Basic Nutrition Part 2, Fats

Last week we started our discussion on the basics of nutrition.  We explored the carbohydrate macronutrient, why it’s important, how our bodies respond to its intake, and what percentage-ish we should consume per meal.

Today we explore my favorite macronutrient, fats or lipids.

My friends the lipids have gotten a bad rap, mainly from the fat free craze and the image towards lipids we’ve received via marketing and advertising.  My goal today is to become lipid’s new PR agent (their current guy sucks), and to explain that there are good fats and bad fats and that fats are an essential part of our diets.

Remember last week I talked about the calorie and how carbohydrates per gram contain 4 calories or units of energy?  Well fat is more than twice the energy source that carbohydrate is, containing roughly 9 calories per gram.  Some other quick fat facts:

  • most concentrated source of energy in the diet
  • act as carriers for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • fats help make calcium available to body tissues, particularly the bones and teeth
  • four types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans-fatty
  • 2 of the 4 types are essential (linoleic and linolenic acids which are polyunsaturated fats), meaning our bodies can not produce them on our own.  We must ingest them in our diet.
  • provide satisfaction (via palatability) and satiety (via gut-brain hormonal response) meaning they suppress hunger longer than carbohydrates

That last bullet point is important.  The good carbohydrates, our friends the vegetables, are caloric lightweights.  If you are attempting to replace highly processed carbohydrates with good, clean carbohydrate, you’ll have to consume more volume to get the same amount of calories or energy.  Lipids fill this hole nicely.

Last week, we explored how our bodies break down carbohydrate into glucose (blood sugar) and this is stored in our livers and muscles and called up when we expend high amounts of energy.  The problem is this, our liver is small and once we lock away glycogen in our muscle tissue, we don’t get it back into our blood.

What if we could instead teach our body how to burn fat for low intensity activities (working around the house, just functioning at work in the afternoon, or taking a leisurely stroll)?  It turns out that our body has the capacity to be “fat-adapted” or to mobilize our fat stores to produce energy for low-intensity activity.  This is only possible when we stop eating sources of carbohydrate that cause excess glucose amounts in our blood which our bodies react to by producing insulin.  Once the glucose and insulin aren’t chronically elevated, when we come to the gym to crush a workout our body will utilize our glycogen stores and the rest of the time we’ll cruise along burning body fat stores or the fat we ingest in our diets.

How’s my pitch thus far?  I’ve explained that by consuming the right fats we are able to teach our bodies to be “fat-adapted” and that you can actually burn away your stores of body fat while just breathing and functioning normally.  You need a little further stimulus?  Please read on…

Lets discuss the four types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans-fatty.  Actually, I’m not going to talk about trans-fatty acids at all.  Here’s the deal with those guys: YOU WON’T FIND THEM ANYWHERE IN NATURE!  Trans-fatties undergo a process called hydrogenation in which unsaturated oils are converted to a more solid form of fat, i.e. margarine or shortening.  Overconsumption will cause our bodies to attempt to use altered fatty molecules for vital structures and functions.  Not good!

Saturated Fats (SFAs)
SFAs, you may have heard, contribute to heart disease and stroke.  However, there are significant studies available that show SFAs are not responsible (and rather systemic inflammation is).  There is a distinction to be made between SFA acids.  Palmitic acid (PA) is particularly unhelpful but is actually produced by our body when we consume primarily refined (complex) carbohydrates.

Whoa, Mind BLOWN!

Remember I said last week that when we over-consume refined carbohydrate our blood is flooded with glucose, our body over-reacts by releasing insulin and that glucose is converted to body fat?  Well our liver coverts that excess glucose to PA, which isn’t good.  We don’t want this type of SFA in our system.

Rather, we’d prefer to get our SFAs from whole foods which contain other vital nutrients.  Good sources of SFAs include: ghee (clarified butter), lard (pig fat), or tallow (beef fat), and coconut (oil, butter, milk, meat).  Consider the source when it comes to animal fats.  Chemicals and toxins are stored in fatty tissue.  If your beef or swine was pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, or other trash to get them from baby to store shelf to money in large corporate bank accounts faster, you could be ingesting some nasty stuff by eating that fat.

Important note, ghee is simply butter that has been heated, separating the milk solids which leaves nothing but that delicious butterfat.  Great for cooking at high temperatures.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
Oleic acid in MUFAs can help to reduce bad cholesterol.  MUFAs may also benefit insulin and glucose levels, which can be helpful if years of eating complex carbohydrates has made your body insulin resistant.  MUFA rich sources are the following foods: avocado, avocado oil, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, olive oil, and olives.

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)
These guys are essentials, meaning our bodies don’t make them and we have to eat them.  We must proceed with caution on the PUFAs.  More is not better here.  We get  omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids by ingesting PUFAs.  Omega-3 is a good guy (anti-inflammatory) and more Omega-6 than Omega-3 is bad (causes inflammation).

How much is too much?  Around 1-2% of calorie intake should come from PUFAs.  So, not much.  We want to get the benefits of the omega-3’s, but want to avoid having too much omega-6.

Here are the good PUFAs: cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts
Here are some O.K. PUFAs: almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios
Consume in limited quantities: flax seed, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts

Wow.  We covered some ground.  I tried my best to be succinct and limit this discussion to the critical points.  Lets see if I can recap for you and lat that job as the lipids new PR guy:

How much fat do I consume?
20-35% of caloric intake should come from fat

Types of fats to eat?
Fall in love with avocados and olives (and their oils).  Get some coconut in your cupboard (oil, flakes, milk).  If the source of your animal meats are clean, the fat is good to go.  And lastly eat a few of the right kinds of nuts.  I personally like macadamia nuts and brazil nuts.

Avoid altogether:
Margarine or shortening.  There is absolutely no benefit to eating this stuff.  Consider the source of your animal meats.  Toxins are stored in fatty tissue, not the meat.  So if the source isn’t clean avoid the fat.

The biggest take away of all is this.  We can get our bodies to be “fat-adapted” or to burn fat for low intensity expenditure.  To do this, we’ve got to stop over-consuming refined carbohydrate which makes our glucose and insulin levels go all over the place!  Get your carbs from real food (vegetables) and eat high quality SFAs, MUFAs, and a little PUFAs and you’ll turn your body into a fat burning machine!

Next week our last macronutrient (tear), protein.  For you bro’s out there (I’m one of you so I’m making fun of myself too) who’d prefer to consume strictly an 80% meat based diet and drink my body weight in grams of protein, this one may surprise you.

Until next week my friends!

The O-Board Says…

A. Find a 3 rep Split Jerk

3 Rounds of 100′ OH Walking Lunges
50 Kettle Bell Swings

Post by Stets.