Fat: An Essential Nutrient For Performance Copy
FAT: ENERGY & PERFORMANCE
On the surface, getting the nutrition you need seems easy enough. After all, everyone eats something every day. Sports nutrition is a much more involved process. While the non-athlete may survive day-to-day by following general nutritional guidelines, an athlete’s needs are much more sophisticated.
Fat Role & Sources
Fat, which gets stored as adipose tissue, provides cushion and insulation to internal organs, covers the nerves, moves vitamins (A, D, E, and K) throughout the body and is the largest reserve of stored energy available for activity. Fat is stored when we consume more calories then we use. There is an optimal level of body fat for health and athletic performance. When that optimal level is exceeded, too much dietary fat can lead to problems with health, as well as athletic performance.
Of all the energy-yielding nutrients, fat provides the highest concentration of energy of all the nutrients. One gram of fat equals nine calories. This calorie density, along with our seemingly unlimited storage capacity for fat, makes fat our largest reserve of energy. While these calories are less accessible to athletes performing quick, intense efforts like sprinting or weight lifting, fat is essential for longer, slower lower intensity and endurance sport & exercise.
Saturated fats are found primarily in animal sources like meat, egg yolks, yogurt, cheese, butter, milk. This type of fat is often solid at room temperature. Too much saturated fat gets linked to health problems such as high cholesterol and heart disease. Because of this, saturated fat should get limited to no more than 10% of total daily calorie intake. To limit saturated fat intake, consume lean on meat and milk. Beef, pork, lamb, and dairy products are high in saturated fat. Choose low-fat milk, unsweetened almond milk, and savor full-fat cheeses in small amounts.
Fat Quick Sources Guide
The total amount of fat you eat, whether high or low, isn’t linked with disease. What matters is the type of fat you eat. The “bad” fats increase the risk for certain diseases, while the “good” fats lower disease risk. Download the Critical Reload Food Sources Guide to review and post on your fridge for quick reference.
Healthy unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are typically found in plant food sources and are usually liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats have health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, unsaturated fats are rich in omega-3s that help control inflammation in the joints, the bloodstream, and the tissues. Because of those mentioned above, an athlete should consume 10-20% total daily calorie intake from unsaturated fats. Natural food sources include olive and canola oil, avocados, fish, almonds, soybeans, and ground flaxseed. Use liquid plant oils for cooking and baking. Olive, canola, and other plant-based oils are rich in heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
Fats To Avoid
Trans fat has recently gotten added to the nutrition labels of most products. Small amounts of naturally-occurring trans fats are available in meat and dairy products, but it’s the artificial trans fats (made by food manufacturers) that are considered dangerous. Trans fats raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. No amount of trans fats is healthy.
- Blake, J. (2014). Nutrition & You, 3rd Edition. Retreive from Amazon.com.
- Clark, N (2013), Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Retrieve from Amazon.com.
- Gastelu, et al, (2015) Specialist In Performance Nutrition: Weight Control, Fitness, and Performance Nutrition. International Sports Science Association. Retrieve from ISSA Website.
- US Anti-Doping Agency: Nutrition Guide. Retrieve PDF file from USADA website.