Before carbs were being bashed by the media as poison, fat was the devil of the macronutrients— especially saturated fat.
Today we will learn about how fat is used in the body, the role of fat as an ORGAN (yes, it’s an organ), the three types of fats, the most common fat myths, and foods you might not have realized are good sources of fat.
The Role of Fats in the Body
Fat is used by our bodies for:
- Plasma membrane structure— protects your cells and regulates what enters/leaves.
- Brain and nervous system tissue, seriously. Your brain is fat– and cholesterol-based.
- Hormone function- especially the steroid hormones. Low fat will kill testosterone.
- The transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K to cells.
As an organ, fat is vital for:
- Stored fuel— the largest fuel source in the body!
- Insulation and temperature regulation
Although our bodies can manufacture fat from carbohydrate and protein via lipogenesis, eating adequate dietary fat is critical for performance and maintaining proper hormone levels
Fat for Exercise Performance
During exercise, the body will simultaneously utilize fat and carbohydrates for energy production. The ratio of fat:carb utilization during exercise depends on a number of factors:
- During high-intensity exercise, more carbohydrate than fat is used DURING exercise.
- During rest between and after high-intensity intervals, fat utilization goes up
- During low-intensity exercise or while at rest, proportionally more fat is used for energy than carbs (depending on nutrient availability, i.e. from your last meal).
Even a very lean person at under 10% body fat has enough fat stores to theoretically run 20+ marathons without additional fuel!
Three Types of Fat
There are 3 types of fat: Unsaturated, Saturated, and Trans fats.
Remember how when you learned about protein, there were essential amino acids– the ones that had to be consumed from diet?
Well, there are also essential fats as well. These fats fall under the polyunsaturated category, and you may be familiar with them. They are Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats.
Although omega-6 fats have been getting bad press lately, they are essential. But they must be balanced as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible with omega-3 fats.
Common sources of omega-6 fats are:
- Vegetable oils
- Seed oils
- Nuts & seeds
Good sources of omega-3 fats are:
- Fish & fish oils
- Chia seeds
The other unsaturated fat is Monounsaturated fat, which is also usually categorized as a “healthy fat”.
Common sources of monounsaturated fats include:
- Avocado & avocado oil
- Olive oil
Saturated fats have gotten a bad rap, but it has many vital roles in the body. All you need to know about them is this: as long as you balance saturated and unsaturated fats, and as long as you don’t eat primarily saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugars, you will be healthy.
Common sources of saturated fat include:
- Tropical oils (like coconut oil)
The last type of fat, Trans fat, is one that you want to avoid (with a few exceptions) because it can compromise the structure of your cell membranes and is highly correlated with a laundry list of health issues.
Trans fats are commonly found in:
- Processed foods with a long shelf life
- Foods that contain “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils
How Much Fat Per Day Should You Eat?
This depends on your carbohydrate intake. At Beyond Macros, when we determine our clients’ macronutrient ratios we generally start with protein, determine their carbohydrate needs, and work backwards from total energy intake to determine how much fat they should be consuming.
The important things when it comes to fat intake are:
- Eat as close to a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats as possible
- Eat a balance of saturated and unsaturated fats
- Avoid trans fats from processed foods
Coming Up Next
We will teach you why people “count” their macros and why it’s a strategy that you should consider if you don’t already. Even if you already count your macros…stay tuned!