are good for certain people with specific goals- but since it is so high in fats, it can be easy to go into micronutrient deficiencies if the majority of the diet is made up of lean meats and healthy fats.
enter- micronutrients. The building blocks of metabolism, gluconeogenesis, neurotransmission, oxidative properties, and energy. Basically the neglected and taken for granted minerals and amino acids we consume in our food that fuel us and keep us healthy. These are the foundation of health- and we need to take note and learn about them! It is so easy to become deficient in micronutrients and not even know it- especially in our world of monoculture cropping, eating out and processed/canned foods so readily available.
There are SO many ways you can become deficient in micronutrients but I will state just a couple of examples-
distance runners that are in constant oxidative stress (such as myself),
if you’ve had your gallbladder removed and cant emulsify fats
if you are under a lot of stress either emotionally or physically and you have increased demand!
if you follow a restrictive diet due to sensitivities, allergies, or even by choice as a vegan or vegetarian
if you have a leaky gut, SIBO, or IBD
if you take anti-depressants or statin drugs blocking hmg coa reductase to inhibit cholesterol – you are probably CO q 10 deficient! *(also may be deficient in serotonin or vitamin D from this blockade too!)
NAIDS, pepcid and other alkalizing drugs can also have major affects on the gut and absorption properties
These are just some of the many ways that we can either fail to absorb or become deficient in micronutrients. Since there are so many, and each has its own properties and functions, I am going to start with the two that I find at the top of the list in importance and incorporate into my daily life- Magnesium and Glutamine.
Magnesium used to be a rare deficiency since it was so abundant in our soil. However with monoculture cropping and the way we grow things in the 21st century, the soil only has about 20% of the magnesium it used to have. Magnesium deficiency is also more common in women, when suffering from stress or anxiety, migranes, and athletes.
When we talk magnesium, we mostly hear about magnesium citrate which is used for severe constipation and to move the large bowel. We also learn about it with regards to eclampsia in pregnancy in the medical world. but it is so. much. more.
What does magnesium play a role in? its used for more than 300 biochemical uses in our bodies- literally everything. Enzyme activation, neuromuscular function, energy and metabolism to cortisol levels- magnesium is actually my wonder drug. It is very difficult to overdose on magnesium since so many are deficient, and whatever we don’t use is filtered out (As long as your kidneys and liver are working, you don’t need to worry about taking it!).
It works as a smooth muscle relaxer, which is why it helps with constipation, migraines and asthma symptoms. It also plays a role in neuro function like adhd and anxiety. One of the most common questions I get with regard to magnesium is “will this make me sleepy?” and the answer is no- it is a smooth muscle relaxer and helps calm the nervous system but it actually aids in more energy and chronic fatigue.
what can taking magnesium help with?
- symptoms of anxiety
- bowel function
what can I do to get magnesium from the diet?
- leafy greens
- dark chocolate (can I get a hell yeah)
- sesame seeds
- fatty fishes like salmon
my preferred product:
magnesium glycinated or chelated magnesium is very bioavailable and can easily be absorbed and used by cells. I take this brand by metagenics every night before bed and it has actually rocked my world lol.
Glutamine is an amino acid used as a precursor to glutathione- a huge player in oxidation, detox and immune function in our bodies. Glutamine plays a role in elimination of ammonia, acts as a source of energy for the enterocytes that line the gut and helps prevent infection.
Its rare to hear a lot about amino acid deficiencies, but it is especially important to pay attention to if you are a vegetarian or vegan, as ensuring you are getting whole food sources of your AA, or supplementing appropriately in a bioavailable form. While glutamine is not an essential amino acid, its one of the few that crosses the blood brain barrier and can be used up quickly in times of stress, illness, injury or when training for athletic performance.
glutamine specifically can be low in endurance athletes due to the stress and physical training, those with healing leaky gut or IBD, the immunocompromised, or if going through withdraw from alcohol since chronic alcohol use depletes and alters the glutamine storage.
what can taking glutamine help with?
- Leaky Gut and strengthening the gut lining
- blood sugar regulation
- building muscles and meeting athletic performance goals
- immunologic functioning
where to get glutamine from in the diet:
- bone broth
- lower compositions can be found in cabbage and vegetables
My favorite product for glutamine supplementation is glutashield , as it is gentle on the GI track, can be mixed into drinks, smoothies or soups, and lasts a long time! I usually mix mine into my yogurt with some peanut butter and berries to hide the taste, and get it in earlier in the day.
Hope this was somewhat helpful, and if nothing else sparked interest in micronutrients and thinking about a whole food diet. Happy as always to answer questions!