In the past several decades, many things have changed in the worlds of training and nutrition. Gyms are packed with new machines and devices offering muscle stimulation from a variety of angles our training forefathers would have never though possible. Supplement stores are on every corner, offering pre-, during- and post-workout options for everything our well-muscled hearts could ever desire. And the world of nutrition has been turned on its head in the past several decades as scientific research has dispatched many of the long-held beliefs regarding nutrition that people believed for centuries.
Fat used to be a four-letter word. And to this day, some folks still believe the only way to shed body fat is to remove fat from their diet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fats are an essential part of human health. Many lifters ask why they need fats at all. It is true that consuming too many fats can cause cardiovascular issues, and make one far less pleasing to the eye. But some fats do provide many positive benefits for the cognitive, cellular, metabolic, and cardiovascular functions of the body. Fats can make you better – if you choose the right ones.
Fats give your body some very important components needed for life. Everyone pays attention to carbs and protein, and yes, they do give you a lot of energy for training and amino acid tools for recovery. Fat is an incredible energy source, packing 9 calories per gram. Fat is an incredible storage vessel, use for vitamin D, A, E, and K. It helps the body product vitamin D, which ironically is a key part of body fat loss. Also, fat is very useful for testosterone production. But all fats are not created equal. Let's look at a few of the available variations.
First, let's take a look at unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are the good ones. They support heart health by regulating the good kind of cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats are a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which has extended lifespans in many aread of the world. Unsaturated fats cook well and should be consumed each day. Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, and include olive, peanut, canola and sunflower oil. Use them while you cook and you'll never lack them in your diet.
If you've been taking supplements, then you probably have already heard of essential fatty acids (EFAs). These heart-healthy fats deliver powerful cognitive and metabolic effects upon the body. Inflammation is the enemy of health, and EFAs help to defeat that. The EFAs of alpha-linolenic acid (which is an omega-3 fatty acid), and linoleic acid (which is an omega-6 fatty acid) should be consumed by the bodybuilder or athlete each week. Meat eaters can get their EFAs from mackerel, herring, and salmon, which vegetarians often opt for hemp, flax, walnuts, olive oil, almonds, eggs, and dark leafy greens (broccoli & spinach) to meet their essential fatty acid requirements.
The area of saturated fats is one that modern science has explored and remapped a great deal over the past few decades. What used to be considered 'all bad' has suddenly taken on new meaning as 'some good' as more details of the way foods affect our bodies have become apparent. Saturated fats raise the levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol in the body. The HDL is considered to be the "good" cholesterol, and the negative effects of the "bad" cholesterol LDL have been minimized over the years. Some saturated fats contain MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides, which can be readily used as fuel, since they are able to bypass the liver. Diets high in MCTs actually allow lifters to shed MORE body fat than diets composed of lower dietary fat intake.
Lifters should also take special note of the crucial role that saturated fats plan in testosterone production. If you suffer from low T, then you probably have a tough time building muscle, losing body fat, and maintaining high energy levels in the gym. Bumping up your saturated fats can give you an added boost in T level production. Choose foods such as avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, nuts, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and fatty fish and watch your T levels jump!
If you've ever enjoyed a really good cheat meal, then there's no doubt you are quite familiar with Trans fats. No discussion of fats would be complete with the mention of trans fats, as they play such a huge role in the diets of nearly 100% of Americans. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol while lowering the good version, wreaking havoc upon glucose disposal and complicating your metabolic function in several ways. This can lead to obesity and other health concerns. If you are binging on cookies, crackers, muffins, cakes, pies, or doughnuts, then you already know the way these foods containing high levels of trans fats can make you feel sluggish, weak, and grumpy. Now you can see they've been standing in the way of your health goals as well. Go easy on them!
All fats, carbohydrates, and proteins can have great and very useful benefits to your body, in terms of growth, function, muscle building and of course, fueling tough workouts. The key is to select moderate amounts of the right kinds of foods, and understand WHY you're choosing each food – to serve a particular function or purpose for your function and performance. Selecting the right kinds of fats – and avoiding those which work counter to your goals – is a very important part of the health, muscle, and performance aspects which combine to create the complete package. Good luck!