Sport Nutrition: Fats



Of all the macronutrients, fat has the worst reputation. People hear the word “fat” and think obesity, but fat plays a vital role in a well-balanced diet. Fat is a very important part of a healthy bodybuilding nutrition program. Your body needs an adequate fat intake to function properly. Fat is good for you – if you choose the right type (choose healthy fats) and quantity. From a fitness point of view, moderate amounts of fat can actually help you maintain a good weight because fat provides a sense of fullness (satiety) after meals.

Fats – The Basics

Like carbohydrates, fats are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. But fats are the most energy-dense macronutrient, providing about 9 calories per gram. Fat is a secondary source of energy, but it has twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrates. It’s easy to understand why people gain weight by eating too much fat. One pound (.5 kg) of body fat contains 3,500 calories of energy.

Carbohydrate4 Calories
Protein4 Calories
Fat9 Calories
Alcohol*7 Calories
* One gram of alcohol provides 7 kcal (29 kJ) during the oxidation, but it is not considered a nutrient due to an adverse effect on physical growth, development and regeneration.

What is the importance of fats in the body? What are the functions of fat in the diet?

Many people try to carry as little fat as possible. However, it is far from being a useless tissue: it’s the body’s main energy-storage depot. In addition to providing energy, fat protects and insulates your internal organs, composes parts of vital structures such as cell membranes, and serves as a building block for many important hormones. It also helps maintain healthy skin and hair and transports vitamins A, D, E, and K throughout our bodies. In addition, fat is used in the production of cell membranes and eicosanoids, hormone like compounds that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, and blood clotting, among other things.

Different Types of Fat

There are four different types of fat that make up the fat in food : unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), saturated and trans fats.

Healthy Fat Foods

Healthy Fat Foods

1. Unsaturated (“good”) fats

Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fats (e.g., canola, peanut, and olive oils) and polyunsaturated fats (e.g., sunflower, corn, and soybean oils).

Unsaturated fats, derived from plant sources (such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds), are considered the “good” fats because they improve blood lipid profiles. Palm and coconut oil, although from plant sources, are highly saturated.

Avocados and most nuts are the foods with the highest amounts of monounsaturated fat. For once, scientists are unanimous. Men who replace some of the harmful fats (see below) in their diets with monounsaturated fats have lower levels of harmful, LDL cholesterol. They have a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes. They tend to live longer.

When you’re working out to gain size, there’s another reason to get more monos. They slightly increase levels of testosterone, the hormone that’s integral to muscle growth, and which also fuels libido and sexual performance.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in sea food like herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut, and fish oils.

2. Saturated (“bad”) fats

Saturated fats, derived mainly from animal products (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, red meat, whole milk), and trans fats, found most often in commercially packaged snack foods, are usually considered the bad fats because they elevate blood cholesterol levels.

Saturated fat is the stuff that sends your cholesterol north. It increases your risk of cancer as well as heart disease. It’s among the main preventable causes of disease. Doctors advise limiting the total amount to no more than 10 percent of total calories—and less is better. Foods high in saturated fat often taste good, but your diet should not include large amounts of this type of fat.

3. Trans (“worst”) fats

The only other fat that you really have to worry about isn’t a natural fat at all. Very dangerous forms of fats are trans fats, which are mainly contained in solid or semisolid margarines and commercial cooking oils used in many processed foods. The liquid oils go through the hydrogenation process. This makes the oils solid and helps preserve them. The trans fats made through this process increase cholesterol levels. The only way to avoid trans fats is to examine food labels and avoid foods that include “hydrogenated fat” and “partially hydrogenated fat.” Nutritionists recommend that you avoid trans fats completely.

Recommended Daily Fat Intakes

Choosing Healthy Fat

Choosing Healthy Fat

The government’s official health gurus advise limiting fat intake to 35 percent of total calories. That’s the upper limit. If you consume 1,800 calories a day, your fat ceiling should be 70 grams.

Here’s a simple formula you can use. First, figure out how many calories you consume a day. Multiply that number by 0.35, which is the upper fat percentage. In this case, you’ll get 630 calories. Divide that number by 9, the number of calories per gram of fat. The total: 70 grams of fat a day.

We recommend that fat intake be less than 30 percent of the calories you eat; some recommend even lower levels. You don’t have to be fanatical. Fats add flavor to food; a hearty meal in a French restaurant would hardly be the same without some fats. Moderation is the key. If one food or meal contains more fat than is desirable, balance it with food or a meal containing less than 30 percent fat. The overriding goal is to keep fat content in the diet at no more than 30 percent of the total calories.

Remember, most of that should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources. Keep saturated fat to a minimum—and trans fat as close to zero as possible.

It would be a good idea to also supplement your diet with fish oil capsules. Simply take a couple capsules with each meal. Fish oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids and it is also high in EPA and DHA fatty acids. These fatty acids are antioxidants and help with muscle growth and fat loss. They also have health benefits with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that taking 10 grams of fish oil per day can increase your metabolic rate and enhance muscle building and fat loss.

Type of Fat Major Food Sources
Monounsaturated Fat Olive, canola and peanut oils, avocados, non-hydrogenated margarines, nuts and seeds
Polyunsaturated Fat
– Omega – 6 Fat Safflower, sesame, sunflower and corn oils, non-hydrogenated margarines, nuts and seeds
– Omega – 3 Fat Fattier fish, canola and soybean oils, flax seed, omega-3 eggs, walnuts
Type of Fat Major Food Sources
Saturated Fat In many prepared foods made with hydrogenated oils, as well as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter
Trans Fats In all foods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and many snack foods, fast foods and ready-prepared foods

The Role Of Dietary Fat In Bodybuilding

Dietary fat is also essential to maximal performance in the sport. Not just any fat will bring about positive health and physique changes. You need to focus on the right kinds and sources of fat to support your bodybuilding goals. Certain types of fat can help a bodybuilder maintain lean muscle mass, especially during a dieting phase. Ironically, adequate fat consumption can also maximize fat loss and help you build lean muscle. Fat in your diet supports hormone production, which is essential to muscle-building. It also helps you absorb and store essential vitamins, such as A, D, E and K. Fat is your primary energy source. Depriving your body of fat also encourages it to store extra fat whenever the opportunity arises to offset potential scarcity. Bodybuilders seek a lean, not fat, physique to show off muscles.

About Author

Hey! My name is Kruno, and I'm the owner and author of Bodybuilding Wizard. I started this website back in late 2014, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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