Fat is BAD. No… fat is good. No! Lots of fat is bad, SOME fat is good. Then the real question is… butter or margarine? Which is best?! The world of fat is a confusing and often conflicting place. That is why we’ve teamed up with the guys at Optimum Nutrition to give you an insight into the factual science behind fat and show you how to incorporate fat into smashing those fitness goals!
Dietary fat is a critical component of a healthy diet, but it is often associated with negative health effects. Fat has made u-turns in the media from falling in and falling out of favour in respect to its role in a healthy diet. However, we now know that fat is not as bad as we once thought. Naturally occurring fats are vital in physiology, and our bodies would not function properly without it. The hard part is ensuring we are not consuming too much, or the wrong types. Being mindful of how we consume fat is the key to a better relationship with it!
So why has fat been seen as the devil or fitness for so long? Fat is a macronutrient that has over twice the amount of calories as its macro counterparts (protein and carbs). I know that sounds scary. However, this calorie dense macro serves as a concentrated form of energy to aid many of our bodily functions. Without fat, we couldn’t absorb our fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K). Fat also supports our mental function, joint health, skin and hair quality and the structural components of hormones and cells. That all sounds pretty important doesn't it…
Types of dietary fats
Enough about the calories in fat… more about the type of fats we are consuming. There are 3 main types of fat that we eat: Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. You may have also heard of trans fats… these are a result of chemical hydrogenation of fats during cooking.
Saturated fats: These guys are typically solid at room temperature. Think of the gorgeous marbling between your steak or that big knob of butter that goes on your toast in the morning. These are the fats that get a really bad rep for both weight gain and raising cholesterol in the blood. Whilst it's true that too much of anything is bad, if you stick to 7-10% of your calories coming from saturated fats, you’re doing well.
Unsaturated fats: Mono and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. They come with lots of added health benefits. They can be found in vegetable oil, nuts, avocados and even fish! Monounsaturated have the added benefit of raising those good cholesterol levels and lowering the bad. Polyunsaturated fats like the omega-3’s and 6’s play a vital role in brain function and normal growth and development.
Keep an eye out for the less natural cousin of the fats above… trans fats. As mentioned, these are chemically made and are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease. Food labels name this fat as ‘hydrogenated oil’ in the ingredients list and it is best to keep these to a minimum.
Fat’s role in performance
Now we’ve gone through the what’s and where’s with fat… let's look at the why’s. What role does fat play in fitness performance? Firstly, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that doubling the calories also increases the energy levels. In fact, during low to moderate intensity exercise the body primarily uses fat to fuel those muscles. If you want to smash those performance goals, reaching for a source of unsaturated fats will help fuel that workout and promote optimal health. Grab some nuts, seeds or fatty fish and your body will thank you! Don’t forget to treat yourself to a steak now and again… those saturated fats are often missed off the menu, and don’t forget the protein!
What's the verdict?
Dietary fats are crucial for normal functioning of the body and key to helping our bodies perform at their optimal levels. Fat is important for joint and mental health, as well as critical for absorption of the fat soluble vitamins which also play a significant role in performance. Dietary fats can easily fit in your nutrition plan! Add avocado to your toast, snack on a handful of almonds, or sauté your veggies in olive oil! Just remember—everything in moderation! Moderation is key when it comes to fats. Thanks to Optimum Nutrition for this fat fuelling info!