Fat


All things considered, fat gets a bad rap. The truth is that, ‘fat(s)’ is not all created equal. There are different types from different sources, and while certain fats are most definitely not going to help you become the picture of fitness, making sure you get the right kinds of fat is also crucial to your health [1] and ultimately becoming that same fitness picture.

What Is It?

Fat is one of the macronutrients--that is to say, one of the nutrients in a given food that contributes towards the food’s total calorie content. Fat is typically thought of as the greasy substance that occurs naturally in animals, but can also refer to the fat found in certain plant foods such as nuts, seeds, etc.

What Types Are There?

When talking about fat, you can further specify what type of fat using these categories: Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, and Monounsaturated Fat. Saturated Fat is so named because, chemically speaking, its molecules are unable to form strong bonds due to being overly saturated with hydrogen.

This type of fat is typically solid at room temperature, where both types of unsaturated fat and liquid at room temperature. Mono- or Poly- unsaturated fat simply refers to the types of molecular bonds found in each category of fat.

What Does It Do?

Fat has a few different roles in the body. Firstly, it contributes to a food’s calorie content which is essentially your body’s fuel. Fat in particular is used to create or maintain various functions or internal structures including cell membranes, assisting in the storage and proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and even mobilizing to surround and protect our internal organs.

Certain vitamins that your body needs to function can only be properly absorbed or stored in your body with the help of fat. Just as oil and water don’t mix, certain vitamins will only ‘mix’ with fat and not with water. Additionally, the right kinds of fat can help you feel satiated for longer after eating a meal.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Saturated fat is typically considered the least healthy type of fat, and is the type referred to when fat is vilified as causing heart problems, high cholesterol, etc. If you eat mostly unsaturated fats, you can get a boost in energy, and additional health benefits from the proper absorption of other nutrients.

Making sure to consume healthy fats can be especially important for anyone who works out or lifts weights because the fat’s energy content can help to make workouts less tiring.

Also, even the most fit people need some fat in their bodies to properly protect their internal organs--individuals who work out constantly will need to replenish some of their burned off fat stores to ensure this protective fatty barrier is maintained.

What Foods Contain It?

Any food with fat that appears solid at room temperature probably has saturated fat in it. This includes butter, cream, cheeses, beef and other animal meats. Both types of unsaturated fat can be found in foods such as avocado, chia seed, flax seed, and oily fish such as salmon, cod, etc.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

How much fat you should eat per day can vary, as the amount should be in proportion to your total caloric intake. If, for example, you ate 2,000 calories per day, the optimal fat intake would be 65g, with no more than 20g of that total fat being from saturated fat sources.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Eating too much fat can increases your risk for obesity, and contribute to high cholesterol levels. This is especially true of a diet high in saturated fats.  Consuming excess fat can also greatly increase your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Eating too little fat can negatively affect your body in several ways. Without the necessary fat to properly absorb vitamins like A, D and K, you will acquire and continue to suffer from vitamin deficiencies.

The Omega-3 fatty acids found in unsaturated fat also have a positive effect on your body, protecting it from unstable blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Lastly, consuming too little fat can cause an individual to never feel fully satiated after a meal, resulting in food cravings.

Armed with this extra knowledge, you should be better prepared to make informed decisions when it comes to your health. Cutting out all fat isn’t doing your body any favors, but knowing where to look for the good fats and which foods to avoid can help you create and maintain a healthy balance of all types of fat in your body.

Finding a balanced nutritional profile that works for you will certainly go a long way toward improving your overall health and well being.

References:

[1] Medline Plus. Dietary Fats Explained. Medlineplus.gov, 2016.

[2] Dutchen, Stephanie. What Do Fats Do In The Body? . Livescience.com, 2010.

[3] Herman, Jeff. How Much Fat and Calories Do You Need Daily?. Livestrong.com, 2015.