Level – Intermediate
Words – 1200
Reading Time – 4-5 minutes
Fortunately, the low fat diet fads of the 90’s are well and truly behind us but there are still some of you out there that aren’t quite convinced fat won’t make you fat so in this article we’re going to try.
Before we begin, it’s important to clarify we are talking about dietary fat (fat from foods) as opposed to adipose tissue (fat on your body).
Will eating fat make me fat?
Well yes & no.
The thing people miss out on when discussing these subjects is context.
Fat can make you fat, if you eat too much of it. In the same way if you ate too many carbohydrates or too much protein. It’s the surplus of calories and overconsumption of food that causes weight gain, not specific foods themselves. Remember:
“The portion is the poison”
So providing your fat intake doesn’t exceed your daily calorie intake,
Fat will not make you fat.
Testosterone – not just for men
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males but women have small amounts of it too. It helps contribute to building lean muscle so whilst it is synonymous with males, females shouldn’t discount it for that reason.
One study of 30 males showed a testosterone reduction of 12% in just 8 weeks after following a lower fat diet (1)
Having low testosterone levels can lead to decreased muscle mass, osteoporosis, decreased mood (depression) and decreased sex drive (libido) and nobody wants that!
Low fat = vitamin deficiency?
Eating a low fat diet alongside having a lower body fat percentage has the potential to lead to long term health issues due to vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins A, D, E & K are also known as fat soluble vitamins which means they require dietary fat to be absorbed into the body and to work their magic, which includes providing energy, keeping cells functioning and supporting the immune system.
– Vitamin A is essential for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth.
– Vitamin D is particularly for bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium.
– Vitamin K for blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding.
– Vitamin E for limiting the formation of harmful free radicals (although the jury is still out on this one)
As you will probably agree though, these vitamins are pretty important which is why we recommend getting adequate fat to ensure you don’t become deficient.
How much fat should I eat?
You will get advocates of high fat diets and advocates of low fat diets but we like to fall somewhere in the middle and suggest a range, somewhere around 20-30% of total calories.
That way, as long as your calories are at the right level, you can alter your fat intake depending on personal preference and performance.
Do you like eating higher fat foods or feel better eating higher fat? Stick to the high end.
Do you prefer lower fat foods or feel you perform better with slightly more carbs and less fat? Stick to the lower end.
There is no right or wrong answer. As long as you are getting a minimum amount to maintain hormone function and the transport of essential vitamins, the rest is really down to personal preference.
So now lets put it all together. First of all we need to know that fat has 9 calories per gram, over double the amount of protein and carbohydrates (both 4 calories per gram). Let’s say your daily intake was 2000 calories, we’re now going to work out what your suggested fat intake should be:
So based on the calculations above, we would suggest that a person eating 2000 calories should have no less than 44g of fat per day and anything up to 67g.
Can you eat more? Absolutely.
Just remember that if you do decide to eat more fat, you may have to compensate by reducing your carbohydrates or protein to stay on track with your daily calorie intake. You can’t just simply increase fat intake and not compensate elsewhere.
Whether there will be any additional benefit to extra fat intake is currently unclear in the research but ultimately the nutrition strategy you are going to adhere to long term is going to be the best course of action. If that means eating more than 67g of fat per day, no problem, it’s just a guideline.
What are good fats?
You’ve more than likely heard the term good fats and bad fats and while it’s true there are good fats and bad fats, it’s probably best not to overcomplicate them and use a bit of common sense. As a general rule of thumb, good fats are those fats that come from natural, unprocessed food sources such as the following:
- Fish Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Nut Butter (Nutella doesn’t count!)
- Animal Fats
Providing you’re getting a varied amount of the above, you can pretty much ensure you’re getting enough good fats.
Top Tip: If you want to get the best bang for your buck, go for fat sources high in Omega 3 such as salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, Omega-3 enriched eggs. The Western diet has been shown to be severely lacking in Omega 3, of which has a whole host of benefits including building muscle and losing fat.
What are bad fats?
Bad fats or Trans fats on the other hand are the exact opposite. Found mostly in processed foods, these fats contain high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and have pretty much no positive effect on your body so should be avoided as much as possible.
Unfortunately, it’s usually the foods that taste the best that are the worst for you, a few examples:
- Fried food
- Basically everything that can be found open at 3 am on a night out
But remember what we said about context? We don’t want to demonise these foods and consider them completely off limits as that will only make you want them more. Your cravings will go through the roof and you’ll end up over eating calories and potentially undoing a lot of progress.
It’s the food equivalent of telling you not to think of a pink elephant (what did you just think of?).
Life is for living and for many, fatty foods taste good and make us feel good. Just make sure they don’t make up a large part of your daily intake, ideally no more than 10-20%.
So to summarise fat and fat intake:
- Fat is not the devil and only makes you fat when you over consume calories
- Aim to get at least 20% of your total calorie intake from fat, for most people we recommend 20-30%
- Eating trans fats has very little positive effect on the body and should be limited as much as possible
- Eating more good fats has positive effects on body composition, hormonal function and vitamin transportation
- Try your best to avoid the chippy after a night out on the beers (easier said than done)
> Free Ebook: 5 Tips To Dramatically Improve Results In The Gym <
Latest posts by Harry Ranson (see all)
- How To Beat The Christmas Bulge - December 24, 2015
- Why Your Friend Can Eat More Than You……. And Not Put On Weight - December 18, 2015
- 7 Tips For Awesome Programme Design - September 18, 2015