Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Harnessing the Power of Fats

Now that we have learned what fats are and how the history and idea of them have changed we can apply this all to our daily living and our diet. Fats are typically put into the “bad” food columns because fats are associated with the nutrient free, sugary, snack foods. This is  UNTRUE. Fats like mentioned before are our bodies long-term fuel, insulation, and keeps us feeling full. The trick is balance and an understanding amounts. Serving sizes are placed on our foods for guidance and they are rarely examined.. Fats are dense and therefore a serving size may be small. Fats are equivalent to 9 calories per gram. Nutrient dense foods like peanut butter, almonds, eggs, and seeds are my favorite ways to get nutrient dense and filling food into my diet. Fats are digested much slower and so we will not have fast energy like carbohydrates, but will sustain our day’s activities or the exercises we do.
Fats in natural unprocessed forms are best. Which can be hard when so many things are processed. Like I mentioned earlier my favorites are peanut butter, almonds, eggs and seeds. But there are many more options like:
  • Avocados: They are easy to throw in a salad, make guacamole or use to replace mayo. Avocados calories are mostly fat, but this is monounsaturated fats and not processed.
  • Salmon and Tuna: Fish oil allows us to get two serving of omega - 3 oil that are essential for our bodies and help maintain natural inflammation and decreased the risk of heart disease.
  • Flax Seed: Again flax seed or oil is a natural found unprocessed food, that is rich in omega - 3’s that can be added in anything. Add it into smoothies, cereal, or bake goods.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is better choice when looking to saute veggies or throwing in pasta.

How can Athletes use Fats?
How much fat do we really need? Every single person needs to have some percentage of fats in their diet. How much depends on you. Typically, the recommendation is 20-35% of your daily calories, which is quite a lot in comparison to our “old” ways of thinking. Daily calories of fat along with carbohydrates and protein are dictated by your activity. I want to show the recommendations for both males and females depending on moderately active vs.active.

Recommended Total Calories:
Ages 14-18
Male: 2,400-2,800
Female: 2,000
Male: 2,800-3,200
Female: 2,400
Ages 19-30
Male: 2,600-2,800
Female: 2,000-2,200
Male: 3,000
Female: 2,400

For finding out the percentage of fats you individually need on a given day depends on your calorie needs. So for example a 20 year female who is an active and daily runner needs about 2,400 calories. Since fats are between 20-35% of our daily diets take the 20-35% of the caloric need divided by 9 which gives you the grams (1 gram of fat = 9 calories).

2400 x .20 = 480/ 9 = 53g of fat
2400 x .35 = 840/9 = 93g of fat

In Food Fat Looks Like: 1 cup of almond milk = 2.5g
   1 cup of whole milk = 7.9g
   1 tbsp of unsalted butter = 11.5g
   1 cup of sliced avocado = 21.4g
   1 tbsp of olive oil = 14g

For athletes of any sport it is important to have a balance, but get enough of daily fats to sustain long term energy. When muscles are weak and being used over an hour, they have already consumed the glycogen stores our muscles, and can use the fat stores. The type of athlete you are depends on the amount of fats you need because your body will use the stored fat differently. Long distance runners, cyclists, or triathletes perform low/moderate intensity activity for a long duration of time, this allows them to use more fat storage. Now speed or weight training is mostly fueled by glucose or carbohydrates. Why is this? Low/moderate activity for long amount of time is aerobic, meaning our body needs a lot of oxygen (“Energy In..”). Fats are used most efficiently by our bodies with oxygen and so there aerobic activities are best to use our fat storages.

What Type of Exerciser are You?
Aerobic Activity
- endurance exercise
- uses oxygen to produce energy
- burn fat and weight loss
- uses fats and protein over long term activity
Anaerobic Activity
- interval training or weight training
- the body can produce energy without oxygen
- boosts metabolism and prevent weight gain
- uses carbohydrates for short term intense energy

Fats are very important for all athletes and the range of consumption is determined by activity that will be performed. Athletes and those who are active can listen to their bodies to determine when they need to eat or have sustained energy. We can also use the understanding of aerobic vs. anaerobic to determine caloric needs of our bodies to get the number of calories we need and therefore the exact grams of fat needed daily. Now, if you are asking how I can use all this information and numbers this is how.

  1. figure out your activity level
  2. determine what kind of activities you do most regularly
  3. find your caloric need
  4. find your grams
  5. apply this to you eating and planning

I want to end by tying this back to serving sizes because this will be used practically and during our meal planning. For example 2tbsp of JIF Natural Peanut Butter contains 16g of fat. If you determined you need around 40g of fat a day you are about half way there. Another one of my favorites, and I know many others enjoy are almonds, one serving (¼ cup) of almonds contains on average 18g of fat. With these two foods you may already hit your goal. I wanted to mention this because with this you can visualize the serving sizes that will still give your body what it needs. Figure out your numbers and it will help balance out your diet and control your serving size especially when it comes to fat.

  • Sara


Clark, N. (2014). Building a High-Energy Eating Plan. In Nancy Clarks' Sports Nutrition Guidebook (5th ed., pp. 28 - 29). Newton, MA: Sports Nutrition Services.
Clark, N. (2014). Athlete-Specific Nutrition Advice. In Nancy Clarks' Sports Nutrition Guidebook (5th ed., pp. 247 - 265). Newton, MA: Sports Nutrition Services.
Energy In: Recommended Food & Drink Amounts for Children. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2015.

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