Why you should be Eating more Fats

Fats are an incredibly important macronutrient, often overlooked by an athletic population who prioritise protein for building building and repair, carbohydrates for muscle glycogen... and leave fats down to insufficient, trace amounts.

Just some of the many reasons that fats are so essential are:

Absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. These vitamins are usually absorbed in fat globules (called chylomicrons). When fat intake is too low, we can become deficient in these vitamins which are important for various functions in the body.

Appetite control and fullness. Fats do this in a few ways. Firstly, they prevent the blood sugar spikes which come with high CHO meals, they take longer to break down and digest, and finally, add more flavour to meals, potentially blunting the craving for more foods.

Blood sugar control. Fewer carbohydrates mean that the body's insulin production will not be as high, great news for diabetics who have impaired or no insulin response at all. Lowering carbs and increasing fats can also be useful to bodybuilders who have been following a high carb bulk for some time to resensitise them. This can lead to performance and muscle building benefits. We can observe this in more depth by taking blood glucose readings in a morning and following meals.

Hormone regulation. Fats are associated with the production of sex hormones, extended periods of dietary fat restriction can lead to issues with menstruation and fertility in women. Fats are also important for healthy cell walls, which allow hormones, including thyroid hormones, to get into the blood stream.

Energy. While the body will use carbohydrates first for fuel, fats are second in line. In extreme conditions, protein can be converted to glucose by gluconeogenesis, this is a last resort- protein is key to carrying out many key functions in the body which are prioritised. Over time, we can become 'fat adapted', where the body learns to effectively use stored fat for fuel. This may be better for fat loss.

Fat recommendations:

General health recommendations suggest 20-30% of your calories coming from fats. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would mean around 44-67g of fat per day.

LCHF (low carb, high fat diet): according to the Mayo Clinic, a low-carb diet limits carbohydrates to 60 to 130 grams a day.

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, a keto diet generally suggests limiting carbohydrates to around 50g per day (varies depending on activity and calorie intake) with most calories coming from fats.

Sources of Dietary Fat:

Now that you have an idea of whether you are under-eating on fat, and how you may want to adjust your macros accordingly, what foods should you choose to meet your daily fat intake?

Saturated Fats

  • red meat
  • whole fat dairy
  • eggs

Can raise 'bad' cholesterol, eat in moderation and choose quality cuts of meat.

Unsaturated Fats

  • avocado
  • nuts
  • oily fish

'Healthy fats' including sources of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

Trans Fats

  • cakes
  • frozen pizzas
  • french fries

Avoid these- less than 1% of total daily calories.

 

By Savannah Westerby

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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