Updated: Jan 29
Understanding your "biochemical individuality" is the secret sauce to optimizing your health.
Nutrition is the foundation of our health. For our body to function correctly, we need to fuel it according to its needs. That is why what we eat and drink has a significant impact on how different parts of our body function. Nutritional knowledge helps us understand how our body uses the food we consume, how healthy eating habits affect our metabolism, and prevent various diseases.
Your body is a unique, efficient, and effective machine. But just like a race car, it is only as good as the fuel you put in it. When we talk about nutrition, it is not just the amount of food you take in, but also the kind of food you are eating.
By now, most people understand the importance of healthy food, but not all healthy food is the same. Similarly, we are all different too. Your body and the nutrition it needs are different from mine and anyone else's, and the 'right' food for your body depends on your lifestyle and goals. For instance, if you are a promising athlete wanting to take your performance to the next level, your nutritional needs will be very different from someone in their 40's who spend their days working a desk job. Such people are mostly looking to maximize their health to keep up with their kids in the park. Nutrition is not a 'one size fits all' kind of thing, although the way it is often presented, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Developing a nutritional program that is right for you means understanding what your body needs. You don't need to worry because there are ways to assess this for you.
The basic idea of requiring an individual nutritional program to suit your body and lifestyle has a foundation in the concept of Biochemical Individuality. Whatever your goals or functional health target are, you need a personalized approach to nutrition and dietary goals based on how you live and those health targets.
However, biochemical individuality takes this farther. Even if you share the same health goals as someone else and athletics training partner, perhaps your body will require a different nutrition program than anyone else. Beyond lifestyle and wellness, your body is unique, not just in looks, but it is chemically different from others as well. It may seem illogical, but the reality is that if two people are given a diet of identical portions of identical food, which they eat at the same time every day, they will absorb different amounts of nutrients from that food. The difference in the way each individual absorbs those nutrients is the difference in their biochemical individuality.
Scientists have proven this concept with several studies. One example is a study on the absorption of Vitamin C in college students. Each participant consumed 5,000 mg of Vitamin C each day for the duration of the course, with daily monitoring of each individual's absorption rates.
The study shows that while some students absorbed all 5,000 mg of the vitamin, others could only absorb a fraction of the daily intake. In some cases, this was as little as 1000 mg of the vitamin, with the excess merely passing through their bodies. This study clearly shows the importance of knowing what your body needs before establishing an effective nutrition program for yourself. Once you get to know that, use those nutrients instead of copying someone else's plan.
Once you understand the nutrients your body needs, it gets easier to develop an effective nutrition program that features the combination of food that delivers those specific nutrients in the right quantity for your body to absorb. While we all need protein, carbohydrates, and fat for functional health, it is the quantity of each of those things and the balance between them, which matters and is unique for each individual.
Part of this process means understanding the dietary effects of nutrients on hormonal responses, which plays a significant role in determining the right food combinations for your daily routine. However, there is still a lot of confusion about ratios and nutrient quantities required for healthy living, which is not surprising.
Throughout its history, nutrition research has given a wide range of conflicting information about a healthy diet's precise makeup. Now that we are aware of the individual nature of nutrient requirements, it is understandable why studies offer differing findings. However, for many, it has led to problems. Recommended food intake levels have always fluctuated, with proteins making up anything from 15% to 45% of daily food intake. Likewise, carbohydrates have shown an even more extensive range, with recommendations ranging from as little as 15% of daily intake to a massive 75%. Finally, fats have remained the smallest recommended component of daily food intake, but even here, a range between 10% and 30% changed the makeup of a diet significantly.
With such vastly differing information, following 'recommendations' is sure to leave you confused and is undoubtedly no route to finding the right balance for your total wellness. Your unique needs matter more than anything.