The Fifth Principle of Good Nutrition: Ensure 25-35% of your energy intake comes from fat. That isn’t a typo. I didn’t mean to type “dust”. I meant FAT.
Trouble is, fat gets a lot of bad press and misrepresentation these days, typically along the lines of:
- A high fat diet makes you fat
- High levels of fat in your diet cause heart disease, obesity and all other kinds of associated malarky
- Maintaining a low fat diet will make you fitter and healthier
From childhood, the vast majority of us have been exposed to the thinking above. Even if we struggle with our weight, we all know the points above are inescapable facts. Right?
The Truth About Fat
Let’s set things straight: None of the things in the list above have been proven to be true. Not a single one. Don’t take my word for it – if you have the time and inclination, trawl through this article, which contains some sound studies on this subject (but finish reading this first, it’s much more interesting).
If you don’t have time to read the article, just do a little bit of impartial scientific analysis of your own:
We live in a time where low fat everything is all the rage. I dare you to find a supermarket that does not stock products labelled “low/reduced/virtually no fat”.
We also live in a time where obesity levels have never been higher, despite loads of us eating all these “low fat” goodies.
So what is going on?
Perhaps the idea that eating fat makes you fat comes from the fact that it has more calories per gram (9 kcals per gram) than both carbohydrate and protein (each weighing in at a svelte 4 kcal per gram). We’ve already established that eating too many calories will increase your weight, so the reasoning “eating fat makes you fat” is a no brainer, surely?
You would think so, but fat also has the wonderful property of making you feel full much more quickly than carbs and protein, making it harder to eat more calories that you need in total. I’ve also found it keeps me feeling fuller for much much longer than say pasta, which I use to eat in bucket loads and despite that, always felt hungry soon after the bloated feeling subsided.
Fat is a Nutrient
Remember too that fat is a nutrient – we need it in our diet as much as minerals, vitamins and everything else. It provides energy, helps keep your hair and skin looking amazing (along with that super complexion enhancer – water), helps your body to absorb vitamins (such as Vitamin A) and is used to build cell membranes – which believe me, you want to have. It also helps keep your joints supple, which is really important for training.
Convinced? Well, if you are not quite, I can only say I have found all of this to be true and the results speak for themselves. Give it a try and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Where to get your fat
It’s pretty easy to get good quality fat into your diet, and broadly speaking, you want to try and split it equally between saturates (found in animal fat), monounsaturates (olive oil is good for this) and polyunsaturates (such as flax oil and fish oils).
I always use either olive, rapeseed or walnut oil – either when cooking or dressing salads. Not only do they taste great, but are all high in monounsaturates. Olive oil also has mild anti-inflammatory properties, which is a bonus if you suffer with joint pain, like I use to in my knees.
Nuts are good too and have a excellent balance of fats – the table below gives you a rough idea of what you can expect from each.
|Type of Nut||Saturated Fat (%)||Monounsat. Fat (%)||Polyunsat. Fat (%)|
I always have some mixed nuts and raisins nearby to keep me going – the great thing is, they make you feel full quickly with no pangs, so much better than a packet of crisps when you fancy a nibble.
Adding a bit of butter into the mix is a sensible and tasty way to get animal fat intake, along with red meat. A nice bit of steak, with some buttered garlic mushrooms and a dressed salad is a cracking way to deliver all the elements you need!
Finally, fish and fish oil supplements, along with flax seed oil, sort out your polyunsaturate needs, and again help with joints. I struggle with most fish, so tend to get this from tuna (which I do like) and supplements, but that is only due to personal taste.
So give it a try and see how dramatically a sensible consumption of fat stabilises your appetite and helps you lose weight.
Bear in mind that what I am not advocating here is a variation on the Atkin’s diet. For a start, it has the word “diet” in it, and we don’t do that. Remember, diets don’t work. Second, it is not a balanced approach to eating and will therefore end in failure, you need to include other elements in diet which we have already discussed and Atkin’s prohibits.
Third, it makes your breath smell.