Are you afraid of fats?
If your answer is yes, then this blog post is perfect for you, especially if you are serious about reaching your full running potential.
Should you Hate Fats?
Decades of shunning fat have left a bad taste in our mouths.
But here is the truth: Dietary fats are not the enemy. These, contrary to faddy diet trends and popular belief, are a vital macronutrient that plays a crucial rule in your total health and well-being.
That’s why I’ve put together this complete guide to dietary fats for runners.
In this blog post, you will learn almost all you need to know about dietary fats as well as the best foods sources so you can meet your daily requirement of this valuable ingredient.
So are you excited? Then here we go.
Dietary fats, along with carbohydrates and proteins, are one of the essential macronutrients—something your body needs in large amounts every day to function optimally.
More specifically, dietary fats, just like carbs, are large molecules made up of three elements: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that exist in chains of different shapes, lengths, and orders.
Yet, they contain these molecules in a much greater amount than found in other macronutrients.
For that reason, dietary fats are calorically denser than carbs and proteins, yielding a whopping nine calories per gram.
The Chemical Structure
What is usually referred to as dietary fats in the fitness and diet circles is actually a class of substances called lipid. In fact, they comprise all the lipids found in plant and animal tissue, which are consumed as food.
More specifically, dietary fats are made up of a large group of water-insoluble organic compounds that can be further divided into triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids.
The most common type of fats (the solid form) or oils (the liquid form) are a mix of triglyceride (triacylglycerol) with slight amounts of other lipids.
I know I’m boring with all these scientific terms, but just bear with me.
Saturated Vs. Unsaturated
In general, dietary fats can be broken down into two broad categories, based on their biochemical structure and their impact on the body: saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats contain high amounts of hydrogen, but no double bonds, and tend to be solid at room temperature, whereas the unsaturated kind houses one or more double bond(s) between the carbon atoms (more on these distinctions in the upcoming sections).
The Many Roles Of Fats
Here are a few of the main functions of fat:
- Transporting vitamins (mainly A, D, E, and K) throughout your body, offering better nutrient absorption.
- Ensuring proper functioning at the cellular level, and keeping structural integrity.
- Helping keep a stronger immunity system
- Aiding in hormone productions—mainly estrogen and testosterone
- Helping control inflammation and blood clotting
- Helping keep your hair and skin healthy
- A secondary source of energy as the largest reserve of stored fuel available for activity.
- Assisting in the protection and the insulation of vital internal organs in the form of adipose fat, which your stored fat
Said otherwise, your body cannot function without dietary fats.
Runners Need Fats
As an athlete, you need more dietary fats in your diet than the average, couch-potatoe, Joe.
The human body has a limited storage capacity of glycogen—a form of sucrose that’s stockpiled in the liver, muscles, and bloodstream.
When these reserves get depleted—especially during endurance training—runners will hit the infamous wall without enough fat stores to take over and provide fuel for activity.
But here is the good news:
When your body runs out of glycogen, it will turn to its fat reserves to fuel the rest of the duration of the run. This is a good thing if you’re looking to keep going strong for a long and sustained time.
Research has also suggested that the right intake of fats can help you stay injury free.
According to research conducted at the University of Buffalo, female runners who got about a third of their total daily calories from dietary fats were drastically less likely to get injured than those who consumed less fat.
That’s why the right intake of dietary fats is crucial for runners, especially endurance athletes.
The Bad Press
As previously stated, fat has gotten a bad rap in the fitness and health circles. In fact, it’s been accused of being the source of weight gain, and other serious health issues.
So, no wonder that dietary fats have much of the recent three decades as public enemy number one (those of you who grew up in the 80’s might be painfully familiar with this sad fact).
But when it comes to the truth, casting all types of fats as the ultimate villain couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sure, too much dietary fats, just like anything else, isn’t good for you. But that does not mean that you should avoid it like the plague.
The fact is, no fat at all is even worse. Purging all kinds of fats from your diet is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Keep on reading to learn more about the type of fats you should be consuming and what you should avoid at all times.
Will you Gain Weight By Consuming Fats?
The simple answer is, fats won’t innately make you fat.
Of course, dietary fats contain about twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein per gram. But that’s no reason to shun them.
As you already know, weight loss (and gain) is just a number’s game.
You lose weight when you burn more calories than you consume.
You gain weight when you consume more calories than you burn.
In other words, what makes you fat, is excess calories.
That said, be careful with fats if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, you can easily overload on calories with fatty foods, which, in turn, can quickly cause the pounds to pile on. And you don’t want that.
