After all the drama from the 1970’s onwards about how dietary fats are so bad for you, I think its safe to say, those ideologies have been changed. Well almost. Fats are very important for our body. In the past, low fat diets have been portrayed as the easiest way to lose weight, and to also prevent heart disease. One gram of fat contains 9 calories or 37 kilojoules which is over double of what protein and carbohydrates contain. So in terms of reducing total calories in the diet, removing fat from the diet is the easiest way to help a person lose weight. So trying to find the balance between trying to consume enough for healthy living and not too much for weight gain can be a battle.
There are a different types of fats both healthy and unhealthy. The healthy types of fats are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are found in nuts, seeds, avocado, cooking oils made from plants or seeds, oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines and mackeral. These fats are all great for you, however should still only be consumed in small portions because they are high in calories. Why these foods are so healthy are because they increase the good fats and decrease the bad fats in our blood that help keep our heart healthy.
The unhealthy fats in the diet come from animal fats such as full fat dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, fat and rind of animal meats, bacon, and biscuits, cakes and pastry’s all which contain quite a lot of butter. These fats increase the bad fats called LDL’s in our blood, increasing the susceptibility to heart disease/attacks.
There is one other food that has been marketed lately as a superfood with its healthy fats and that is the coconut/coconut based products (coconut milk/cream/oil). So where the hype has come from is that these foods increase the good fats in our blood, which is great, however they also increase the bad fats in the blood. So in terms of overall heart health. You are doing both good and harm to your heart, so for general good heart health my advice is to stick with plant/seed based oils.
Another hype sent out to the world is the myth that you can’t use olive oil with cooking because it hydrogenates (turns the healthy fat into an unhealthy one). This is true, but only if you heat the same oil multiple times. But if you are only heating the oil once, the oil will not reach the temperature (smoke point) needed to turn into a bad fat – so stick with olive oils/plant/seed oils.
Now in regards to training, fat serve’s a different purpose. Typically when I am educating about fat and sports nutrition, I tell my clients to avoid fats around training. Why?? If you completing high intensity training, your body is using glycogen (carbohydrate stores) as a fuel source throughout the whole session. So going into this session with all your glycogen stores filled will help 1. Burn more calories 2. Damage more muscle cells which will help with muscle adaptations 3. You will feel like you can train for longer because you have the energy there.
No not everyone will be partaking in a high intensity session, one of more muscular endurance, like resistance training or weight training. In these sessions, you will still be using glycogen as a fuel source while your body is working. I also find, usually the sessions tend to go for longer than a typical HIIT session. Therefore, you will need more glycogen (carbohydrate) to last the whole session. So really having some fat based before training isn’t the priority, and the calories should be devoted to carbs and protein, or just carbs.
Post training nutrition should be quite low in fat. Why? Because fat slows down the rate of digestion of carbohydrates and protein. Post training, your muscle cells need protein to help with repairing the damage cells and creating new stronger and better quality cells. It also needs carbohydrate to help with this process and along with refuelling the glycogen stores burnt during the session. If fat is consumed alongside of this, the whole process is being slowed down and the muscle cells will not receive what it needs fast enough. So in terms of recovery skip the fat!!
So the next time you go to have nuts or nut protein bar pre workout – think is this going to help my performance? Or Having avocado or a curry post training. Is this hindering my recovery? Relocate those healthy fats to the opposite end of the day or in the middle of the day if you do double sessions. You still need them in your diet!