DPT-600- Nutrition: An Introduction

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Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this unit the learner will be able to…

  • demonstrate knowledge of nutrition for health and fitness in nutrient groups and substrate oxidation, diets, weight management, pre and post exercise nutrition
  • collect, analyse information and agree short, medium and long-term goals with your clients (SMARTER) to include: healthy eating, weight loss, weight gain and improved sporting performance
  • identify when your clients need referral to another professional
  • identify barriers to your clients achieving nutritional goals

The human body requires energy to maintain life and health. It must have the means to grow from childhood through to adulthood, and to repair itself on a daily basis throughout life. In order to achieve this feat, oxygen, food and water is required. This course will examine the importance played by food and water in order to promote both good health, and effective training outcomes. 

Nutrient Groups   

A balanced diet requires adequate water intake, alongside food chosen in varying amounts from five nutrient groups. These in turn are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients.  

Macronutrients Basic functions 
 carbohydrateproteinfat   Collectively needed in greater amounts. Used within the body for structure, function and fuel. Note: alcohol also provides fuel, but is not classed as a nutrient.   
Micronutrients Basic functions 
 ·       vitamins minerals  Needed in smaller amounts. Also used for structure and function and are necessary to “unlock” the energy contained in the macronutrients.  

During subsequent chapters, the various nutrient groups and their individual and collective effects upon the body will be examined. The purpose of this chapter is, however, to introduce the relationship between the quality of the food in the diet, and the overall health of the individual.    

The food on the plate will, for the most part, become part of the body, as it is used to rebuild or repair vital structures on an ongoing basis. Food, which is not used for this purpose, will either contribute to the body’s normal chemical functions, or be utilised as fuel to sustain life and activity levels. An excess of energy consumed will eventually be stored, mostly in the form of body fat, and will therefore, also contribute to eventual body mass. 


The Organisation of Life  

Throughout the human body, a relationship exists between both structure and function, indeed it can be said that structure dictates function. This point remains central even to nutrition, whereby the quality of food within the diet and the specific chemical composition of that food, have a profound effect upon the structure and function of the human body at its most fundamental level. 

To understand this point, it is necessary to examine the basic organisation of the human body, and an example using protein. 

Other systems to which this same organisation applies are:

  • the skeletal system
  • muscular system
  • nervous system
  • the digestive system
  • the respiratory system
  • the circulatory system
  • the lymphatic system
  • the endocrine system
  • the reproductive system

The Food Guide / Pyramid

The national food guide is an attempt to provide information to the public, in order to promote a healthy diet. It serves as a visual guide to ease the confusion that often arises when trying to plan a menu. Originally devised by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), this basic model has been adopted by many government agencies throughout the developed world.

Now widely accepted, the USDA pyramid does have its critics (McCullough et al, 2000), however, it still serves to encourage people to think more carefully about the food they choose within their diet. The food guide has been revised due to continuing criticism that it did not provide appropriate advice for certain nutrient groups. In 2004, after much debate and research by many large nutritional companies, the USDA released their updated version.

The revised pyramid takes into account that not all fats are the same, and that they actually have some significant health benefits. Certain plant oils are now set at the base of the pyramid and are advised as a part of almost every meal. The advice on carbohydrates has also changed, recognising that refined carbohydrate products should be minimised, whilst the emphasis is on wholegrain products.

The Food Pyramid
Advantages Limitations 
 aims to encourage people to think about their dietleads to a reduction in pre-made processed foodencourages consumption of fruit and vegetablesencourages portion controlaims to encourage a wholefood dietencourages a moderate alcohol intake  aimed at populations not individualsassumes a ‘one size fits all’ approachcriticised for being shaped by food agencies and politicsnot much advice on portion control 

In the UK we have adapted the original food pyramid and follow a healthy eating balance plate instead. It provides an alternative illustration of the same basic guidelines:

Food Quality

It must be recognised that while encouraging the eating of whole foods as identified above, there are still factors that affect the quality of even fresh produce.

The cycle of food quality helps to identify some of these issues:

The organic farming movement began in the 1940’s and has grown and developed into a highly marketable force.  Organic produce is governed by strict regulations that help to maintain a higher standard of farming.  In 85% of cases organic produce has been shown to have an equal or higher nutrient content than commercial food stuffs (Worthington, 1999).  The Soil Association checks approximately 70% of all organic producers in the UK are meeting the requirements laid down by European law.  The Soil Association states that some of the key reasons for purchasing organic are:

  • no additives
  • no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides
  • no genetically modified foods
  • no routine antibiotic use on animals
  • animal welfare is paramount

In order to understand the effect which nutrition exerts upon health and performance, it is necessary to examine the nutrient groups in turn, and to determine the varying ways in which they interact, both within the population and within the individual themselves. 


McCullough M.J., Feskanich D., Stampfer M. J., Rosner B.A., Hu F. B., Hunter D.J., Variyam N.J., Colditz G.A., Willett W.C., (2000). Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the risk of major chronic disease in women. Vol. 72 No. 5, 1214-1222.

Worthington, (1999). Is Organically Grown Food Nutritious?, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation

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