The following are all statements that I have heard or believed to be true at one time or another. But they are so far from the truth.
- If you eat fat, you get fat, right? NO!
- Fat is bad, right? NO!
- All fats are the same, right? NO!
- A low fat diet means that I should avoid fats as much as possible, right? NO!
A Look At 4 Common Fat Myths
What is wrong with the above statements? Let's go through them...
Myth 1 :: If You Eat Fat, You Get Fat.
Let's be honest if you eat too much of anything you'll get fat. Fat is a powerful source of energy. Your body can make 102 ATPs (you body's energy currency) out of one fat molecule. But if your body took the same amount of sugar, it could only make 30 ATPs.
In other words you don't need to ingest as much fat per gram as you do
carbs because fats contain over 3 times more energy per molecule. This difference can also be seen in the fact that 1 gram of fat has 9 calories and one gram of protein or carbohydrate is only 4 calories. The statement should be changed to "If you eat excess fats, you will get fat."
Myth 2 :: Fat Is Bad.
Fats are an essential part of life. The cell membranes in your body are made up of fats (phospholipids, cholesterols, and triglycerides). Fat is not bad. Your body needs fat, just as much as it needs proteins and carbohydrates.
Myth 3 :: All Fats Are The Same.
This statement is probably the farthest from the truth. There are different kinds of fat. Your body can make some of them but others it cannot so it must get them though food (certain unsaturated fats). Fats are generally separated into two main groups - saturated and unsaturated. The distinction between the two is the presence of double bonds in the fatty acid chain (unsaturated fats contain double bonds).
Double bonds are chemically reactive, so saturated fats are by nature less reactive than unsaturated fats. Less reactivity means they take longer to spoil thus they have a longer shelf life. This is why processed foods are so high in saturated fats. It has been shown that people whose diets have excess amounts of saturated fat are at higher risk for developing heart disease (and other medical problems). It is this correlation that started the fat is evil dogma.
The other class of fats, unsaturated, comes in two flavors - mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated. These are often viewed by people as the "good fats." One of the hottest version of the "good fats" is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA).
Various scientific studies over the past few years have shown that when taken in 4-6 gram daily doses (spread over the day) has been shown to increase fat loss and while protecting lean body mass . The same study also showed that CLA help reduce blood cholesterol levels in subjects. As you probably know high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for heart disease.
Let's recap - reduce bodyfat, preserve lean body mass, and reduce risk of heart disease. Now that's good fat! Take a minute and browse www.webMD.com, you will find tons of articles on the benefits of unsaturated fats and their role in reducing heart disease, cholesterol levels, and risk factors for various kinds of cancer. Who said bodybuilding wasn't about being healthy?
Last year in the American Journal of Clinical Research a study was published that showed the fats in olive oil (mono-unsaturated fats) stimulated uncoupling proteins in stored fat that helped liberate bodyfat . The mitochondrial uncoupling mechanism is a powerful fat burning tool. This is the same mechanism exploited by the most powerful (and deadly) fat burners ever - 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP).
There was another study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed an increase in mental capacity in men and women (ages 63 to 74) whose red blood cell membranes contained high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (an unsaturated fat found in cold water fish and
flaxseed oil) over those with lower Omega-3 fatty acid levels . Clearly all fats were not created equal; they were almost created opposite!
Myth 4 :: A Low Fat Diet Means That I Should Avoid Fats As Much As Possible.
This is a myth that I subscribed to for a long time. Why? Because I believed the previous three fictitious statements to be true. When I started out as a weight lifter I would go through my day avoiding eating as much fat as possible, because I didn't want to get fat. Well, little did I know that by avoiding fat, I was actually causing my body to make fat! My body had to make more fat because it wasn't getting it through my diet. Pretty ironic huh?
A similar irony occurs during starvation diets. Unfortunately I've done this too. So you want to lose weight and to do that you decided that you will cut your calories down significantly (starve yourself). Your body thinks to itself "Boy, I haven't been getting a lot of food lately. Something must be wrong; I better slow down my metabolism and start storing as much food as I can as body fat in case this starvation gets worse."
That is the worst thing that could happen!!! To achieve your best body you need to be increasing you metabolism and liberating body fat. Not slowing it down and storing fat!
Sources Of Healthy Fats
Now that we've gone through and broken down all the classic myths surrounding fat we need to look into sources of these healthy fats.
Where can you get good fats?
- Peanut Butter
- Flaxseed Products
- Safflower Oil
- Olive Oil
- Most Cold Water Fish
- Other Cold Processed Vegetable Oils
Let's take a closer look at one specific food, flaxseed. Flaxseed products are so great because they are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. A whole book could be written on Omega-3 fatty acids so I won't get into the specific benefits right now. Basically most diets are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and low in Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed products are one of the best ways to increase the level of Omege-3 fatty acids in your diet.
I have listed flaxseed under the heading flaxseed products (not just flaxseed oil) because you can get the benefit of the good fats in flaxseed several different ways - flaxseed oil, flaxseed meal, and flaxseed.
Flaxseed oil is convenient because you can use it in protein shakes but unfortunately if your shakes don't have enough flavor to mask the flaxseed you may find that flaxseed oil tastes gross.
Flaxseed meal is good choice because it has the consistency of wheat germ and is great in yogurt or cottage cheese. An added benefit of flaxseed meal is fiber. One tablespoon yields 4 grams. Unfortunately it also only has 4 grams of fats compared to 14 grams you get in one tablespoon of flaxseed oil.
My current favorite flaxseed product is the actual flaxseed. They are small, chewy, loaded with fiber, and full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed has the same nutritional profile as flaxseed meal. That's because flaxseed meal is just flaxseed run through a coffee grinder. I like to put the seeds on salad, in a protein shake, or just pop them in my mouth.
Adding the seeds to your protein shake makes the shake more like a meal because you have to "chew" the shake. The biggest benefit to this is that the chewing motion stimulates your gastrointestinal system to start secreting digestive enzymes so your body is ready to absorb all the amino acids in your shake. And are we all after increased absorption?
So what's the bottom line? You need good fats in your diet, in moderation. Don't be afraid of fats they will help you live a longer healthier life.
Train hard & stay focused.