Also known as lipids are a primary energy source and serve many important functions.
Fats in the body:
- Form & transport hormones
- Help store nutrients & vitamins
- Serve as the foundation for cell membranes & tissues of the nervous system
- Protect Organs
- Regulate Body Temperature
- Communicate Energy Needs
Some perceive fat as a negative dietary component due to the "link" to increasing body fat. This holds some validity due to this high caloric density at 9kcals/g. However, appropriate fat intake is linked to optimized health & performance.
The general recommendation is 20-30% of total calories from fat each day. Not all types are created equal, so we need to make sure we understand which fats are the good fats.
Mono & Polyunsaturated Fats
These 2 are healthy forms of dietary fat.
Monounsaturated Fat: Found is various plant based foods and provides nutrient dense energy.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Include essential nutrients such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which provide important physiological benefits.
Omega-3: Is found in foods such as fatty fish & walnuts. These foods have anti-inflammatory as well as cardio protective properties.
Omega-6: Are found in foods such as eggs, seeds, whole grains. They contain healthful elements which limit deficiencies and potential diseases.
Saturated Fat: More common among animal products, serves important physiological roles in the body such as hormone transport. (BUT IS UNHEALTHY WHEN CONSUMED IN EXCESS, AND COULD LEAD TO HEART DISEASE.)
Trans Fat: Is a manufactured form of fat to increase the flavor, consistency, and shelf life of products. This fat has no use in a healthy diet. Trans fat is mostly found in processed products such as; fast food, pastries, fried food, aka unhealthy food.
It greatly increase the risk for heart disease by simultaneously increasing low-density lipo-protein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Reducing high-density lipo-protein (HDL) cholesterol levels in the blood.
LDL Cholesterol: can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease when present in excess as it has affinity for arterial lesions and can promote or accelerate fatty plaque formation along the inside border of blood vessel walls.
This can lead to blockage of major arteries serving the heart or brain, resulting in heart attacks or strokes.
HDL Cholesterol: Can be cardio protective as it functions as a scavenger of excess LDL cholesterol and other components in the bloodstream.
This is why trans fat is recommended to be completely cut out of diets. The healthiest fat intake looks like:
- 50% monounsaturated
- 30% polyunsaturated
- 5% or less saturated
- 0% trans fat
Now let's talk about cholesterol!
Cholesterol: is not an essential nutrient as the body produces 70% of it's daily needs. However, it is necessary for membrane, hormone, and bile formation, as well as serving as a precursor for vitamin D.
Interestingly, it is not considered as hazardous to one's health as once believed so the previous 300mg/day limit has been abandoned. However, is found in many animal based products along side saturated fats. Excess intake still requires caution.
Cholesterol Rich Foods:
- Processed Meats
- Fast Foods
Now let's talk about NUTS! Or other healthy fats😉
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Known to enhance antioxidant and immune defense system and protect against diseases of the brain and heart. May help improve recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
Some research has shown them to blunt out exercise induced inflammation. It seems the true ergogenic value is inconclusive though. However, intake is still important due to positive impacts on health.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): is an isomer of linoleic acid found in meat and dairy products. It's used among body builders for fat reduction purposes. However, it doesn't help fat or obese people lose weight. It seems to simulate testosterone synthesis during periods of high muscular stress and reduce inflammation following endurance exercise.
Medium Chain Triglycerides: Are found in few natural foods, such as coconuts. This is made man as a dietary supplement for purported increases in fat use to spare glycogen and promote body fat loss.
Medium chain triglycerides can be use as an ancillary fuel source to improve overall work capacity. However, it does't seem to have any significant impact on high-level performance measures.
Fat-Loading: An endurance aid via increased fat use to spare muscle glycogen. While high fat diets and loading due increase fat use they also fail to improve performance. Research has shown to actually reduce performance during high intensity anaerobic workouts. Keto diets are also attempting the same high fat methods for weight loss.
Ketogenic Diets: High fat & protein, low carb diet that forces the body to burn greater amounts of fat over CHO and result in an accumulation of ketone acids in the body which can be used for energy.
Summary & Recommendations
Overall you need to know all about the healthy sources of fat & unhealthy sources of fats so while you're training you can get the most out of your workouts. Essentially the more you workout & run or play sports, the high amounts of healthy fats your body will naturally need to get enough calories.
20% or less of healthy fats will cause insufficient consumption of the good fats you need. This can lead to deficiencies and hormonal issues. 20-25% should be consumed for fat loss and only until the fat loss period has been met. Once you hit your fat loss goal, maintain healthy body fat by eating good fats. 25-30% is the healthy zone for strong athletes and weight trainers. 35% should be consumed by endurance athletes because their bodies are burning more calories each day during training.