Hit Your Training Goals with Dietary Fat
For years, fat has been considered the weak link in the food chain, to be avoided at all costs. But not all fats are created equal. Knowing the differences between the dietary fats and which foods contain them can help you get sensible amounts of the right fats to support your training goals.
Dietary fat lends texture and flavor to food, increases your body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), helps to promote healthier skin, and is a significant source of energy, providing nine calories per gram. The key to incorporating dietary fats into your eating plan is choosing the right ones to eat in moderation. To help you navigate the dietary fat landscape, here’s a closer look at the healthy fats, the not-so-healthy fats, and the recommended intakes that will help support your training goals.
Monounsaturated fats may help boost your metabolism while controlling body fat when consumed as part of a proper diet and exercise plan. They can also act as an antioxidant and promote the health of your arteries by increasing heart-healthy HDL cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are needed in your diet because they include two highly important essential fatty acids – linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6). These fatty acids are not produced by your body and must be obtained from your daily diet. They work best in the body when they are consumed in a 1:1 ratio, so try to get a balance of both in your diet.
Linolenic (Omega-3) Fatty Acids
Linolenic fatty acids may benefit your cardiovascular system, and are also an important part of your immune system. In fact, they improve the absorption of nutrients into the cells by increasing cell permeability. Incorporate wild-caught fish into your diet, try adding a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to your daily protein shake, or supplement with fish oil to net your quota.
Linolenic (Omega-6) Fatty Acids
Linoleic acid, along with linolenic acid, is an important component of cell membranes, particularly nerves and blood cells. Try adding some these foods to your diet to meet your daily needs.
Saturated fats have long shouldered a bad rap, perhaps unfairly. If you’re physically active, consuming quality saturated fats in moderation can actually help your recovery while also optimizing hormone production. What’s more, some sources of saturated fats – like coconut oil – have been shown to be highly beneficial. In fact, instead of being stored as fats, the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are readily metabolized by the body for energy. What’s more, this oil is an excellent choice for high-heat cooking, as it’s more stable at high temperatures. When it comes to meats, stick to grass-fed organic varieties, and choose grass-fed butter to ensure the highest quality.
Here are five easy ways to make dietary fats a part of your diet. Remember that dietary fat contains nine calories per gram, and should be eaten in moderation.
- Try adding a handful of sliced almonds to a salad for a satisfying crunch, or sprinkle some ground flaxseed into a yogurt parfait.
- Try cooking with coconut oil instead of olive oil, as it’s more stable at high temperatures. Drizzle olive oil on salad, and swap out margarine for grass-fed butter, since reducing your consumption of trans fats can lower your risk of illness.
- Swap out processed peanut butter for natural peanut butter, or try other raw nut butters like almond or cashew butters, which are available at many specialty supermarkets.
- Incorporate fish into your diet a couple of times per week – try salmon, cod, tuna, and other varieties – to help reduce inflammation, increase energy, and improve brain function.
- Add a quarter of an avocado to salad to improve nutrient absorption in your body.
When it comes to your training goals, it’s best to incorporate healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as moderate amounts of high-quality saturated fats, while keeping your intake of trans fats to a minimum. Have healthy dietary fats in moderation, and enjoy improved recovery, more satiety, and better results!