Fat is one of the 3 macro-nutrients; 3 key building blocks for healthy living including carbohydrates, proteins & fats. There are plenty of vitamins that require fat in our diet to deliver essential nutrients to the body including:
- Vitamin A An important nutrient that keeps your eyes sharp, regulates the immune system and contributes to the development of healthy teeth and bones.
- Vitamin D Aides in the uptake of calcium & phosphorus, producing and maintaining healthy bones.
- Vitamin E Acts as an antioxidant protecting vital nutrients in the body. Some studies have even shown people with adequate intake of Vitamin E are at a lower risk for heart disease and cancer.
- Vitamin K Plays an essential role in promoting bone health, as well as protein production for blood and kidneys.
What is important to know is that there are both good and bad fats found in our Standard American Diet (SAD). Healthy fats can be found in a variety of sources including animal meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, avocado and plant based oils such as olive, sunflower, and flax to name a few. There are three types of healthy fats to be aware of:
Saturated Fats Found mostly in animal sources (beef, pork, poultry, egg) and tropical oils (coconut, palm kernel). The SAD contains plenty of options when it comes to obtaining these fats. They are essential to the human body, aiding in the production and regulation of hormones in the body. They also taste great (which is why we crave that chocolate bar or cheese burger), which usually results in there being an excess of saturated fats in our diets. Studies are starting to find a direct relation between excessive saturated fat intake and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and even certain cancers.
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA’s) Found in both animal and plant sources, MUFA’s improve blood cholesterol levels, decreasing your risk of heart disease. MUFA’s have also been shown to help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA’s) PUFA is the term used to describe fats that have multiple carbon-carbon double bonds… For those of us without a degree in organic chemistry, this means these fats are easily absorbed and put to use in the body. Found mostly in plant-based sources, PUFA’s are usually found as a liquid at room temperature (i.e. olive, flax, avocado oil). PUFA’s are also found in seafood and fish in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids (essential fatty acids are not produced by the body, but we need to acquire them from our diet to survive.).
Aside from working as a vessel to deliver essential nutrients (Vitamins A, D, E & K) to the body, helping us to maintain healthy bone structure and a defensive immune system, healthy fats work to provide us with long term energy. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories of energy (compared to 4cal/gr from carbs and proteins), that are slowly released into the body. These fats also help to regulate your blood sugar levels, meaning you feel full longer, helping to reduce those cravings and crashes we find ourselves having mid-day.
Fats & Training
When it comes to planning your pre/post-workout meals, fats can play a vital role in your actual training and recovery. Adding healthy fats to your pre-workout meal will give you the energy need to lift harder, longer. While you’re working out carbs and proteins are used up first, but during an intense routine these can be burned up in a matter of 30-40 minutes. Fats will give you the energy needed to go for that full hour or two hours, slowing the overall release of energy to the body, allowing your body to more efficiently use the power it has.
This slow release however isn’t recommended for your post-workout snack. That slowing of energy release and slowing of food movement through the digestive track reduces your body’s ability to replenish your sugar and protein levels after an intense routine. So keep the fat content to a minimum after your workout, but be sure to included a healthy dose of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats to your meal following your recovery snack to keep you from feeling sluggish.
Blueberry & Nut Pre-Workout Smoothie
1/2 C Wild Blueberries
1/2 C Plain Greek Yogurt (Saturated Fat)
2 TBSP Roasted Sunflower Seeds
2 TBSP Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Omega-3)
1 TBSP Honey
1/3 C Natural Almond or Peanut Butter (Omega-3)
1 C Ice
1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed (Omega-3 & 9)
1 TBSP Avocado, Olive or Flax Seed Oil (Omega-9)
2 TBSP Water
- Blend together until smooth and enjoy before your next workout!