3. Micronutrients How To Guide

Micronutrients or micros are on the third level of importance in our diet set up right after calories and macronutrients. Just to remind ourselves – caloric balance dictates whether we lose or gain weight and macronutrient composition affects if we lose (gain) more fat or muscle.

In this micronutrients how to guide I will try to clarify what are micronutrients, how much do we need, where to find them and give some recommendations on how to get enough micros into our diet to cover basic needs.

What Are Micronutrients

“Micro” means we need these nutrients in small amounts –  from micrograms up to a few grams per day. These doses are really small when compared to macronutrients, but they have a big impact on our health, hunger levels, and mental well-being. The deficit in micronutrients will also hamper our ability to lose fat, build muscle and affect our gym performance.

There are two categories of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins

There are two types of vitamins – water soluble and fat soluble. This is important for the process of their absorption.

Water-soluble vitamins are all B vitamins and vitamin C. They are easily lost from our bodies because there is a large turnover of water (we drink and urinate a lot), so we need to replenish them daily. Thanks to this it is harder to overdose on water-soluble vitamins since the excess will be simply removed in the urine. But it is also easier to be deficient in this type of vitamins.

Fat-soluble are vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins stay in our body longer and it is also harder for our bodies to remove them from the system. This means that it is easier to overdose on them and it is more unlikely that we will be deficient unless our intake is consistently too low.

Minerals

Minerals also have two types – macrominerals and microminerals. Similarly to macro and micronutrients, we need macrominerals in larger amounts than microminerals.

  • macrominerals examples – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, sulfur and chlorine
  • microminerals examples – iron, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride, cobalt, molybdenum and selenium

Food Sources

With the basic theory out of the way, we can concentrate on more practical information such as what are the good sources of vitamins and mineral and some simple consumption recommendations.

Almost every food contains some amount of minerals and vitamins, some of them contain a lot of micronutrients and some only tiny amounts. Here I’ve tried to create an example list of foods that are the richest with the particular vitamin or mineral:

  • B group vitamins – avocado, leafy vegetables, potatoes, whole grains, liver, meat, eggs, fish, dairy products
  • vitamin C – citrus fruits (especially kiwi), non-citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
  • vitamin A – orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs (yolk)
  • vitamin D – dairy products, cod liver oil, mushroom, fatty fish (trout, salmon, mackerel, sardine…), tofu, direct sun exposure
  • vitamin E – dark leafy vegetables, nuts (especially almonds), avocado, sunflower seeds, fish
  • vitamin K – fermented soybeans products (natto), legumes and nuts, fruits (apples, grapes, plums), green leafy vegetables, olive oil, soybean oil, eggs (yolk)
  • calcium – dairy products, dark leafy vegetables, kale, almonds, broccoli, sardines with bones
  • magnesium – green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes and beans, meat, fish, bananas, dark chocolate
  • zinc – oysters, beef, lamb, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, legumes, fish, cocoa
  • iron – seeds, chicken liver, seafood (oysters, clams), nuts (cashew, hazelnut, peanut), red meat, dark leafy vegetables

Intake Recommendations

The good rule of thumb is to eat 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables per 1000 calories. Taking myself as an example – my caloric intake during a diet is 1500 – 1600 kcal which means I should eat 2 serving of both fruits and vegetables. During muscle building phase I should eat around 2300 – 2400 kcal which means 3 serving of both fruits and vegetables.

When we are dieting we are at a larger risk of being deficient in micronutrients since we need to have a lower caloric intake. The most common deficiencies are:

  • vitamin D
  • vitamin K
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • iron

Vegetables shouldn’t be a problem during dieting phase since they are generally low in calories, especially green leafy kind. As you can see from my list they are packed with micronutrients and on top of that they are rich in fiber which helps to keep us full. The problem could be with fruit, which has more calories. Sometimes it can be hard to squeeze recommended fruit servings into our low caloric intake so we should make the right choices and look for low calorie, low carb fruits like berries, watermelon, peaches and cantaloupe instead of bananas or apples.

When in gaining phase the risk of deficiency is a lot lower but could still occur. When in this phase we need to eat above maintenance which results in lower hunger. So eating a lot of fibrous vegetables and fruits could be challenging but we should still be conscious about our food choices and try to achieve the recommended portion of 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables per 1000 calories.

Another option of getting enough micronutrients is with supplements which are covered in the last step of the diet setup guide. I will write another blog post about supplement recommendations and will update the post with a link.

Next step in the nutritional set-up is meal timing and meal frequency.


I hope you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions or just want to share your experience with the topic you’re more than welcome to leave a comment:)

8 Comments

  1. Gina

    Hey there,
    Great website! I love how you actually go into detail about water soluble/ fat soluble and all the different kinds of vitamins that are out there. In my experience, people don’t focus on the vitamins when trying to lose weight, but I think you have the keys to dieting right here. By focusing on nutrients instead of calories, the mindset of the diet-goer is turned around into actually focusing on nutrient density of foods they are eating, which will let them naturally gravitate towards dumping those high cal, low density foods and opting for the healitheir, nutrient rich foods.
    I am a health activist as well and I think you can help a lot of people with the information you have here!

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Hello Gina, thank you very much for your kind comment:)
      I completely agree with your statements that people don’t focus on vitamins and minerals when trying to lose weight and that this focus will bring them to make better/healthier food choices. But the calories are still king when it comes to weight loss or muscle building because it’s possible to eat an excess of calories even when focusing on nutrient rich foods.
      Thanks for stopping by and all the best to you,
      Marek

      Reply
  2. Marlaine

    I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for making sure that toddlers who are extremely picky eaters get enough micronutrients – I worry that my kids are a bit deficient in some. Do you think that kids (aged 2 and 4) need to be having vitamin or mineral supplements? Or should I start getting sneakier with what I blend up in their smoothies? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Hello Marlaine,
      my opinion is that the most of the general population should focus more on improving their nutrition and not on supplements. And I would say that it’s the same for children, so be sneakier:D
      And you can do what we do (I’m also a father of two, aged 3 years and 1 month), we’ve bought children multi-vitamin in the form of gummy animals and when my daughter wants something sweet we give her one of these vitamins. I think it’s a much better alternative than regular gummy bears.
      Hope this helps,
      Marek

      Reply
  3. James

    Great article!! Just like most people around the worls I have committed to a new years resolution to become more healthier and be fit. I know the basics and that you need to eat healthy to be healthy but to be honest I never knew about micronutrients.

    This article is an eye opener for me, it show me just how much I still don’t understand. I will definitely be checking out other articles on this site 🙂

    Kind Regards,
    James.

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Thank you very much, James:)

      Reply
  4. Craig | UK TV Services Abroad

    Some great information here on micronutrients. I wasn’t fully aware of the types of vitamins and minerals until now.

    I was always told than a good source of iron was eating liver and I am happy to see that you have confirmed this. It was always lamb’s liver though, not chicken liver but I guess it’s probably the same.

    You said that during muscle building your intake of kcal is increased but when I used to work out I always focused on protein like chicken, fish, eggs. You haven’t mentioned chicken in kcal increase during muscle building phase.

    Reply
    1. Marek (Post author)

      Hey Craig,

      you are right about the liver, almost all of them are good sources of iron. I will update the list, thank you.

      Regarding your second remark, chicken is a great source of protein, probably my favorite. As you can see in my guide on macronutrients, my suggestion is to keep protein intake the same in both fat loss and muscle building phase.

      Hope that clears things a bit:)
      Marek

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *