Fat: The good, the bad and the power of Omega-3s.
The font of all our nutritional knowledge James Morehen (@1more_nutrition) breaks down the important role fats have in our diets!
In addition to carbohydrate, fat is one of the main fuel sources for energy allowing muscle contraction during exercise. Fat stores can contain more than 50 times the amount of energy than carbohydrate stores with most of this fat being stored in subcutaneous adipose tissue as well as in the muscle as intramuscular triacylglycerol.
As an athlete it is ideal to tap into the fat stores as much as possible subsequently saving the carbohydrate stores for later on in the performance. For the provision of energy to occur through muscle contraction, the fats that we consume are firstly stored in the body and then utilized to provide energy. The three storage sites in the body are adipose tissue, muscle triacylglycerol’s and plasma triacylglycerol’s.
Although it is typical in most sports for the athlete to strive to adopt very high lean mass and very low fat mass anthropometric profiles, fats simply can’t be written out completely. Additionally, it is key to understand the importance of certain fats including both the good fats and the bad fats.
Carrying excess fat can also be referred to as dead weight as it will make you heavier, slower, increase fatigue, and reduce functionality. In addition to the negative affects on performance capacity, having too much excess adipose tissue isn’t healthy for our body either as there are numerous cardiovascular diseases associated with excess body fat.
Fat in your diet
Most of the fats we consume should be coming from healthy unsaturated fats. These include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, oily fish, peanut butter and avocados. These unsaturated fats along with saturated fats, mono-saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are all termed according to their chemical structure and all play different roles in our body and affecting our health.
The saturated fats include foods that our hard at room temperature, for example, cheese, butter, lard and meat fat. Additionally processed foods that use these fats include biscuits, cakes and pastry. Mono-saturated fats include oils that are usually liquid at room temperature but may solidify at cold temperatures. These include: olive, rapeseed, hazelnut and almond oil, avocado and olives. Mono-saturated fats are said to have the greatest health benefits reducing total LDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils and oily fish that tend to be liquids at both room and cold temperatures.
Essential fats that you need
The essential fatty acids are a subgroup of polyunsaturated and can’t be made in our body so it is vital that we consume through our nutrition. Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish and are key in helping to control functions such as blood clotting, inflammation, blood vessel walls toning and our immune system. Omega-6 fats are important in the healthy functioning of cell membranes and healthy skin although a moderate intake of omega-6 is encourage over a high intake due to its association with increased free radical damage.
Some of the best sources of the essential fatty acids include oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna. If you do not like fish then you can also get the essential fats from plant based foods such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and soybeans. Small amounts can also be found in kale, spinach and sweet potatoes.
Some of the most often cited benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are highlighted below:
- Improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells because of reduced blood viscosity
- More flexible red blood cell membranes and improved oxygen delivery
- Enhanced aerobic metabolism
- Increased energy levels and stamina
- Increased exercise duration and intensity
- Improved released of growth hormone in response to sleep and exercise, improving recovery and promoting anabolic (or anti-catabolic) environment.
It is evident that for years the media and certain people have preached about how important it is to cut out fats to attempt in part to loose body fat, become leaner and reduce health problems. However, I hope this little blog gets across the message that fats simply can’t be cut out of our diet especially if we want to live a healthy life, let alone become a better athletic performer. I think the key to consuming fats is consuming the correct ones, and the correct amounts.