Dietary Fats

People assume that they’ll get fat just because of its intake. This is false, you get fat because you’re taking in more calories than you burn.

Dietary fats are a very important macronutrient for anyone, let alone bodybuilders. Dietary fat and protein are essential macronutrients meaning the body cannot synthesize them on its own and they must be taken in through your diet. The essential fats, EFA’s/omegas are the ones that need to be taken in through diet. Good sources of these fats are certain nuts and seeds like walnuts, olive oil, fish oil, cod oil, flax and flaxseed, salmon, tuna, sardines, and other fatty fish, range free whole eggs, etc. while EFA’s are essential this doesn’t mean we should skimp out on other sources of fat like saturated fat and monounsaturated fat. These fats are also used by the body for hormonal production, heart health, cholesterol/lipids, And many other biological processes. The only fats that you want to really stay away from are artificial trans fats which are solids at room temperature. Natural sources like coconut oil and steak (yes there are trans fats in fatty cuts of steak) aren’t unhealthy, just their artificial brethren Are. Most places are not using artificial trans fats anymore so this isn’t a huge issue, just be aware of it.

Fats have an undeserved bad rap carrying over from the 90s after it came out that the primary fate of dietary fat intake was storage in fatty tissue. While this may be true, it’s an incomplete and erroneous picture of what really happens in the body and this is why you see low-fat/no fat products everywhere at the supermarket. The primary fate of dietary fat is storage as fat but if one is cutting for example and in a caloric deficit, the dietary fat intake is stored but the energy for you to live and go about your daily activities and training must come from somewhere so the body will pull energy from stored fat (provided protein intake remains at or above minimum needs and training is efficient enough to help preserve muscle mass). So why worry about dietary fat being stored when stored fat will be burned for energy because of the caloric deficit you’re in? It makes no sense, especially when you consider that fat is an essential nutrient and helps in many bodily processes. Now if you’re in a caloric surplus should you worry about dietary fat intake? Not really because whether the dietary fat is stored or not, the body is not 100% efficient at building muscle. This means that when you’re in a surplus, the body will make some muscle (provided protein intake is sufficient and training is also) and some fat. How much of each is dependent on many factors such as insulin resistance, nutrient partitioning, p-ratio**, how efficiently protein synthesis is spiked, etc. but no matter what, whether you take dietary fat or not, while you’re in a caloric surplus you will gain some fat. It will either come from dietary fat being stored or if you eliminate fat and increase protein and carbs it will come from de novo lipogensis.

As you can see fats are a very important yet misunderstood macro-nutrient. People assume that they’ll get fat just because of its intake. This is false, you get fat because you’re taking in more calories than you burn. Dietary fat intake doesn’t really change no matter how you train (example; high cardio moderate weights or visa versa), there are minimum needs that should be met for optimal health. An exception to this would be if you have high cholesterol or lipid issues, heart issues, or another medical condition which would warrant lowering fat intake but the tapering should come primarily from saturated fats because the essential fats (polyunsaturated) and monounsaturated fats will help lower cholesterol and heart health. A good minimum to use when calculating your macros is .4 g/lb of body weight for dietary fat. You should have a wide variety of fats to meet this minimum and good options include olive oil, fish oil, nuts and seeds, Avocados, whole fat milk and dairy, fatty fish, fatty cuts of steak, flax-seed oil, peanut butter or any nut butter, etc.

The reason a 220lb person, not just a bodybuilder, should take in more than 50 g of fat daily is because that’s .22 g/lb of body weight which is well below the minimum recommended amount and hormonal production, heart health, inflammation response to training, etc will suffer. Proof that fats aren’t the reason people become fat is evident in ketone if diets where typically 60+% of a trainees caloric intake comes from dietary fat and there are many many people who do keto that are in amazing shape and great health. In closing I’d just like to say that one shouldn’t be scared of any macronutrient. Each one serves a purpose for optimal health and training and a well-rounded diet composed of mainly whole and minimally processed foods will serve this purpose. If you want to limit fat gains on a bulk, reduce the level of caloric surplus don’t necessarily cut out fats. If you’re fat and want to cut fat, you won’t accomplish this by cutting fats while still remaining in a caloric surplus. The body is too adapted to survival to be tricked by just cutting fats out, a whole dietary plan is necessary to cut fat, one that incorporates a caloric deficit, meets minimum macro needs, and great training. Don’t fall for the misconceptions of the media and general public when it comes to fats, rather educate yourself on diet and nutrition and learn how to incorporate them into your daily diet wisely. Or if you want the lazy but incredibly effective way out, hook up with a reputable nutritionist/dietitian and he/she will customize a diet just for you, one that has plenty of dietary fat.

** P-ratio is a key determinant when considering protein needs although it is rarely mentioned in the sports nutrition circles.

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