ACSM CPT Chapter 6: Nutrition and Human Performance
ACSM CPT Chapter 6: Nutrition and Human Performance

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Chapter Objectives:

  •  Know the different functions of carbs, proteins, and fat for both health and performance.
  • Learn vitamin and mineral roles for health and performance.
  • Know the importance of being hydrated and keeping up health and getting to the optimal performance levels.
  • Understand the elements that are essential to energy balance and its relationships with managing weight, body composition, and performance.
  • Know the issues that relate to nutrient supplementation and the strategies for knowing the circumstances in which some supplementation is appropriate.
  • Know the issues relating to eating and performance, travel, precompetition meals, nourishment in competition, and post competition replenishment.

Scope of Practice

For the majority of states in the united states, the profession of dietetics is regulated by the law.

The practice is typically only done by registered dieticians with the proper academic degree and certification and licenses. 

Trainers should seek out dieticians in order to help their clients by referring them. It is important for the trainers to know when to refer clients to these professionals.

Trainers in terms of nutrition should really only teach the basics and fundamentals of nutrition and let the clients make the decisions. Trainers also need to be aware of bad eating habits and disorders that clients may have when they come to them. 

Essential Nutritional Concepts


These give the muscles, organs, and bones energy for working, repairing tissues, and also the development of new tissues. When a client is well-nourished, they have better resistances to disease and their function of the cardiovascular system is enhanced. The clients will also have more likeliness for growing and building the muscle and skeletal tissues. 

We have six classes of nutrients. These are carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. As trainers we should not teach the clients to think about one nutrient class as being more important than any other.

With the trainers help, the client will have the proper balance of these nutrients in their diet.

It is important for people to get a wide variety of foods to ensure that we get the optimal amount of nutrient exposure.

Clients should know that there is a lot of misinformation and lack of credible sources of scientific evidence for a lot of nutrition in the fitness world. A lot of it relies on this placebo effect.

Nutrients that provide energy

Meeting energy needs or optimal weight and body composition

The weight and energy intake relationship is simple. When someone is taking in more energy than they expend, then the energy that is excess, will be stored, and their weight will increase. When someone takes in less energy than they need, their weight will drop in some way.

The recommendations for energy intake and the desire being to gain weight, is that we intake 300 – 400 extra calories. And the same is true for those that are wanting to decrease their weight. We would decrease our energy intake by 300 – 400 calories here.

When we eat frequent meals that are smaller, we see these benefits: 

  • Our metabolic rate is changed.
  • We have a lower body fat amount and a lower weight when we are on higher calorie diets.
  • There is a better tolerance for glucose and response of insulin.
  • Stress hormone production is reduced.
  • Muscle mass is maintained better.
  • Physical performance improves.

Some problems with severe deficits of energy intakes:

  • Stores of carbohydrates are tough to maintain.
  • Lean muscle mass problems.
  • Metabolic rate is lowered.
  • Nutrient needs are difficult to meet.
  • The risk of injury is increased.


Carbs come in many different forms and those forms have different outcomes nutritionally. There are some carbs hat we are not able to digest.

The recommended carbs range from 3 – 18 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Functions of Carbohydrates

They are used for providing energy. Seen as the preferred fuel source for humans.

Sparing protein. This is in relation to the preferred fuel source aspect. The body doesn’t have to resort to using proteins, when it has carbs present.

Fat oxidation. Carbs are needed for fats to be burned.

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Acts as parts of other compounds.

Energy storage. 

Types of Carbohydrates

Simple carbs: These are our sugars like glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

Polysaccharides: These are carbs with many molecules of sugars that are all connected. These are digestible and indigestible depending on what they are. Dietary fiber is a cab that is not able to be digested but serves a purpose in the diet due to it lowing fat and cholesterol absorption, improves the control of blood sugar, and reduces colon cancer and heart diseases risks.

