Wanting to stay lean and battling excess body fat are some of the main motivators for those of us diving into fitness boot camp, so when it comes to eating fats in the form of a nutrient it only makes sense that some of us are a little wary.
However, fats are actually one of the three main macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and proteins, you need to tune into your fitness goals, and the thought that to avoid getting fat you need to avoid eating fats is an absolute myth. So, for this piece, we’re going to take a quick look at what fats are in terms of a macronutrient, and what its role is in fueling your boot camp workout.
What are Fats
At the basic level, fats are oils or lipids and are composed of fatty acids. You can find fats mixed in with foods that are also heavy in carbohydrates and proteins, but your basic fat-centric foods are things like cheese, cooking oils, milk, and butter (including nut butter).
Within the overall category of fats, you can further divide the nutrient into Unsaturated and Saturated Fats. While research can vary, traditionally it’s been argued that mono and poly-saturated fats, like olive oils and fish, within the unsaturated fat category tend to be better for your heart, while transfats and saturated fats should be avoided.
Shrouded in Myth
The past decade saw the surge of low-fat alterations of many of our favourite foods thanks to misinformed paranoia that fueled the belief that, because a food has fats in it, it will naturally make you fatter. However, this isn’t true.
It is true that fats tend to be more calorically dense, and 1 gram of fats contain 9 calories, in comparison to 4 calories in 1 gram of carbs. However, at the end of the day, weight gain comes from eating more calories than you burn. Whether these calories come from fatty cheeses or carbohydrate dense potatoes makes little difference.
Fats as Fuel
What Fats can do, however, is provide a great source of energy and satiation to any balanced, fit-focused diet. While some diets promote cutting out fats entirely, if you go that route you’ll quickly discover you’ve cut out a key friend to a fitness filled lifestyle.
Fats actually promote cell growth, protect organs, warm your body, provide energy, and produce important hormones. When you cut fats from your diet, or fail to get enough fats in a balanced diet, it’s possible you’ll experience hormonal mood swings, feel less energized, and also less full as fats tend to be more satiating and filling.
While it is generally better to eye your fat intake more closely than other macronutrients since it’s easier to go overboard on them due to being calorically dense, it doesn’t make sense to cut them out entirely. Definitely consult a dietician to arrive at the safe and appropriate amount you should shoot for in your own diet, but fats should generally make up 20-35% of your caloric intake.
In addition to making sure you’re getting the appropriate amounts, definitely leverage your fats with good protein sources like peanut butter, fish, and other meats!