For instance, nuts, a go-to healthy snack, is calorie-dense and might hurt your weight loss effort.
So, if you are worried about weight gain when consuming dietary fats, then you should take a look at your caloric intake.
Dietary Fats Are More Filling
Fat-Rich meals can keep you feeling full for longer, which can help with weight loss and management.
Also, according to research conducted at the Georgia Southern University, consuming a high protein, high-fat snack may increase resting calorie burn for up to 3 to 4 hours.
So, if you keep an eye on your body’s on your body’s hunger and fullness cues, you can easily find the sweet spot between rich-calories with smaller portions. It’s just a matter of practice.
Best Sources–The Good Vs. The Bad Vs. The Ugly
The Good—the Unsaturated Fats
Good fats are what’s known as unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats score high in disease-fighting and illness-preventing antioxidants, like vitamin E, etc.
In fact, research has shown that unsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which, in turn, cuts your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Here are some of the healthiest sources to include in your diet
- Olive oil
- Nuts, including almonds, pecans, pine, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios.
- Seeds, mainly sunflower and sesame.
- Fatty fish
- Natural peanut butter
- Egg yolk
The Many Shades of Good Fats
Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
Biochemically, monounsaturated fatty acids, also known as or MUFAs, contain a single, double bond in their fatty acid chain. The more double bonds a fatty acid contains, the more fluid it is.
Research shows that consuming these fats improve cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Not only that, numerous studies have revealed that monounsaturated fatty acids may have a positive impact on insulin levels blood sugar levels, which can be particularly beneficial if you have type II diabetes or other insulin-related issues.
Mono oils are usually liquid at room temperature, but start to harden at refrigerator temperature.
Common sources of monounsaturated fat include olive, canola, and olive oils, and avocados.
The Polyunsaturated Fats
Biochemically, polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAs for short, have more than one double bond in their fatty acid chain between its carbon atoms.
The most well-known polyunsaturated fatty acids today are the omega-3s and omega-6s. These are essential nutrients that your body uses to produce vital chemicals needed for optimal functioning.
Evidence shows that these are particularly valuable to your heart, and might decreases the risk of coronary artery disease.
Research indicates that they reduce the level of harmful cholesterol (LDL) and boost the level of the healthy kind, or what’s known as HDL. Research has also linked monosaturated fats to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Unlike the mono kind, polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to be liquid both at room temperature and in the refrigerator.
Common sources include corn, soybeans, sesame, safflower, many seeds and nuts, soybeans, and their oils. Good portions of these oils can also be found in eggs from flax- or fish-fed chicken.
The Bad—the Saturated Fats
So what are saturated fats? What exactly they’re saturated with?
The third classification of fats are saturated with hydrogen.
More specifically, saturated fats are fatty acids in which all carbon atoms are bonded to hydrogen atoms.
Saturated fats, or what’s known as the bad kind—block your arteries and contributes little to your overall health and well-being levels. Evidence shows that these fatty acids increase total blood cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, increasing the risks of cardiovascular issues.
Saturated fats are often found in animal sources of foods, such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should limit your saturated fat intake to no more than 7 percent of your total calorie intake. This might translate to less than 20 grams a day for men, and 15 grams for women.
Or, better yet, replace saturated food sources with PUFAs and MUFAs.
The Ugly—The Trans Fats
Now that you have a basic understanding of the essential sources of fat, it is time to reveal the evil villain of the dietary fat world: trans fats.
Trans fats can occur naturally in some foods in tiny amounts, such those from animals, including red meats, and full-fat dairy product. But, in general, these fatty acids are the only of the four types of fatty acids that are man-made.
Also known as hydrogenated fats, trans fats are a chemically produced form of fatty acids.
Mor e specifically, trans fats are produced in a “food lab” when liquid vegetable oils are forced, with the help of nickel catalyst, through a hydrogenation process at high pressure, making the oils more solid—in a process known as hardening.
In other words, trans fats are created by processing vegetable oils, turning them from a liquid into a solid.
Trans fats can be used for frying, or as an ingredient in processed foods, such as commercial baked goods, cake, biscuits, margarine, with the aim of enhancing shelf life, flavor, and texture of packaged (and highly processed) foods.
Avoid Them At All Costs
Trans fats are what you need to avoid like the plague. They are the black sheep of the dietary fats.
Trans fats can boost unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterols levels, which, in turn, increases inflammation throughout your body.
What’s more, research shows that trans fats, even when consumed sparingly, can lead to weight gain, even if you keep your daily calorie intake under control with little change.
