Nutrient Pairing – An Athlete’s Approach to Nutrition

Nutrient Pairing - An Athlete's Approach to Nutrition

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If you Google the term ‘Nutrient Pairing’ you can bet that 90+% of the results that show up will refer to *Micronutrient* Pairing. This is absolutely valid, and all those blogs and research sites do a fantastic job of highlighting the importance of ensuring that you get enough of [insert Vitamin here] in order for [insert crucial Mineral] to work (and vice versa).

After all, the body requires symbiosis to function optimally – what that means is that there needs to be balance and equilibrium, especially among the nutrients we consume. You may recall [from past articles] that I allude to an assortment of Vitamins, Minerals, and even Hormones as being somewhat the proverbial “Yin & Yang” of one another.

In the complex world of our Endocrine System (which regulates hormones), it’s often the case that two hormones have totally opposing roles, and so, must work synergistically in order to function properly.

For example, you have Insulin & Glucagon as the notorious duo that control glucose storage… You also have Leptin & Ghrelin – the former tells your brain you’re hungry, while the other tells it you’re full – obviously, these two need to work in harmony or you can end up with some nasty Metabolic issues occurring.

As far as the Micronutrients go, the roles can be slightly more varied, but you’ll typically find the following “micros” being pegged together:

Zinc & Copper

Vitamin D & Calcium

Sodium & Potassium

Vitamin C & Iron

In some cases, one might compete for absorption with the other, so adequate intake of both is paramount so as not to have any deficiencies. In other cases, it might be that one simply cannot fulfil its function without the other’s presence. (Although Vit-D & Calcium are listed above, an often overlooked one is: Vit-D & Vit-K!).

However, I could [and probably will] go into that in more depth another time…

What I want to consider today is: *Macronutrient* Pairing!!

It is an incredibly simple concept that could have a dramatic affect on the way you eat, the way you perform, and ultimately, have a positive impact on your overall Health.

The idea is that when you prepare your meals you do so prioritizing the “Macro Profile” of the food you’re looking to eat. That is to say that foods will typically be more Fat-laden, Carb-dense or Protein-rich. Now, in order to create pairs, there are two optimal duos you can opt for:

Protein & Fat


Protein & Carbs

Notice: Carbs and Fat don’t get paired together. The rationale behind this being that it can lead to acute fat storage (from both sources) due to the high-level Insulin response the two can illicit! Also, when Health Experts talk about “Energy Sources” – you’ll always hear them talk about either Carbs OR Fat… never [really] Protein.

Reason being: both Carbs and Fats can be broken down for energy quite easily/quickly, whereas Protein is much harder to breakdown, and so, isn’t an ideal energy source. Think about it – when Climbers decide to take on K2 or Everest (for example), they stock up on Energy Bars, and while there are plenty of high-Carb ones on the market, it’s the “Lard Bars” that will provide the highest calorie-count when you need it up on that summit!

So, you’re getting Carbohydrates and Fats in (one OR the other) as the primary energy source, and you’re getting Protein in to help rebuild Muscle Tissue (among other things). The other crucial thing to understand about this is that by separating them like this, you’re actually poising your body to burn more Fat for fuel throughout the day…

In this video, Dr. Jacob Wilson and the Researchers at University of Tampa (Florida) share some of the latest cutting-edge “Nutrition Techniques”, one of which includes *[Macro] Nutrient Pairing*

Fact is, there are hordes of Athletes turning to this approach in a bid to optimize their Nutrition, and as a result, improve their Health & Performance!

Now, personally I like to get my Protein & Fat meals in at the Start and End of my day, slotting one or two Protein & Carb meals in between.

For example:

Breakfast – Cheese Omelette (4 Eggs) and a Protein Shake

Lunch – 8oz Chicken [Breast] & Pasta (with Arrabbiata Sauce)

Post-Workout – Protein Shake & Fruit (an Apple or Banana)

Dinner – Beef & Broccoli* Curry (without Rice)

*Vegetables that come to under 10g Carbs and 0g Sugar are fine to use in the Protein/Fat meal; in fact, the Fat will help the body utilize those vital Micronutrients in the veggies such as Vitamin E & K, which are fat-soluble – meaning your body actually NEEDS fat in order to even absorb them!

The funny thing is, this actually makes eating a little bit easier and simpler – in my opinion. Are you more limited in your options? Not really. It’s just about how you combine those “options” for optimum results.

I’ll go into Nutrient Programming (which Dr. Wilson also touches upon in the video) another time, and this will hopefully help tie it all together. Funny enough, Nutrient Programming and Nutrient Pairing both work in synergy also, so stay tuned for the next CXP Nutrition post and I’ll dish out the goods to help you reset your eating habits and approach your Nutrition like an Athlete.

In the meantime, remember: Eat Healthy, and Eat Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

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