Nutrients to Support Physical Activity

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  • 0:51 Water
  • 1:48 Carbohydrates
  • 2:33 Fats
  • 3:05 Proteins
  • 3:21 Vitamins & Minerals
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

It is important to stay well-nourished with carbohydrates, protein, fats and various vitamins and minerals during physical activity. Learn about these nutrients that support physical activity as well as the benefits of water during active times.


If you didn't eat anything for a week, what would happen to your energy level? Well, it's not hard to imagine that a week without food would leave you feeling pretty drained, with little energy to spare. Supplying your body with dietary nutrients is an important factor in how well you are able to perform while physically active. Whether you are a long-distance runner or a mall walker, your body relies on the same six nutrients to support physical activity:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

The more physically active you are, the more nutrients your body needs, and in this lesson we will take a look at the role each of these nutrients plays in supporting your physical activity.


Physical activity is defined as any movement of your muscles that requires energy. When you are physically active, your body uses nutrients to help you perform at your best and repair tissues damaged or broken down during activity.

You also lose some nutrients as you move more, with one of the most noticeable losses being the loss of water. Physical activity increases your need for water because it is lost in sweat, and additional quantities are lost due to evaporation from increased respiration.

If too much water is lost and not replenished, it can lead to dehydration, which is a condition in which the body has lost an excessive amount of water. Dehydration is a significant barrier to your performance because water is needed during physical activity. Water helps because it cools the body. It also provides a medium that transports nutrients to muscles and removes waste products from the muscles.


Although all six nutrients are needed for physical activity, if I had to choose the second most important nutrient behind water, I would choose carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are one of the three energy-yielding nutrients because they provide your body with calories, which can be converted to energy. You also get calories from proteins and fats, making them the other two energy-yielding nutrients, but when you are physically active, carbs will be your best energy source.

This is because carbohydrates are digested into glucose, which is a simple sugar that is easily converted to energy. Therefore, when you think of energy for physical activity, think of carbohydrates first.


Now, some of you might be wondering about fats as we discuss energy. After all, body fat is sometimes referred to as stored energy. The distinction is that fats provide a long-term source of energy. So you might want to think of fats for sustained energy for physical activity. Your body will call on the building blocks of fats known as fatty acids when you are involved in activity that lasts more than an hour, as fatty acids are the primary source of energy for endurance activities.


Proteins also provide your body with calories, but your body would prefer to save proteins for other jobs. Therefore, proteins are not a major source of energy during physical activity, but they are important for the repair of muscles after physical activity.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are also needed to support your body during physical activity. These nutrients do not contain calories, so they are not directly responsible for supplying your body with energy. But, they are indirectly involved. This is because certain vitamins, such as the B vitamins, are needed for processes that convert food molecules into the form of energy your body can use.

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