In other words, when it comes to the universe of dietary fats, trans fatty acids are the super villain. These promote heart disease instead of promoting optimum health.
Common sources of trans-fat rich foods include:
- Commercially baked pastries
- Packaged snack foods
- Fried foods (mainly fried chicken, French fries, chicken nuggets, and breaded fish)
- Stick margarine
- Candy bars
Keep these fatty acids on the watch list. Avoid any food or dairy products that have the words “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “shortening,” in their ingredient list.
Also, food items labeled as “trans-fat free” usually contain less than half a gram per serving. So, it’s quite misleading. So, please do not be swayed.
Replace foods rich in saturated and trans fats, such as whole milk, butter, and baked foods with food rich in unsaturated fats (check the list above).
So How Much Fat Do I Need?
Most experts recommend that as much as 15 to 25 percent of your calories should come from fats and less than 7 percent from saturated fat.
Just keep in mind that the average American average intake hovers around 35 percent, according to survey.
Of course, as I always say, these recommendations are not written in stone. So feel free to re-adjust them according to your own needs.
As you already know, the amount of fatty acids you need each day depends on your training volume and overall calorie intake.
So, as a runner, if you consume 2800 calories per day, then less than 600 of these calories should be from dietary fats. That translates to 65 to 75 grams of fat a day.
Here is a long of fat-rich foods.
- One cup of Brazil nuts = 93 grams
- One cup of whipping, heavy cream = 88 grams
- One cup of whole Filberts (hazelnuts) = 84 grams
- One cup of dry and roasted cashews = 63 grams
- One cup of pistachios = 60 grams
- One cup of walnuts = 62 grams
- One cup of silvered almonds = 53 grams
- One cup of dry, roasted, whole, almonds = 47 grams
- One cup of sliced almonds = 45 grams
- One ounce of ghee = 28 grams
- One cup of half & half cream = 27 grams
- One cup of fresh coconut = 27 grams
- One ounce of whole macadamia = 21 grams
- One ounce of pecan = 20 grams
- Two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter = 17 grams
- Two tablespoons of creamy or smooth peanut butter = 16 grams
- One ounce of dry roasted peanuts = 14 grams
- One ounce of pine nuts = 14 grams
- Two tablespoons of reduced fat, peanut butter = 12 grams
- One tablespoon of lard = 12 grams
- One tablespoon of regular butter = 11 grams
- 2 tablespoon of Nutella = 11 grams
- ½ cup of evaporated whole milk = 10 grams
- One cup of whole goat milk = 10 grams
- One ounce of white chocolate = 15 grams
- One tablespoon of almond, hazelnut, walnut, and truffle oils = 13 grams
- One tablespoon of soybean, olive, canola, safflower, corn and sesame oils = 13 grams
- One ounce of pepperoni = 13 grams
- Once ounce of dark; 70%, chocolate = 12 grams
- Once ounce of Camembert = 12 grams
- One ounce of Havarti = 11 grams
- One ounce of extra black 82%, chocolate = 10.5 grams
- One ounce of regular cream cheese = 10 grams
- One ounce of Gorgonzola = 10 grams
- One ounce of America, processed, cheese = 9 grams
- One ounce of goat cheese = 9 grams
- One ounce of regular cheddar = 9 grams
- One cup of whole milk = 9 grams
- One tablespoon of whipped butter = 8 grams
- One cup of regular chocolate milk = 8 grams
- One ounce of Danish cheese = 8 grams
- One ounce of Gouda = 8 grams
- One ounce of Edam cheese = 8 grams
- One ounce of Parmesan cheese = 7.3 grams
- One cup of regular yogurt = 7 grams
- One ounce of shelled and cooked peanuts = 7 grams
- One ounce of brie = 7 grams
- One ounce of Feta cheese = 6 grams
- One ounce of whole mike mozzarella = 6 grams
- One ounce of fresh Mozzarella = 5 grams
- One ounce of ground beef = 5 grams
- One ounce of low-fat cheddar = 5 grams
- ½ cup of cottage regular cottage cheese = 5 grams
- One cup of low-fat chocolate milk = 5 grams
- One cup of 2% fat milk = 5 grams
- One cup of low-fat yogurt = 4 grams
- One large egg = 4.5 grams
- One small egg = 3.5 grams
- Two tablespoons of reduced fat peanut butter = 2.5 grams
- One cup of almond of, low-fat, almond milk = 2.5 grams
- ½ cup of 2% low-fat cottage cheese = 2 grams
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