First, I will list some common terms are their meanings. It is important to know what words mean when you read them. I might not use some of the words I have listed, but they deal with fat, so at least you'll know them for later use. Most of these definitions have been taken from the dictionary or Encarta's Interactive encyclopedia.
Cholesterol-"a complex alcohol constituent of all animal fats and oils. It can be activated to form vitamin D. Cholesterol is one of a group of compounds known as sterols and is related to such other sterols as the sex hormones and the hormones of the adrenal cortex."(1) Cholesterol is used to build brain and nerve tissues and cell membranes.1 It also acts as a protective covering for your skin and hair. Some dietary sources of cholesterol are egg yolks, meat, and diary products such as whole milk.
Fatty Acid-"common name for a group of organic acids that includes the saturated (hydrogenated), straight-chain acids, with a single carboxyl (COOH) group, that are produced by the hydrolysis of fats. The group also includes all other saturated straight-chain acids and acids with a branched chain or cyclic structure. Formic acid, HCOOH, and acetic acid, CH3COOH, are the simplest fatty acids. Both have sour taste, irritate the skin, and have a sharp smell. Of more complicated structure are butyric, caproic, caprylic, and capric acids, all of which have unpleasant odors. Stearic, palmitic, oleic, and naphthenic acids are greasy materials with little odor."(1) Some fatty acids are used to make paint thickeners, detergents, and lubricants.
Hydrogenated Fat-Fat that has been chemically alters by the addition of a hydrogen atom. Margarine contains hydrogenated fat. Lipid- A chemical compound that is insoluble, not able to be dissolved, in water. Lipoprotein-"A lipid-protein complex by which lipids are transported through the bloodstream."(1)
Monounsaturated fatty acid-"Being an unsaturated fat composed especially of fatty acids having only one double bond in the carbon chain."(1) Polyunsaturated fatty acid-"Related to long chain carbon-compounds, especially fats, having many unsaturated bonds."(1)
Saturated fatty acid-"A fat, usually of animal origin, composed predominately of fatty acids having only single bonds in the carbon chain."(1)
Trans fatty acid-"A polyunsaturated fatty acid in which some of the missing hydrogen atoms have been put back in a chemical process called hydrogenation."(1)
Now that you know a few new words, let's put them to use.
What do fats do in the body?
Essential fatty acids are used in energy production, transferring oxygen into the bloodstream, and the making of hemoglobin (The iron containing respiratory pigment in red blood cells).(1) They are also involved in growth, cell division and nerve function. Essential fatty acids are essential for normal brain function.(2) They are called essential fats because are bodies cannot make them and therefore must be consumed. Essential fatty acids also make prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are "substances which play a role in a number of body functions; including hormone synthesis, immune function, regulation of the response to pain and inflammation, blood vessel constriction, and other heart and lung functions (3)." Prostaglandins are separated into three categories. I have seen them called P1, P2, and P3 or just 1, 2, and 3, and series 1, series 2, series 3. P2 is considered harmful, while P1 and P3 are beneficial. P1 and 3 prostaglandins dilate blood vessels, reduce clotting, lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, raise beneficial HDL cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory actions. P2 prostaglandins do the opposite (3).
I'm going to quote this straight from a source, "Symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency may include fatigue, dry skin, immune weakness, gastrointestinal disorders, heart and circulatory problems, growth retardation, mental problems and sterility. It is likely that a lack of dietary essential fatty acids plays an important role in the development of many common diseases (3)." Ouch! All that from not getting enough fat. Wait, I thought fat was bad. Omega 3 and omega 6 deficiencies can cause arthritis, cardiovascular disease, PMS, and headaches (2).
Omega 3 and 6 are used to treat/cure/reduce symptoms in:
Cardiovascular disease, High blood pressure, Cancer, Arthritis, Skin disorders, Menstrual pain, and Inflammatory bowel disease So why are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids important to bodybuilders? I had a conversation with a family doctor, and this is what he had to say about my question:
"This is how I've come to understand it. Cells in your muscles act selectively to allow certain nutrients inside. The same holds true for muscle cells and necessary use of your own natural testosterone. A problem occurs because sometimes the rate of entry of testosterone into certain muscle cells is not fast enough for what is needed. This is likely to be (at least in part) caused by loss of cell membrane elasticity, which can be a reflection of the quality or quantity of fatty acids synthesized by the body or taken in through diet. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids enhance the stability of cell membranes and theoretically can keep the cell membranes nice and supple so that the rate is stabilized. So in this case, they act somewhat like potentiators. The same goes true for almost (if not every) cell of your body...the more "squishy" and supple your cell membranes are, the more resistant to stress and malfunction. So important is cell membrane health that in the literature of obstetrics I cannot find one disease directly affecting general cell membrane fluidity of a fetus that exists yet allows for a successful birth. Cell membrane stability diseases are pretty much completely fatal for an embryo. Societal patterns of poor eating, bad air and water quality, chemicals, stress, etc. do that to us after we get older. So perhaps adding the omegas to our diet the best route for optimal functioning. Since last year when I added a good EFA to my supplement regimen, I've had a remarkable string of good success with my weightlifting endeavors. I've gone without it at times and my workout log reflects less gain irrespective of intensity. When I put the two together, I found a personal need for extra EFA's."As you can see, eating the right types of fat with enhance your bodies ability to use the testosterone it creates.
Sources of These Fats
Omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid)-cold water fish, Flaxseed oil (2 to 9) Omega 6 (Linoleic acid)-safflower, sunflower and corn oils (3 to 6) For a list of some foods and their fatty acid content, go to: http://www.homepage.montana.edu/~bchem280/omega.html
So, you want to stay away from saturated fats and trans fatty acid. These are very hard for your body to digest. So next time you hear someone dissing fat, explain to them what it can do.
(1). Encarta's Interactive Encyclopedia and Dictionary
(3). Lost the source