Fat is Fuel

Many of us have the misconception that having a very low body fat percentage is linked to ideal health. At a lower body fat, we feel confident, younger and possibly even more attractive. But, are we actually healthier? Fat may seem like an enemy but without a healthy percentage of body fat, we are unable to function. Fat plays many key roles in our lives. Just to highlight a few; fat actually provides more than twice the energy content of both carbohydrates and protein, it allows our body to transport fat-soluble vitamins into the body, and fats help maintain cell function and provide protection to the vital organs. Fat is major energy source during physical activity. Conversely, to lose fat one must engage in physical exercise. It is a cycle that goes hand in hand; in exercise, hormone signals are sent out to the body to break down stored energy also known as fat. The amount and source of fat used depends on your fitness level, type of exercise, duration and how well fed you are before exercise. Exercise intensity has a great impact on how fat is used. When working in a low to moderate intensity 25%-60% (max heart rate and oxygen consumption) we are burning the most fat. When we are working in a higher exercise intensity, fatty acid oxidation is linked with carbohydrate breakdown to meet the energy demands of exercise. After exercise, our body still demands to burn more energy, primarily to aid in muscle cell recovery. Fat is essential to fuel our body during rest and exercise.

Now that you're feeling a little different about fat, let’s set some boundaries. Too much fat is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke and other diseases linked with obesity. Selecting the correct amount and types of fats in your diet is just as important as having it in your diet. The acceptable amount for total fat is 20-35% of total energy, there are no specific guidelines for specific fats like saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats, but it is recommended that the intake should be limited. A good range for these fats are: saturated fats at more than 10%, cholesterol at less than 300mg per day and trans fat at no more than 2.6%. Good sources of fats come from avocados, nuts, and certain oils like olive oil and coconut oil.

Not having fat for your body to use as fuel is just as harmful as taking too much or the wrong sources of fat. As with everything in life, there is a balance. The types of fat we select to eat can impact our health and risk of disease just as much as working towards having the lowest body fat percentage. Everyone is different, but in the long run we all need fat. Over the next few weeks, our LEAN personal trainers will be posting our food and exercise logs outside of the office. Come in and take a look to gain more understanding to balance in foods and how healthy fats are used for fuel.