Fat doesn't make you fat!
Unfortunately fat has been somewhat demonised, much like carbs, and people end up not eating enough.
Many will opt for low fat versions of foods, but it is important to remember that calories are king here, and many of these versions have the same amount of calories, but are only lower in fat because they have been replaced by carbs. Often they don’t taste as nice ( more on this below) people are less satisfied, and end up eating more.
Photo cred : Farmacy London
The focus of fats role is less performance based and more every day health –they are essential for the production of hormones, transport of some vitamins, cell structure and is the predominant energy source for low-medium intensity exercise .
They do have a higher calorie load, per gram than the other macros, which is partially why they are given a bad rap. You just need to be aware of your portion sizes ; it is often beneficial to weigh out fat-based snacks such as nuts, and keep in small bags - many supermarkets produce the small grab bags of nuts too- as it is easy to mindlessly eat a whole bag of share sized nuts. Generally though, you will feel more satisfied eating something that is higher in fat, that something high in carbs, and you will feel fuller for longer (more on this below) so you would end up eating substantially less in that meal, and across the rest of the day.
Chia seed pudding : Low carb/ high fat breakfast- link to recipe here
Fats don’t really respond to insulin-so you don’t get the blood sugar highs and crashes, which can lead to fatigue and an over consumption of food. When combined with carbs, fats blunt the insulin response , so that you shouldn’t get the blood sugar highs and crashes.
They also taste great- most of a food’s mouth feel is down to the fat content- meaning you are more satisfied and consume less.
Saturated vs Unsaturated
Don't get too tied up worrying about having a certain amount of unsaturated and saturated fats a day- as long as you stay within your recommended range ( see below) just make sure they are of good quality ( so minimise fried foods and processed meats) and balanced - so fitting in milks, butters/coconut oil alongside nuts, olive oils, avocados and fatty fish is a good place to start.
That said , to put emphasis on a certain fat, Omega 3s are amazing- the action they have on blood means that oxygen and nutrient delivery is far more efficient, which is a huge benefit to those that exercise, as you will feel sharper and less fatigued, so you’ll be able to perform for longer and at a higher quality. They are also anti-inflammatory , so improve recovery. There is some evidence pointing to their use in fat loss, although much more research needs to be done to support this ( 1, 2).
There is some promising evidence to show that they may also have benefit in memory and learning , although again more research does need to be done (3). In some cases, they have seen to be beneficial in improving depression ( 4) and reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease ( 5),
The best sources of omega 3 are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.Non-fish sources include rapeseed and linseed oils, chia seeds and walnuts however, the form they are in isn’t as potent .
Photo cred/meal prep - Hiit Kitchen
There is a fairly big ‘ideal’ range, running from 0.4g to 1.2g per kg of body weight, so it is somewhat of a sliding scale- for those that perform higher intensity exercise, I would be looking to keep their fats on the lower end of the spectrum so we have a larger amount of carbohydrates in the diet, whilst a more sedentary individual would be consuming at the higher end, but be eating lower carbs. Some preference will likely
come into it- some people just prefer and tolerate a higher carb lower fat diet, whilst others prefer higher fat and lower carb. As long as your health and performance needs are being covered, there is some flexibility there.
1. Du et al (2015) Does Fish Oil Have an Ant-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLos One, 16:10(11):e0142652 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142652.
2. Buckley and Howe (2010) Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids May Be Beneficial for Reducing Obesity- A Review. Nutrients, 2(12), 1212-1230, doi: 10.3390/nu2121212
3. Dyall S C (2015) Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA,DPA and DHA, 7:52 doi: 1o.3389/fnagi.2015.00052
4. Bozzatello et al (2016) Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Psychiatric Disorders: A Review of Literature Data. 5(8):67 doi: 10.3390/jcm5080067
5. Simopoulos AP (1999) Essential fatty acids in health and chronic diseases. Am J Clin Nutr 70(3 Suppl) 560S-569S.
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