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Sport Nutrition: Fat

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What is it and why do we need it?

Fat is often regarded as the bad nutrient that causes weight gain and is generally associated with poor health, this however is not the case and ‘healthy’ fats should make approximately 30% your calorific intake. Like carbohydrates and protein, fats are calorific nutrients and so every gram of fat equals 9 calories, this is the main reason why people on a high fat diet put on more weight then those on a high carbohydrate or protein diet.

Fat is needed for:-

* Improves skin

* Protects internal organs

* Carries fat soluble vitamins

* Adds taste and the feeling of satisfaction to a meal

* Can help improve/maintain testosterone levels

* Provides a high-energy form of fuel during exercise.

Types of fats

Fats can be split into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the good fats are associated with good health with the bad fast being more commonly associated with the stereotypical views regarding fat.

The good fats are known as Unsaturated, these come from seeds and oils and tend to be liquid at room temperature. The benefits of these fats are that they don’t sit in your arteries, and so don’t clog them up. These fats also help protect the body from the bad fats, known as saturated, which tend to be solid at room temperature and come from animal products. The bad fats can build up in the arteries and can cause health problems such as high blood pressure and heart complications. The good fats help to clear the bad fats from the body, helping to prevent there build up in the arteries.

Trans Fats

These are a form of bad saturated fat that are heavily associated with heart conditions, diabetes & weakened immune function as they significantly increase the levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in the body. Trans fats are a form of processed vegetable fats, hydrogen is added, and so these fats are sometimes referred to as hydrogenated vegetable oils. This turns the fats from a liquid to a solid at room temperature. These fats tend to settle within the arteries, are more likely to be stored as body fat and are less easy to breakdown as energy

These are used in processed foods such as pastries, pies, sausage rolls, cakes, doughnuts, biscuits, cookies, crisps and other confectionary food as well as in takeaways for frying food. They are used because they help improve the shelf life and texture of a food while being cheap to buy and use from a manufactures point of view.

Ways of reducing trans fats from the diet include

* Check food labels for the word ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ and avoid foods where this appears near the beginning of an ingredients list

* Aim to have snacks that are listed as baked from then fried, i.e. basked potato crisps or oven chips rather then fried.

* Ask what takeaways and restaurants what oils they use to cook food.

* Blot oil from chips, burgers, sausage, bacon, grilled steak, chicken

* Dry fry food in a non-stick pan or add a small amount of olive oil.

Mono-unsaturated & Polyunsaturated

These are the good fats that that your body likes to use as fuels and can do so efficiency because they do not solidify within the body. Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable while monounsaturated comes from nuts and seeds, both types of fats are healthy and are used effectively by the body and are far less likely to be stored as fat compared to saturated and trans fats.

In recent years evidence has shown that certain fats are better then others with regard to health, these are known as essential fatty acids, these are still called fats because they have the same calorific value as regular saturated and unsaturated fats (9 calories per gram) but have numerous health benefits. The most commonly heard of essential fatty acid is Omega 3.

The benefits of Omega 3 are: –

* May help reduce body fat stores

* Helps the body control blood sugar levels

* Helps the body use more fat during exercise why storing more carbohydrate within the muscle cells.

* May reduce the bodies ability to store fat within fat cells

* Helps lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol that sticks to the inside of your arteries)

* Raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol that helps clear LDL cholesterol from the body)

* Protects the heart.

* May help reduce muscle and joint inflammation.

* Improves brain function & memory.

Sources of fats

Omega 3 / Unsaturated


Flax seed oil

Red Meat

Hemp Seeds

Full fat dairy / cheese

Pumpkin Seeds

Crisp / Chips


Sausage / Sausage rolls

Walnuts / nut oil

Burgers / sausage / fried chicken

Rape Seeds / oil

Takeaways (kebabs, curries, Chinese)


Pastries and cakes, doughnuts

Soya beans

Pies, sausage rolls

Olive / Olive Oil

Pork Scratchings

Wheat germ

Coconut & Palm oil

Sunflower Seeds




Ways of reducing ‘bad’ fat intake.

* Cut all visible fat off meat & bacon

* Remove skin off chicken / turkey before eating

* Buy extra lean or lean mince beef or turkey mince rather then regular mince.

* Buy low fat sausage or sausage with a higher percentage of meat

* Grill foods or dry fry rather then deep frying

* Use vegetable oil (i.e. olive) rather then animal fats for frying (i.e. lard)

* Grate cheese rather then slice when using for sandwiches, this helps cover the safe surface area but while using less cheese

* Limit takeaways, doughnuts, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, and burgers to treats rather then regular additions to your diet.

* If the above foods are eat, reduce your regular portion size (i.e. eat half the chocolate bar and eat the other half another day)

* Blot food with paper towels after cooking to removes excess fat

Ways of increasing you healthy fat intake

* Sprinkle hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds on salads and breakfast cereals.

* Add nuts to salads, breakfast cereals, natural yogurts or raisins as a snack.

* Switch from white bread to wholemeal or granary bread.

* Have wholegrain cereals for breakfast (shredded wheat, Weetabix or porridge)

* Use brown rise and wholemeal pasta rather then white varieties.

* Eat fatty fish at least once per week (mackerel, herring, salmon & trout)

* Add Flaxseed oil to smoothies, salads & cereals

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