The Fats of Life
By: Jason Riley
5 TRUTHS ABOUT FAT:
- Eating good fats and higher percentage of your calories from fat can actually help you lose weight and obtain a better body composition… You get leaner!
- Consuming good fats can actually produce more muscle mass by stimulating a better hormone balance after intense exercise
- When you consume fats that contain essential DHA, your brain processing speeds, reaction times and moods will be enhanced
- There is an intricate balance between fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D and K and bone mineral strength. You want strong bones? You need to eat fats!
- Oxidized fats can sabotage your hard work, so be very cautious of oil manufacturing and storage techniques, this includes supplementation.
Have you ever heard the saying that you are the sum of the people that you surround yourself with? We tend to adapt traits, behaviors and mannerisms of the people that are closest to us. Nutrition is no different! When we consume food, the environment that we place the food in helps determine whether that food becomes an asset or a liability to our bodies. Does it use them for energy for performance, or the expression of disease and decreased quality of life?
So why is it that we have been told that eating fat will make us fat? Before answering this question, we must understand that not all fats are created equal. Some fats are good for you and will actually help you lose weight, while others will continue to add to that visceral fat that we are all so fervently trying to get rid of. Whether a particular fat is healthy, depends on how that fat communicates with your cells and genes. Bad fats will turn off your fat burning genes, making it harder for you to shed the weight.
There are numerous studies that will disprove this theory of eating fat makes us fat. One particular study examined women who ate a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet until they felt full. These women actually lost twice as much weight as compared to women who ate a restricted low fat diet. Not only did they lose weight, but their risk factors associated with disease states also diminished. We must then ask the question, how does a decrease in carbohydrate fueling and a subsequent increase in fat consumption help us lose weight? There are numerous answers to that question, but it looks as if 3 main processes are involved: Improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation and the fats help to support your basal metabolic rate. Therefore, eat the right kinds of fat and you ramp up your fat burning potential. Eat the wrong kinds of fats and you gain weight and slow down your metabolism.
We know that fats are important in many different metabolic processes. It aids in optimal absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as the synthesis of cholesterol and steroid hormones that are critical to your performance and survival. If we become deficient in essential fatty acids, we can limit our ability to utilize our fat-soluble vitamins. In one study, the subjects eating moderate fat exhibited higher testosterone levels than the subjects eating low fat. This finding confirms the results of previous studies, demonstrating that dietary fat is positively linked with testosterone levels. We can ascertain that increased consumption of good fats, more specifically good saturated fats like coconut oil, can positively impact your testosterone levels.
When looking into fat consumption, you’ve probably heard of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil, palm oil, nuts and seeds are examples of good fats with high amounts of polyunsaturated fats; however, if not stored or manufactured properly, these oils can actually cause harm to your body. When a molecule gives up an electron to another molecule, it is called oxidation. Oxidation occurs all the time within our bodies creating a multitude of roaming free radicals that cause our cells to age prematurely. We all have seen oxidation at work outside the body when you bite into an apple, leave it out on the kitchen counter, and the brown that starts to grow around that bite mark is an example of oxidation.
The question becomes, is oil that has become oxidized from air, light or heat dangerous to consume. There are numerous studies that fed oxidized oils to animals and showed increased systemic inflammation, damage to brain cells and a multitude of other negative symptoms. So, could consuming these oxidized oils be a threat to our quality of life or athletic performance? Well, we believe that inflammation can be one of the major causes of non-contact injuries like muscle strains and pulls. Consumption of oxidized oils is definitely not helping your body control inflammation.
The question becomes how do we protect ourselves from the possible ill effects of consuming oxidized fats. We have listed the following guidelines to help you take control of your health and performance:
- Store oils that you use for salads, foods and even cooking in a cool, dark place away from light and heat in an airtight container. Examples include:
- olive oil, palm, canola, corn, avocado, safflower and sunflower
- Refrigerate nut and seed oils to limit oxidation. Examples include:
- Almond oil, walnut, hazelnut, flaxseed, macadamia, etc…
- Choose oils that are packaged in dark glass containers to help keep light away from the oils and preserve its freshness
- Make sure to place the cap back on the bottles of oil as soon as you finish using the oils. Every second the bottle is left open is inviting more oxidation into the oil.
- Check expiration dates on the bottles of oil
- Limit deep-fried foods and do not re-use cooking oils
- Buy whole, raw nuts that have not been exposed to the roasting process and have not been broken into smaller pieces, which will accelerate the oxidation process.
Whether your goal is vanity and just wanting to tone up and lose weight, increasing your hormone producing capabilities, balancing your mood or improving your athletic performance, fats play an important role in your daily life. So grab that bottle of coconut oil, handful of nuts and seeds, or oil based dressing and reap the rewards of feeding this all-important macronutrient to your body.
Brehm, B. et al: A Randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2003 Apr; 88(4):1617-23.
Sallinen, J. et al: Relationship between diet and serum anabolic hormone responses to heavy resistance exercise in men. Int J Sports Med 2004 Nov; 25(8):627-33
Volek, JS, Forsythe, CE. The case for not restricting saturated fat on a low carbohydrate diet. Nutr Metabolism (Lond) 2005; 2;21.
Volek, JS. Et al: Testoterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. J Appl Physiology 1997;82;49-54