What are Nutrients? The Full Breakdown You Need

This post first appeared as a guest contribution for MSW Lounge.

What even ARE nutrients?

Nutrition is confusing for a lot of people… including nutrition scientists.

Buzzwords like “micronutrients,” “macronutrients,” and “macros” have been floating around the world more with the Internet’s infinite knowledge in recent years.

But what do each of these things actually mean?

Macronutrients are the ones you’ve heard of: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  They’re referred to in this way because they yield the energy needed for us to live, in the form of calories.

Macros are a shorthand way of referring to macronutrients (trust us, it’s way easier to spit that out than the full word!)

Micronutrients are the necessary water, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals to promote a healthy life. 

 photo by dan gold via https://unsplash.com

photo by dan gold via https://unsplash.com

The Micronutrients

Let’s break these guys down a little further.

Water

I betcha didn’t know that water counts as a nutrient!

It’s the most vital nutrient we can consume – we die in days if we don’t consume any.

Clean, non-fluorinated water and the water we get from food keeps us in tip-top hydrated shape.

Vitamins

Vitamins are broken into two types:

  • Water-soluble vitamins

  • Fat-soluble vitamins

The solubility of a vitamin basically refers to how the body absorbs it.

If a vitamin is water soluble, that means it can be dissolved in water and transported in that way through the body.

However, they cannot be stored in the body and will be flushed out via urine if you consume to many of them.

Since there is no storage mechanism for them, it is crucial to meet your daily requirements of water-soluble vitamins.

The water soluble vitamins are quickly absorbed and include:

  • All B vitamins

    • Thiamin (B1)

    • Riboflavin (B2)

    • Niacin (B3)

    • Pantothenic Acid (B5)

    • Pyridoxine (B6)

    • Biotin (B7)

    • Folic Acid (B9)

    • Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin C

If a vitamin is fat soluble, it must bind with a fat molecule and cross through the small intestine to be absorbed into the bloodstream and put to use in the body.

While these vitamins are tougher to absorb because of this longer process, they do have storage ability in the body.

Any extra that isn’t needed when you consume fat soluble vitamins is stored in the body’s fat cells.

The storage mechanism makes it much easier to overdose on fat soluble vitamins.

This system prevents deficiency well, but can make it harder to tell when someone is deficient in their diet because it takes longer to show.  Once it does show, the effects are usually much harder to deal with than a water soluble vitamin deficiency.

The fat soluble vitamins take a bit longer to absorb and include:

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamin E

  • Vitamin K

Our wide selection of vitamins means we can help you determine where your diet may be lacking and help you to supplement with a vitamin IV.

Minerals

This category is often misunderstood because there are so many minerals needed in our diet.

Minerals are essentially single elements (like on the periodic table) that have specific functions in the body.

Sometimes they support certain vitamins, and other times they negate certain vitamins.

Those contradicting interactions in the body are vital to understand to make sure you are supplementing with the right combinations of vitamins and minerals at the right time of day.

The FDA recognizes 14 minerals with recommended daily intakes to support health.  These are:

  • Calcium

  • Chloride

  • Chromium

  • Copper

  • Iodine

  • Iron

  • Magnesium

  • Manganese

  • Molybdenum

  • Phosphorus

  • Potassium

  • Selenium

  • Sodium

  • Zinc

We won’t go into specifics on each mineral here, but it’s good to note that some of the items on that list may be a surprise to you.

While it is definitely possible to overdose on minerals, too little of any of them also results in bad effects on your health.

We extensively research the safe levels of each of these minerals before ever implementing them in our vitamin and mineral IVs.

Amino Acids

Protein is made up of smaller pieces, known as amino acids.  There are 22 types of amino acids in total.

When someone talks about a “complete protein,” they are referring to a protein source that includes all types of amino acids that we must obtain from diet – i.e. our bodies cannot produce it themselves.

Any amino acids that must be obtained through diet is referred to as an “essential amino acid.”

There are 9 Essential amino acids:

  • Histidine

  • Isoleucine

  • Leucine

  • Lisine

  • Methionine

  • Phenylalanine

  • Threonine

  • Tryptophan

  • Valine

There are only a few plants that meet the bill of being a “complete protein,” including quinoa and buckwheat.

However, all other plants offer a few of these amino acids on their own and can create a complete protein with complimentary food that contain the missing amino acids, such as pairing beans and rice.

Making sure to consume all 9 essential amino acids daily will promote muscle repair, growth, and strength.

That’s why we have our workout recovery IVs to ensure you get the support you need for your athletic endeavors!

The final word on nutrition (for now...)

Each of these nutrients is essential for our bodies to function optimally.

Absorption rate varies greatly based on how you take your supplements, and in what form they come.  If you want more information on that, check out the original post.

While it is good to know each of these things, keep in mind that we eat food, not nutrients.  So making sure to focus your diet largely on whole, unprocessed foods truly is key to ensuring you get the most nutrients possible before supplementing any gaps.

A person who eats this way will need to supplement far less than someone who eats a traditional Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)  You will also likely have a much healthier gut with a whole foods-based diet, meaning you'll absorb the nutrients from your food better.

All that being said... don't let nutrition overwhelm you!  Learning to listen to your body and how different foods make it feel is more than half the battle, anyway.  No science required there.