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Fats

We need fats for basic body energy. The average body stores enough energy in adipose tissue to walk 500 to 1,000 miles. We also store 2,000-3,000 calories of lipids in the form or triglycerides in our muscles.  This energy is more available during low level exercise. We need fat for vitamins A, D, E, and K, and for the essential fatty acids that aid numerous body functions. Fat helps the nervous system function and is part of the production of hormones.

The average consumption of fat in the United States is over 35% of total calories.   This means that almost anywhere you eat in the U.S., you will face foods which have a higher fat content than what you should eat. Americans use fat to make food taste better, and to be more satisfying. Dropping the fat intake to 25% will allow the body to function better, and make most athletes more successful at their sport. Fat is a condensed food, full of calories. So, 25% fat intake is not 25% of your dinner plate.

Dan Benardot, PhD: “Even a short- term increase in fat intake with a decease in carbohydrate intake for only 3-5 days leads to a reduction in endurance performance when compared with a high carbohydrate intake.”

Basic Recommendations about Fat in the Diet

All fats are equally fattening, but some are better for you than others. Reduce or avoid saturated fats: Saturated fats are found in animal fats, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. Stay away from trans-fats.  Continue to drink milk for the protein, calcium and vitamins, but reduce to 2%, 1%, or non fat.  Try non fat sour cream, and low fat cottage cheese.  Reduce the use of butter.  Reduce portions of cheese, and trim meat of fat and skin. Watch out for chocolate candy which is often high in tropical oils.
Don’t eat burned or old oils (carcinogenic).

Good oils:

Fish, canola, flax seed, peanut, olive, safflower, sunflower, corn
Eat 1-2 servings of cold water fish such a salmon or tuna per week. Include a variety of nuts and grains in your diet.

Loosing body fat:

It is true that aerobic exercise uses a higher percentage of fat for energy, but more intense exercise burns more fat per hour, and allows you to eat more because of total calories burned.  If your goal is an athletic looking body, add high intensity routines to your week. Vegetables: Vegetables give us carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins.  Learn to eat raw vegetables. Avoid boiling vegetables, it takes the water soluble vitamins out. Don’t soak your vegetables in fatty sauces.  Use more than one vegetable dish on your meal plate.  Experiment with barbecuing, steaming, and sauteing your vegetables. Healthy training weight: Don’t train at a weight over 5% of your training weight. Supplements With your new balanced diet, you shouldn't need any supplements. Take a multi-vitamin if you want be sure you are covering the bases. Use protein supplements as as a last resort, this is no way for an athlete to support the body’s amino acid pool.  Even legal supplements like creatine may work, but all have side effects, so avoid their use.

Sources:

National Strength and Conditioning website
Advanced Sports Nutrition, Dan Benardot, PhD.
US Olympic Committee website
Center for Disease Control (CDC) website
American College of Sports Medicine website
Mayo Clinic website
“Body Water”, Wikipedia