The Glycemic Index

This is used to measure the carbs and their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods are essentially compared to the ingestion of glucose, which is known to have a value of 100 in this index. If foods have a lower glycemic index, they will maintain the levels of blood sugar, avoid any kind of insulin response that is excessive, and they encourage fat production while keeping people feeling better for longer periods of time.


These are complex compounds that are made of amino acids, that, unlike any other nutrient, contain nitrogen. Proteins constantly are broken down and changed. 

Nonathletic adults require about 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

Functions of Protein

  • Synthesis of enzymes and proteins.
  • Nutrient transportation to the proper locations.
  • Energy source when the body needs it.
  • The production of hormones.
  • Fluid balancing.
  • Acid base balancing.
  • The maintenance and growth of the tissues of the body.
  • They are used to synthesize nonprotein, nitrogen containing compounds.

Protein Quality

This is determined based on how many essential amino acids are in the source. Essential amino acids are the ones that we are not able to produce in our bodies, and so we must obtain them in our diets. Most foods have both the essential and nonessential amino acids.

There is an emphasis in many diets put on protein, but a lot of the time it is too excessive than the real need of the body.


Many people think that higher intakes of fats will enhance performance, but the general healthy range of fats to be taken in is between 20 and 35% of total calories.

Functions of Fat

  • Fat is an energy source for the body.
  • It provides insulation for us in times of extreme temperature.
  • It is used to cushion from concussive forces.
  • Fats are used for satiety control.
  • Fat gives flavor to our foods.
  • A lot of essential nutrients to be discussed later in the chapter are carried by the fat.

Classifications of Fat

Fats and oils: these are solid when at room temperature.

Triglycerides, diglycerides, and monoglycerides: the most common dietary fat and oil is the triglycerides. 

Short, medium, and long chain fatty acids.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids.

Low-density lipoproteins.

High density lipoproteins.


The vitamins are essential for our body reactions to occur. By eating a wide variety of food and many fresh veggies and fruits, we can assure we get a sufficient number of vitamins in our diet. The dietary reference intake on our labels gives percentages to base the average diet off of.

Water-soluble Vitamins

These are the vitamins that the body only keeps in very limited storage, like vitamin B and C. They are associated most with carb foods like fruits, breads, cereal, and veggies.

Fat-soluble Vitamins

These are the vitamins that are only delivered with the presence of fats and oils. Vitamins A and D are common examples, and they are carried within the fat component of milk.

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These inorganic substances are used for water balance, the stimulation of nerve impulses, balances of acid-bases, and energy reactions. Iron, zinc, and calcium are some of the more important ones to name a few. Iron and zinc are known for their use in energy metabolism, and calcium for its importance in the skeletal repair and maintenance.

Fluid and Hydration

Water takes the nutrients we take into the cells and carries the waste away. It is also a lubricant for the body and assists in maintaining our temperature.

We lose water when we breathe, through the skin, in our urine, sweat, and our feces.

Meeting Fluid Needs

The benefits of staying fueled and hydrated:

  • Lessened heart rate increase.
  • Lessened increases of the core body temperature.
  • Cardiac stroke volume and cardiac output improvements.
  • Skin blood flow improvements.
  • Maintaining better volumes of blood.
  • Net muscle glycogen usage is reduced.

The fluid intake recommendations are these:

  • Drink to match your loss of sweat.
  • Drink prior to being thirsty.
  • Check the color of urine to ty to keep it at clear or pale yellow.
  • Large volumes of fluid in short times increases gastrointestinal distress.
  • Hyponatremia may occur with large amounts of fluid being taken in when sodium is not present.
  • Fluids need to be cool, taste good, and available easily.

Fluid Consumption Guidelines

Fluid is important, but so is the type of fluid consumed. Most studies say that fluids with 6 – 8% carbs and 100 – 200 mg of sodium per cup, like the sports beverages we see, are best for sports and activities.

Water Versus Sports Drinks

Water doesn’t have flavor or electrolytes, and it causes you to want to drink more, thus it is good in this sense.

