How often do you eat salmon, tuna, or avocado? What about olive oil? If you're like most dieters, you probably avoid these foods because of their high fat content. Big mistake! Not all fats are created equal. Oily fish, unrefined vegetable oils, coconut oil, and other whole foods contain omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which support optimum health. A diet that's too low in fat can put you at risk for chronic diseases and inflammation.
Are Dietary Fats Really Important?
Lipids and dietary fats provide your body with energy. During exercise or intense physical activity, your body uses carbs in the form of glycogen for fuel. When your glycogen stores run low, it switches to fats for energy. If fats are not available, it will use protein to maintain energy balance. This can lead to muscle loss, fatigue, ands other health issues. Adequate fat intake helps spare protein and maintains muscle mass.
Every cell in your body needs fat to function properly. This nutrient promotes healthy skin and hair, fights inflammation, and helps maintain body temperature. Some fats delay the aging process and support cell regeneration. Others play a key role in brain function and blood clotting.
The human body can not produce linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids (ALA). For this reason, these essential fatty acids must be obtained from food or supplements. Other important fats are DHA, EPA, lauric acid, stearic acid, and myristic acid. Unsaturated fatty acids, which include trans and cis fats, have undergone partial hydrogenation, a hardening process that affects their nutritional value. These fats increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, high cholesterol, and metabolic disorders.
Types of Fats
A balanced diet should include large amounts of monounsaturated fats, moderate amounts of polyunsaturated fats, and small amounts of saturated fat. Trans fats should be limited or avoided completely, while saturated fats should be kept to less than six percent of the daily calorie intake. Omega-3s, omega-6, and other healthy fats enhance vitamin absorption, help transport nutrients across cell membranes, support the nervous system, and aid in the production of testosterone and other hormones. Some nutrients, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K can not be absorbed and processed by your body unless in the presence of fat.
The best dietary sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, peanut butter, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and fish oil. These nutrients reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and protect against stroke and heart disease. They also help your body produce steroid hormones, maintain healthy skin, and regulate insulin response and blood glucose levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in flax seeds and vegetable oils, such as soy, corn, and sunflower oil. Just like monounsaturated fats, they help improve your blood profile and boost cardiovascular health. Saturated fats, which occur naturally in meat and dairy, help build strong bones and support the production of testosterone and other anabolic hormones that are crucial for muscle growth. They also aid in the absorption of calcium into the skeletal system. Trans fats, which are found in processed foods and refined oils, lower good cholesterol, increase bad cholesterol, and cause weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Trans fats should be avoided or greatly minimized as they contribute no nutritional value to your pursuit of health and wellness. If you need help in finding the perfect balance of macro nutrients and food choices that work best for your body and wellness goals contact us we would love to join you on your journey.
Struggling to cut back on carbs? Want to slim down and clean up your diet? If so, there is no need to give up carbs. These nutrients are your body's main source of fuel. Without carbs, your muscles can not recover properly from exercise. Additionally, a diet that's too low in carbs may not be sustainable on long term. Let's see why carbs are important for health and athletic performance!
Why Are Carbs Important?
Along with protein and fats, carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for the body, and the only direct energy source for the brain. Chemically, they are composed of carbon. oxygen, and hydrogen. These nutrients provide readily accessible fuel for all cells and tissues. Red blood cells rely on glucose to produce energy.
After ingestion, carbs are turned into glucose and then broken down through a process called glycolysis. If your body has enough energy to function properly, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The excess is stored as fat. Your liver and muscles can store about 4,000 calories at a time. Intense physical activity and exercise can deplete your glycogen stores, which may affect muscle repair and energy levels. Without glycogen, your body must use fats and protein for fuel. Basically, carbs spare protein breakdown from being used to make glucose.
Types of Carbohydrates
These macronutrients can be classified according to the number of sugar units combined in one molecule. The major types of carbs include:
Monosaccharides (fructose, glucose, and galactose)
Polysaccharides (pectins, cellulose, and amylose)
Disaccharides (lactose, sucrose, and maltose)
Polyols (isomalt, malitol, and sorbitol)
Carbohydrates can be also grouped into starches, sugars, and fiber, or into simple and complex carbs. These compounds occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. One gram of carbs provides four calories.
Carbs and Sports Nutrition
Athletes need carbs to recover from exercise and perform at their best. When their glycogen stores are low, they can not meet the energy demands of training or competition. Carbohydrates not only provide energy, but also play a key role in fat oxidation, digestive function, and cognitive processes. These nutrients allow your body to use protein for muscle growth and repair, and not just for fuel. Fiber, one of the main types of carbs, keeps the digestive system running smoothly.
The daily recommended carb intake for athletes depends on their body weight, type of activity, and training goals. For example, a runner or a powerlifter needs more carbohydrates than a bodybuilder. Most athletes need a higher carbohydrate percentage than sedentary individuals. I would recommend 45 percent to 65 percent of an athlete’s daily calories should come from carbs. For others, carbohydrate intake percentages would be based more on body type and or nutritional goals.
Be aware that not all carbs are created equal. Plant-based foods contain "good carbs," which fuel the body and support overall health. Processed foods, cookies, soda, chips, pastries, and commercial fruit juices are high in simple sugars that cause insulin and blood glucose spikes. Fruits and vegetables have both simple and complex carbs, but they also contain fiber, which slows sugar absorption into the bloodstream. Complex or slow digestive carbs provide steady energy throughout the day, while simple or fast digesting carbs are quick energy sources. Let us know if this is an area you need help in, we would love to join you on your journey to wellness.