When nutrition and athletes come to mind, you may automatically think they don’t need fat in their diet.
Fats, just like proteins and carbohydrates, are essential for an athlete and their performance. Fats play a huge role in providing energy and storing energy, as well as providing insulation within the body.
Fats also protect organs such as the kidneys, heart and liver. Carbohydrates are used for almost all the energy during short duration or low intensity workouts, but fats are used for almost all the long duration and high intensity workouts. One of the biggest reasons to eat fats, for anybody, is because the body cannot produce them on their own so we must get them from our diet.
There are two major types of dietary fats that we eat daily—saturated and unsaturated fats. A normal diet should include about 20 to 35 percent fats. Another way to express this is to calculate approximately one grams of fat per kilogram of body weight.
If you are an ultra-endurance athlete it is recommended to ingest almost three grams of fat per kilogram of body weight. This range can help replace fuel stores after vigorous training, and it leaves more than 60 percent for protein and carbohydrate consumption. High-fat and even low-fat diets will not help increase your performance as an athlete.
Some fats you may want to avoid are saturated and trans fats. Some easy ways to replace saturated fats are to exchange leaner meats for marbled meats and to replace regular or high-fat dairy products with nonfat or low-fat options.
Trans fats are usually in fried and baked goods and raise levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your body. This can lead to heart disease, decreased performance and other health conditions. Think of your body as an expensive car; you want to put the best in to get the best performance possible. Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated fats, are some of the best fats to include in your diet. This type of fat gives your body essential nutrients such as linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids.
You may know these as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. I bet you have olive oil in your cabinet somewhere!
Yes, fats are needed in your diet, but eat them in moderation. Some suggestions to increase or improve your dietary fats are to avoid all processed foods, eat more nuts, beans, avocados and flaxseed, and limit high-fat cheeses.
Mallory Ritthamel is a third-year student majoring in nutrition. She can be reached at MR826188@wcupa.edu.