Water doesn’t have energy, and sports drinks do, so they will prevent early fatigue and decreasing performances.

Sodium in sports drinks maintain blood volume.

Dietary Supplements and Ergogenic Aids

Dietary Supplements

These are used to intervene in dietary deficiencies.

Ergogenic Aids

These are used for improved performance, regardless of if there is any known deficiency.

Special Conditions

Some special conditions include extreme environments and vegetarianism.

The risk of dehydration exists in both hot and cold situations. For hot areas the loss is from sweat and dissipating heat, and then for the cod areas we actually still lose a lot of fluid through our breathing. We must do our best in those situations to maintain a good body temperature and to hydrate properly.

For athletes that are vegetarian, it is important that we meet the nutritional requirements mentioned throughout this chapter. Some things that might lack in this diet are zinc, protein, vitamin B, and energy.

Practical Considerations

One day prior to Competition

We should avoid foods that are high in fat.

Eat a solid breakfast.

Lunch should be sandwiches, pasta or rice.

Something similar should follow for dinner along with things like yogurt and fruit for dessert.

Drink extra fluid throughout the day.

Immediately before Exercise or Competition

Make certain to have sufficient energy for the entire bout of exercise.

Stop any feelings of hunger.

Be fully hydrated.

Avoid high fiber or gas causing foods.

Drink a lot of water 4 hours before, and then a good amount 10 – 20 minutes before.

During Exercise or Competition

If exercise is less than 45 minutes, then do not consume carbs, but when over that time, small amounts of carbs are needed. Solid foods should even be consumed if going for 1 – 2.5 hours.

After Exercise or Competition

1.0 – 1.2 grams per kilogram for the first 4 – 6 hours after will promote muscle glycogen recovery.

Typically, 200 – 400 calories immediately after activity, and then 200 300 the next hours.

People should drink a minimum of 20 ounces of fluid per pound lost of body weight.

Eating on the Road

We should pack foods that are nutrient dense.

Pick up basics when you get to the destination.

When eating out, always go with healthier options.

Understanding a Food Label (From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition)

Serving Size

The typical one is in units like cups or pieces. This is how much you should eat at once to be considered a serving.


The unit of measure for how much energy is in the food, or sometimes the serving of the food.

Percent of Daily Values

This is how much is recommended for the upper limit of the nutrient being discussed.

Frequently Asked Nutrition Questions

Should I Take Protein Supplements

Protein can be taken to fill in for a lack of it in the diet, but anything taken past the level of 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight, is typically stored as fat or burned as energy.

What about Creatine?

This is used to help maintain power for some repeated high intensity bouts of exercise. It may however affect the body making its own creatine.

Should I Consume Sports Drinks or Does Water Work Just as Well?

These are good for keeping our balances of fluids and electrolytes.

Should I Stay away from Caffeinated Beverages before a Workout?

If you are adjusted to it, then there is no problem, but taking more than normal would affect your heart rate by increasing it.

Should I Skip Lunch If I’m Trying to Lower My Body Fat Level? 

This is the biggest reason for high levels of body fat. You shouldn’t skip meals since this causes excess insulin to be produced and will make you fatter than if you were to eat more often.

Will a High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet Help Me Lose Weight? 

Nothing suggests that this works.

Should I Eat or Drink Anything during Exercise? 

Sports drinks should be considered first, as they don’t have the same affects as solid food. But a snack during a long rest is good.

I’m a Profuse Sweater and Occasionally Get Serious Cramps. Is There Anything I Should Be Doing to Avoid this Problem? 

You should take in more sodium containing fluid, as cramps are normal when someone is dehydrated and lacking sodium.

How Gan I Tell if I’m Dehydrated? 

Urine being dark, and not going often is the best sign of dehydration.

ACSM CPT Chapter 6: Nutrition and Human Performance 1
ACSM CPT Chapter 6: Nutrition and Human Performance 2
ACSM CPT Chapter 6: Nutrition and Human Performance 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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