All Macros Aren’t Created Equal: Fats

19
May

All Macros Aren’t Created Equal: Fats

By Rachel Holcomb

All Macros Aren’t Created Equal: Fats

PSA: Fats don’t make you fat.

Our society seems to have a love/hate relationship with this macronutrient.  The 90’s were all about low fat foods everywhere claiming it was the best way to go for weight loss; fast forward to present day and we are on the other end of the spectrum with high fat “keto” options virtually everywhere we look.  Why so many extremes?  This article is going to discuss the benefits to consuming fats, a deeper look at the keto diet and why it works, as well as a more moderate approach to fat consumption.  For starters let’s look at what makes fat different from other macros.  Fat is made up of fatty acid which can be categorized into saturated and unsaturated.  Fat is essential to the body, particularly, forming cell membranes, brains, and nervous system.  Fat can also be a source of energy for the body and transport certain vitamins. [1]

“Good” fats vs. “bad” fats:

Fats, similar to carbohydrates, often get categorized as “good” or “bad.”  When talking about fats, people are referring to omega 3 versus omega 6 fatty acids.  Omega 3 fats are categorized as “good” fats, while omega 6 fats are often referred to as “bad” or unhealthy fat sources.  However, the truth is that we need both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for proper function, as the body does not produce them naturally. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats primarily found in fish, nuts, and flax seeds/oils.  Omega 3 fats are the start to hormone production for blood clot regulation, contraction and relaxation of arteries, and ease inflammation. [5]  Therefore, omega 3 fats are often categorized as “good” due to their correlation in heart disease and stroke prevention, and a big reason behind the popularization of the mediterranean diet.  While many tend to associate omega 6 fats with an increased risk of heart disease therefore labeling them as “bad” fats, this may actually be the contrary.  Research actually suggests that omega 6 fats may also play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  Omega 6 fats are commonly derived from vegetable oils and include benefits such as lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL, as well as improving our sensitivity to insulin helping the body to regulate glucose levels.  While we may benefit from increasing our omega 3 fat consumption, we do not need to avoid the consumption of omega 6 fats, rather our emphasis should be put on balancing the two! [6]

Benefits of eating a high fat diet:

Before the keto diet was popularized, the Mediterranean diet was a high-fat diet sought after for its correlation with reduced cardiovascular disease in populations within Mediterranean countries.  The Mediterranean diet is rich in high fat foods such as fish, olive oils, nuts and seeds.  Due to the Mediterranean diet’s focus on fish rather than red meats and olive oils instead of butter or margarine- this diet is higher in omega 3 fats than the typical American diet that is said to consume 10 times more omega 6 fats than omega 3’s. [5]  Along with a correlation to reduced risk of heart disease and lower inflammation, a diet that is high in fats is also strongly correlated to improved body composition.  Fat consumption helps support our metabolism and because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, fats keep you full longer between meals! [8]

The ketogenic diet:

What exactly is “keto” and is it right for you?  The ketogenic diet comes from the term ketosis- the state the body enters when blood ketones are higher than normal following ketogenic dietary guidelines.  The body produces ketones which are used as energy sources for all cells in the body, rather than using glucose from carbohydrates for energy.  Therefore, to achieve this state, you must significantly reduce carbohydrate intake and significantly increase fat consumption. The ketogenic diet is low in protein and very low in carbohydrates, while extremely high in fats.  The ratio in macros is as extreme as 75% fat, 10% carbohydrate, 20% protein.  The ketogenic diet actually originated by researchers as a treatment for epilepsy.  Along with it’s benefits for brain health and function the keto diet seems to have a similar effect on the body as fasting.  When this was discovered by bodybuilders and physique competitors it became a popular diet in this fitness realm to get lean without starving.  While the ketogenic diet has proven health and physique benefits it can be very difficult to follow and maintain.  The ketogenic diet is extremely restrictive and may not have a positive effect on all populations of people.  Some suggest that men may do better following a keto diet than women due to the importance of carbohydrates for balancing hormones.  If you do decide to follow a ketogenic diet it is important to do so properly, this means ensuring you are consuming high quality fats as discussed above and not relying on processed and saturated fats to hit your daily fat intake.  It is also important to continue to monitor glucose levels in the blood and research proper supplementation for getting back into ketosis when the body moves out of this state due to an increase of carbs or alcohol consumption. [9]

Moderate fat intake:

The majority of us may do best at a more moderate fat intake, say 25-35% of your daily caloric intake, as this is something we can likely maintain long term.  This approach will allow you to eat a variety of foods without all the food restrictions.  You can also learn how to calculate alcohol as fat and learn to drink in moderation and still meet your goals.  With a lower fat consumption we rely mostly on carbohydrate intake for energy, making carbs an important part of a well-balanced diet especially when training at high intensity.  For more information on carbohydrates, refer to the blog titled, All Macros Aren’t Created Equal: Carbohydrates.  When aiming to hit our fat goals, regardless of percentage, we want to focus on high quality fat sources from whole foods!

Quality fat food sources:

Seafood

Nuts

Seeds

Coconut 

Avocado

Eggs

Olive Oil

Avocado Oil

Cod Liver Oil

[1]  https://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia

[5]  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

[6]  https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/no-need-to-avoid-healthy-omega-6-fats

[7] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

[8]  https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

[9]  https://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet