A common complaint I get from my clients trying to lose weight is: “I’ve totally cut fat from my diet, yet I don’t lose weight!” and I can’t agree more. Your body needs fat in order to lose fat. Your body needs fat in order to maintain weight. Fat is not a monster… Fats are macronutrients needed by your body to function properly.
In fact, fat is necessary for the transport of the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Dietary fat is important as an energy source (as it is the most energy dense macronutrient), in the manufacture and balance of hormones, and in many other vital functions. Fats also help to cushion your kidneys, liver and nerves. So how would you omit fat from your diet? It’s not a matter of gaining or losing weight, it’s about the general state of well-being.
And guess what? It’s not only the amount of fat that matters, it’s the types of fat you eat that really matters. What kind of fat should you be eating? Fats are divided into “healthy fats” and “unhealthy fats.” It’s the balance between those two kinds of fat ingested that contributes to overall health. Bad fats increase cholesterol and your risk of certain diseases including cardiovascular diseases, while good fats protect your heart and support overall health. In fact, including healthy fatty acids in your diet in appropriate quantities can help in prevention and treatment of obesity, musculo skeletal pain, inflammatory conditions, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Good fats (such as omega-3 fats) are essential to physical and emotional health.
As we just stated that fat is the most energy dense macronutrient, and as your body requires energy to keep its metabolism properly functioning, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming fatty acids can boost metabolic health. And that’s why we usually recommend that 25- 30% of your energy intake should come from fat, be it for weight loss goals or maintaining weight as stated by the USDA nutritional guidelines.
Interestingly, the use of fat by muscle cells during exercise is directly related to the concentration of free fatty acids in the blood. Therefore, the most effective way of increasing fat loss from our stored body fat is to create a large demand for this fat with exercise.
Now let’s forget about chemistry and get into the kitchen.
Long story short, forget about junk food and anything that has on its label “trans fats” or “saturated fats” like those we find in packaged snack foods (chips, crackers, microwave popcorn), stick margarine, fried foods or candy bars. Limit high fat cuts of meat and chicken with the skin, as well as whole-fat dairy products.
Eat more monounsaturated fats like those in avocados, nuts (almonds, peanuts, nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews), peanut butter and peanut oil, olives and olive oil, as well as sunflower oil. The other type of healthy fat is the polyunsaturated fat that we find in high amounts of fish (especially in salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines) as well as in walnuts, sunflower, sesame and flaxseed.
Ola Bennis is a specialist in Fitness Nutrition from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), California.