Workout Wednesday #9
Much like Carbohydrates, Fat has had a bad reputation and eating too much of it was always came with a big warning label. Now whilst this view does hold some weight, it's important to explore why. Not all Fat is equal, some of it is not only crucial for important internal functions of the body but also a key part to a healthy balanced diet.
What is Fat?
Fat is a major source of energy for our bodies. It helps us absorb some vitamins and minerals, is needed to build cell membranes - the vital exterior to each cell - and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is also essential for blood clotting, muscle movement and inflammation.
There are several different types of Fats and these are often broken down into Good and Bad Fats.
Good Fats include: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats
Bad Fats include: Trans-Fats (these are industrial made).
Saturated Fat is the final type and we're told it lands somewhere in the middle of good and bad.
Fats all have a similar chemical structure. They differ in length and shape, as well as the number of hydrogen atoms connected to carbon atoms. These differences translate into key differences in form and function.
Fat contains 9 calories per gram.
Trans-Fats are the worst type of Fat. It is a by-product of hydrogenation, a process used to turn healthy oils into solids to prevent them going off. On food label ingredients this is often listed as "partially hydrogenated oil".
Trans-Fats are present in most processed foods, from commercial cookies, cakes and pastries to fast-food french fries. If it's a processed food or not naturally made, it's going to contain Trans Fats.
Eating a high amount of Trans-Fats increases the amount of harmful *LDL's in cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial *HDL's in cholesterol. Trans Fats create inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions. They also contribute to insulin resistance which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Trans Fats have no known health benefits and there is no safe level of consumption for them.
*Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL), High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) - Lipoproteins are any group of soluble Proteins that combine with and transport fat or other lipids in the blood.
Good fats come predominantly from vegeatbles, nuts, seeds, oils and fish and are liquid at room temperature.
There are two types of Good Fats:
Monounsaturated: Present in Olive oil, Peanut oil, Canola oil, Avocados, most nuts amd sunflower oil.
Monounsaturated fats help lower your risk of developing chronic conditions, help maintain a healthy weight and also taste great.
Polyunsaturated: Present in Corn oil, Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Walnuts and Fish.
Polyunsaturated fats are classed as Essential Fats meaning they are required for normal bodily function but our bodies cannot make them, so we must obtain them from our diet.
Polyunsaturated Fats come in two types: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Omega-6 Fatty Acids.
Omega-3 can be found in: Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Flaxseeds, Walnuts and Canola oil.
Omega-6 can be found in: Vegetable oils, such as Sunflower, Soybean, Walnut and Corn oils.
Saturated Fat sits somewhere between good and bad. They are solid at room temperature and usually derived from animal sources. They are present in red meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, cream, dark chocolate, coconut oil and also many commercially prepared baked goods and other processed foods.
For a long time we have been told that eating too much saturated fat is bad for us and can cause heart disease, with the daily recommendation of no more than 10% of our total daily intake being fulfilled by saturated fats. However, it seems at present there is no definitive research to advocate either way. It appears that saturated fat may not be as bad for us as we've been told.
*I am unable to give you a definitive answer on the positive or negative effects of saturated fat in your diet. I would as in all cases when it comes to nutrition advocate for moderation. Should you want to know more, there are plenty of studies and articles online.
Fats & Exercise
Fat provides the main fuel source for long duration, low to moderate intensity exercise. Think long endurance based exercise like marathons. However even during high intensity exercise, where Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel, fat is still needed to help access the stored Carbohydrate.
When compared to Carbohydrate, Fat stores are mobilized and oxidized at relatively slow rates during exercise. As exercise progresses from low to moderate and high intensity, the rate of fatty acid mobilisation from the tissue into the blood declines, whereas the rate of total fat oxidation increases due to a relatively large use of intramuscular triglycerides.
We store some fat in tissue and some fat inside the muscles. So what the above paragraph means is, when the intensity of exercise increases, the rate of oxidation (or use) of fat stored in tissue decreases but the rate of oxidation of fat stored in muscle increases.
Fat is a crucial part of our diet but it is important we try to obtain as much fat as possible from our 'Good' sources and not from Trans Fats and processed foods. Polyunsaturated Fats are essential for our normal bodily function and should be consumed regularly.
It also worth noting that 'Fats' typically contain a combination of different fatty acids. No fat is pure Saturated or pure Monounsaturated or pure Polyunsaturated.
As mentioned earlier in the article, a good approach to nutrition and diet is moderation. Too much or little of anything is going to have negative effects, whether it is physcially (internal or external) or mentally.
We've now come to the end of our 3-part series, covering the basics of the 3 macronutrients. We hope you enjoyed this series, found it useful and hopefully learnt something new. If you have, why not sign-up below to recieve all our latest blog posts straight to your inbox.
If you would like more series or have a topic you'd like us to cover, drop us a comment below and we'll get to work!
The Springhealth Team