Fats: The Old Villain

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Last week we touched on Carbohydrates and how they have now had an undeserved witch hunt for decades. That’s the old story for the ol’ lipids. Now this one has a lot of different info in it to cram into one place. This is due to fats being so complex, so I apologize for some “light” info. If any other details are needed, just ask!

When looking at fats or lipids you have many different categories. There are Triglycerides (unsaturated and saturated fats), Sterols (cholesterol is the most common but there are also phytosterols), and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). For EFAs, think of the Omegas (omega 3 or n-3s and omega 6 or n-6s).

With respect to saturated and unsaturated fats, we often associate saturated as unhealthy and unsaturated as ideal. This does not always hold true and as always the devil is in the details. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have shown remarkable health benefits in many studies. They are easily absorbed and have even been included for some disease treatments (Waldmann’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s to name a few). For a 2000 cal diet, the RDI is 20 g of Saturated fatty acids with 65 g total intake. Just pay attention to not overdue these substances.

Cholesterol is a hot topic for certain. The RDI for Cholesterol is at 300 mg for a 2000 cal intake. Personally I feel this is kind of an antiquated reference. The idea that dietary cholesterol adds to serum (bloodstream) cholesterol is simply not there. There are loose links in clinicals, but nothing of substance. For this reason, I normally recommend people to not overdo it, but if you want to have eggs, go right ahead and eat the yoke. Try and mix up your fat sources, but don’t run away afraid of some scarecrow.

EFAs produce prostaglandins, which regulate functions like heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and conception, and inflammation. It also encourages the body to fight infection. Avoiding EFAs can lead to a number of issues including growth retardation, skin lesions, visual problems, kidney and liver diseases, reproductive failure, chronic intestinal disease, and even depression. These are essential to healthy living. You can get these from a few sources, but I like to recommend fatty fish like salmon for this micronutrient.

There are three types of Omega-3’s that we can consume. There is alphalinoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These three are known for their incredible anti-inflammatory properties. ALA is an essential acid that can be derived into both EPA and DHA, but the reverse does not hold true. Due to this, I recommend a diet high in EPA and DHA for your intake. ALA can be obtained through Flaxseeds and EPA/DHA can be consumed from fish oils.

The reason that fats have received their terrible name is the amount of calories in each gram. It is undeniable that nine kilocalories in each gram can add up quickly. That is undebatable, but what is debatable is that there are necessities for lipids in a performance diet. Don’t run away afraid of the boogeyman. Embrace him and show how you’re willing to embrace the upgrades to your performance. Go on. Get your goal.

– Gavin

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