By Darryl Howerton and Jim Stoppani Flex
F-A-T-S…yeah, it’s a four-letter word, but — as you’re about to see — the right kinds of fats actually do a body(builder) good. Whether your goal is getting huge or getting shredded, fats can be your ally. You just have to know which ones to eat, which ones to avoid, how much to eat and the best times to eat them. So put away your fears and get the full skinny on fats, your new BFFs.
GOOD FATS: Polyunsaturated Fats
Fats that have more than one double-bonded carbon in the molecule. Polyunsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature and when chilled. They also include the essential fatty acids that the body needs but can’t produce, namely omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
1- Fights the breakdown of muscle tissue
2- Conserves branched-chain amino acids
3- Offers anti-inflammatory properties (reduces muscle soreness, enhances joint recovery)
4- Enhances fat loss (shown to be true of omega-3s)
Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Trout, White Tuna, Flaxseeds and Walnuts, plus Safflower, Corn, Canola, Soybean and Fish Oils
“I use polyunsaturated fats to combat muscle-tissue inflammation and breakdown by making sure my athletes eat at least one ounce of seeds a day and consume at least one fish meal a day,” nutritionist and trainer Neil Hill says. “I also add a teaspoon of omega 3-6-9 oils in supplement form for each meal.”
GOOD FATS: Monounsaturated Fats
Fats that have one double-bonded (unsaturated) carbon in the molecule. Typically liquid at room temperature, but start to turn solid when chilled.
1- High in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin
2- Reduces LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels in blood
3- Research from the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) shows that exercise helps to increase the burning of monounsaturated fats after meals, rather than allowing it to be stored as bodyfat
4- Studies also reveal that subjects who simply increase their monounsaturated fat intake lose weight without decreasing calories
Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, peanuts, almonds, macadamias, pecans, cashews, avocados, peanut butter, almond butter and pumpkin seeds
Focus on including olive oil as either a salad dressing or as a cooking spray for scrambled eggs. Bodybuilders used to favor near-zero-calorie cooking spray not only for posing oil, but also for preparing all their meals, because they thought they had to drop all fats from their diets. Now, you know better — cooking with olive oil can enhance both your health and your physique.
Fats with carbon atoms that are saturated with hydrogen atoms. Typically solid at room temperature.The American Heart Association gives saturated fats the thumbs down, but cutting-edge research suggests that this negative opinion could be wrong. Research shows that stearic acid, the major saturated fat in the beef and chicken eat, does not raise LDL cholesterol. The same can be said about palmitic acid found primarily in dairy foods — when linoleic acid (omega-6 fats) levels are also adequate. In fact, when carbohydrates are reduced in the diet and saturated fat intake is increased, levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) increase. Saturated fats got a bad rap because of their ability to increase cholesterol levels when carbohydrates and total calories are in excess.
1- Elevates testosterone production
2- Red meat, in particular, has ample amounts of creatine
3- Bone health
4- Essential for healthy cell membranes
5- Needed for proper utilization of fatty acids
Beef, Poultry, Pork, Dairy Products made with whole or reduced-fat milk, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil
“I keep red meat in the precontest diet because the saturated fat keeps testosterone levels high,” says IFBB Pro League bodybuilder and trainer/nutritionist George Farah. “I also use it in the carb-depleting and loading phase to keep calories from dropping too far, because this could result in loss of energy and cannibalizing of lean muscle tissue.”
BAD FATS: Trans Fats
Fats that are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. This provides them a more stable shelf life, which is one of the major reasons they are used in the restaurant and food industry. They are also known as partially hydrogenated oils.
THE BAD NEWS:
1- Raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol
2- Reduces muscles’ amino acid uptake
3- Increases muscle breakdown
Fried Food, Pastries, Cookies, Crackers, Chips, Biscuits, Hydrogenated Oils
“Read labels carefully and steer clear of products containing the words ‘trans fats’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils,’” Hill says. “Even if the label says ‘zero grams trans fats,’ the [Federal Drug Administration] allows up to 0.5 g per serving. Depending on how many servings you eat, you could be getting a lot more trans fats than you thought you were.”
WHAT IS FAT?
Along with protein and carbohydrates, fats (also called lipids) supply energy to the body. All fats and oils are a combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and are found in beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
FAT AND CALORIES:
A calorie is a unit of food energy — it tells us how much energy (or heat) a food provides to the body. One gram of most fats contains approximately nine calories, compared to four grams in an equal amount of protein and carbs, making fat the most concentrated form of energy available. This is why it was thought that you had to drop almost all fat from your diet to lose bodyfat and one of the major reasons fat was demonized. It’s also the reason why you can eat a moderate amount of fat, but you still shouldn’t overdo it.
GETTING FAT ON FAT:
It’s a common misconception that eating fat makes you fat. The fact is, you can get fat on anything if you eat too much of it, because the surplus calories will be stored as fat. Excess carbs can also interfere with the body’s ability to use stored fat for fuel by spiking insulin levels, inhibiting the production of fat-burning enzymes and enhancing fat storage.
A soft, waxy substance found among the lipids in the bloodstream and in all the body’s cells. Cholesterol is crucial for health, as it’s important for maintaining cell membrane integrity, fighting infections and repairing injuries. It is also necessary for the production of hormones, such as testosterone, the androgen hormone that plays a key role in protein synthesis and muscle building. In fact, research confirms that those following a weight-training program and consuming a higher-cholesterol diet, gain more muscle size and strength than those eating a low-cholesterol diet.
FAT TO GET RIPPED:
When you’re trying to get peeled for the stage, you’d think fats would be one of the first things to cross off your diet, but you’d be off the mark. “Fats slow digestion to keep bloodsugar levels stable, providing a greater and longerlasting feeling of satiety, which means you’ll be less likely to splurge or cheat between meals,” Hill explains. Here are a few more advantages to keeping healthy fats in the diet.
1- Strong antioxidant properties keep the immune system functioning properly
2- Fats are a great source of energy and should be consumed throughout the day
3- Fats slow absorption of protein, providing a steady stream of amino acids trickling into the muscles
FAT TO GET BIG:
You have to eat enough food to get big, and healthy fats can make getting everything you need easier. “With twice the amount of calories as protein and carbs, they provide plenty of energy to fuel training and spare amino acids from being used as a source of energy,” Hill says. Here are two more reasons to keep healthy fats in your diet.
1- They are especially helpful for hardgainers, who typically have trouble consuming enough calories to spur muscle growth.
2- Saturated fat, in particular, promotes testosterone production, keeping the body in an anabolic state.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Total dietary fat should come to about 30% (10% saturated fat, 10% monounsaturated fat, 10% polyunsaturated fat) of your total daily calories, which will come to close ½ gram of fat per pound of bodyweight.