Maybe you clicked this link because the title sounds absolutely ridiculous. How can fat NOT make you fat?!
Back in the 1960’s, fats and oils supplied Americans with about 45 percent of their calories. Only 13 percent of Americans were obese and under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes. Fast forward from the hippies to the present day America. Today, Americans eat LESS fat (the average American diet is about 33 percent of calories coming from fat). Shockingly, 34% of American TODAY are obese and 8 percent have type 2 diabetes. Detailed research (much of it done at Harvard) shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked with weight or disease! MIND BLOWN.
Well these studies had to dig a little deeper because fat not making you fat just sounds extremely counterintuitive, right? Further studies revealed a major difference between sources of fat. As you likely already know, there are good fats and bad fats and the type of fat you consume makes all the difference.
Eliminating fat from your diet would be a huge mistake! Fat is an essential macronutrient that provides long term energy, energy storage, and insulation. Fat balances hormones and insulates the body from environmental temperature changes (thus preserving body heat). Fats play a very important role in the long distance cardio workouts you are performing by being the long-lasting fuel source you are using. Perhaps most important is the fact that fat makes it possible for certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) to be metabolized and used in the body!
Despite all these important functions of fat, fat typically gets a bad rap. But as I mentioned, we have good fats and bad fats.
We want to completely eliminate all Trans Fat from our diet. Trans Fat is associated with elevated LDL cholesterol levels and increased risk for heart disease. Another name for Trans Fat is “Hydrogenated”. If you ever come across the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on an ingredient label make the commitment right now that you will not eat it. Some studies suggest that our body is unable to metabolize trans-fat for up to 3 months! I don’t know how accurate those studies are but even the thought of having trans fat stuck in my body for even just a month seems sketch. You can find trans fat in commercial frying fats (baked goods), margarine, shortening, frostings, and many common snacks in the aisles at the grocery store.
Saturated Fat is another type of fat we need to keep an eye on. We shouldn’t consume more than 7% of our daily calories from saturated fats. I recommend using an online Food Diary (such as myfitnesspal.com) to track your foods and make sure you aren’t going overboard on Saturated Fat.
As a general rule of thumb, Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature – think cooled bacon grease or butter left out on the table.
The Good Fats
The fats we want to make sure we have enough of in our diet are Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats.
It is important that you read nutrition labels for products that are high in these healthy fats and low in Saturated and Trans Fat.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are easily broken down in the body and put to good use. Vegetable oils (canola and olive), natural peanut butter, chia, flaxseed, and avocados are all excellent sources of these healthy fats.
You diet should also contain both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. Our body is unable to synthesize/create Omega-3 and Omega-6 on its own and thus it is required that we obtain them through our diet. Omega 3’s are primarily found in cold water fish while Omega-6 is primarily found in vegetable oils.
If you aren’t a fishy person and prefer to hard pass all sea food, I recommend supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil capsules. I personally don’t eat fish as often as I should and thus choose to supplement with Omega-3.
How much fat should I have in my diet?
Fat is important, but going overboard with fat can be extremely detrimental (especially if it is high in saturated and Trans Fat). Keep a close eye on fat intake. I recommend .3 to .5 grams of fat per pound of goal body weight.
Each gram of fat contains 9 calories (much more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein which both contain 4 calories per gram).
Eliminate ALL trans-fat, reduce saturated fat, and enjoy more of the healthy fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats.
All this processed, packaged, trans-fat junk that has crept into the American diet needs to go! Commit to eating only healthy fats and watch your body become leaner, stronger, and much healthier.
Sweat and smile,