By: Angela Ciroalo
The macronutrient fat is one that is often avoided or overlooked in an effort to lose weight.
However, in order for the body to create energy all three macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fat, must be consumed.
This is not to say that you should go out and consume a hamburger with extra cheese and bacon in order to fulfill your body’s fat needs.
The over-consumption of unhealthy fats (fats often found in animal sources such as meats and cheeses) will cause weight gain, inflammation, health complications, and possibly the onset of illness or disease.
Unhealthy fats will build up and cause damage to the arterial walls. When eaten in excess, these fats will then accumulate in the body creating excess weight gain and health issues.
Healthy sources of fat however, offer a variety of extremely beneficial and necessary properties. Therefore, in an effort to support proper body functioning, optimal health, and to fulfill the body’s fat needs — unsaturated fats should be consumed on a daily basis.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats
Unhealthy fat is often found in saturated and trans-fats sources which can be found in animal or processed foods. Healthy fats on the other hand, are kn
unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and can be found in plant-based sources.
Healthy fats provide the body with a nutrient-dense source of energy, they leave the body feeling full, while also supporting important organ and brain development.
In addition, healthy fat also plays an important role in protecting organs, supporting brain function, storing and utilizing vitamins, and promoting healthy cell and hormone production. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that these vitamins are best utilized and stored when in the presence of fat, according to Livestrong.com.
Those who do not consume an adequate amount of fats can suffer from fatty acid deficiency, Livestrong.com states.
The outcome of a fat deficiency may result in hair loss, fat-soluble vitamin deficiency, fatigue, poor mental function, skin issues, and slow or improper wound healing.
Athletes who do not consume adequate amounts of fat will experience the same symptoms while also becoming sluggish, causing them to no longer perform to their optimal performance level.
Athletes Consuming Fat
Fat can be a very beneficial source of food for athletes. Athletes who compete in long distance or high speed events must consume a high amount of calories to make up for the amount of calories that the burned.
Fat contains nine calories per gram, opposed to the four calories per gram found in carbohydrates and proteins. Therefore, when fats are consumed the athlete is able to absorb and utilize a greater amount of calories without eating greater portions of food.
Often times athletes do not have a large appetite, or they may have a difficult time consuming a subsequent amount of calories. Therefore, consuming healthy fat sources is a great solution.
In addition, healthy fat further supports athletes through its ability to promote proper body functioning, leave athletes feeling full and satiated for longer periods of time, in addition to the high amount of nutrient-dense energy that unsaturated fats offer.
How Much Fat Should We Eat?
Fat sources should always come from health-promoting sources and should be consumed in 20- to 30-percent of the diet depending on caloric needs.
In other words, if an athlete were to consume a 2,600 calorie diet, 60 to 100 should come from health sources of fat, according to Livestrong.com.
Though fats are important, especially for athletes, the largest portion of calories should come from carbohydrates, 45 to 60 percent, Livestrong.com states.
A few deliciously healthy examples of plant-based fats include; nuts, avocados, seeds, plant oils, seed oils, soy products, and nut butters. To learn more about these fats and their many benefits, click here.