You all know by now the whole “clar-e-ty” pun so I’m resorting to other fun ways to title the blog posts. Don’t worry, though, I’ll make sure to sneak in a clar-e-ty pun every once in a while.
Last week, I introduced my favorite macronutrient, protein! You should be working yourself up to incorporating protein at every meal so that eventually you are consuming your body weight in protein.
This week, we’re talking about the second essential macronutrient: fats!
People tend to agree that protein is good for you. The trouble with dieting really comes in when we are talking about fats and carbohydrates. Why? Well because all unhealthy foods are loaded with fats and carbs. We developed the mindset, “okay, bad food has fats and carbs. I want to be healthy. I must avoid fats and carbs.” I honestly understand this rationale because it sort of makes sense! We only ever . I had the same thought process for YEARS. Finally, I discovered how healthy both fats and carbs can be and WHY you should consume them.
Now onto fats!!
Fats are essential for your body to function:
They serve as your body’s energy source. Fat provides fuel for your body to function and do all of the amazing things that it’s made to do!
They produce and regulate hormones (this is SO important that I’ll come back to this).
They help form membranes around your cells. To put this in perspective, there are roughly 37 trillion cells in your body, meaning 37 trillion membranes need to be formed around each of those cells AND that number is just at one given time. Your cells in your body divide constantly so that’s not taking into consideration how many cells and cell membranes that are formed in your entire lifetime.
They support your nervous system by insulating every single nerve cell you have!
They help with homeostasis by insulating you when you’re cold, etc.
They provide essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6s) which our body can’t make. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and help to decrease pain, dilate blood vessels, and reduce overall inflammation, which has been shown to reduce your risk of cancer. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory and they help with recovery from injuries or even training.
Convinced? I hope so. If not, let me seal the deal on fats for you: hormone production. If you are not eating enough fats, you will not have healthy hormones. Maybe you don’t necessarily care right now but I’ll get you to care.
For the fellas: There are males out there who want to be shredded so they don’t eat fats. Well guess what happens? Bye testosterone. Do you think it’s normal for a 20-something year old male to NOT have a sex drive? Or for 30-year old men to have such un-recoverable testosterone levels they either need a prescription or full-on TRT therapy? Not at all! Also, when your testosterone levels are low, your estrogen levels are high. Estrogen dominance is a real thing and can cause features most men don’t want to have—man-boobs or extra weight retention around hips are the best examples. Want to keep your testosterone and all the benefits that come from healthy levels of testosterone? Hello fats.
Now for the ladies: PMS? Raging out of whack hormones? Again, all fats (and a slew of many other things… aka hormonal birth control, but I’ll save that for another day). Take me for an example. At 23 years old, I was eating such low levels of fats that I straight up stopped having my monthly cycle. I know some of you are probably like “wow! Jealous, I hate my period!!” but let’s actually think about that. I was eating so few fats (and calories in general) that my body sensed it was in starvation mode and sent out a message to stop producing the hormones that cause a monthly cycle. Your body does this to survive because it’s in such a deprived state that it needs every bit of fuel it can get to keep your organs working, so it takes fuel from bodily functions that aren’t as essential (aka what is the lesser of the two evils?) BUT who wants to live that way?? Not me! As soon as I increased my fats by 20-30g, my monthly cycle returned like clockwork.
Hopefully by now, you’re convinced about the necessity of eating fats. Now let’s go into all the types of fats that are out there. We want to focus on healthy fats. There are three types of fats you should be eating, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, with majority of your fats being mono- or polyunsaturated. Why? The unsaturated fats have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids. We want to consume a diet that is at a ratio of 5:1 omega-3s:omega-6s, so choosing majority of your fats from the unsaturated options will help achieve that.
Saturated fats include, meat sources, coconut, butter, cheese, and dairy.
Monounsaturated fats include avocado, olive oil, nuts and nut butters (peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts), safflower oil, sunflower oil, egg yolks.
Polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, fish, chia seeds, grapeseed oil, organic mayonnaise.
Now how much should you eat? By a volume standpoint, you don’t need to eat as much as you do carbs or protein because fats are more calorically dense. Fats contain 9 calories for every 1 gram, whereas proteins and carbs contain 4 calories for every 1 gram.
For most individuals, you want fats to make up 30-40% of your diet. The way to determine an exact number is to take your caloric intake. Mine is 2700 calories. I take 30-40% (let’s go with 35%) of that number, then divide that number by 9 (because every gram of fat contains 9 calories). So 2700 calories*0.35 = 945 calories. What is this number? This is the total calories from fat you should be eating. We divide 945/9 to get the amount (in grams) of fats, so 945/9 = 105g fats. Below is a chart that has some calculations done for you.
Now the amount of fats you eat may change in the year and they may vary person by person. I have some clients who LOVE fats and are okay about carbs so I generally put them on the higher fat amount end of the spectrum. Some of my clients couldn’t care less about fats and crave carbs so I put them at the lower end of the spectrum. It’s still enough to keep all bodily functions working, but they can adhere to the diet MUCH better than if I were to stick them on a plan with fewer carbs and higher fats.
Can you eat lower than the 30% recommendation? The answer is yes, but only in certain situations and not for very long. Only competitive athletes or athletes “in season” should be below that 30% recommendation. This is because they’re going for performance which is fueled by carbohydrates. During the CrossFit Games, I shared a post about competitor Dani Horan’s macros. She was eating 900g carbs and only 90g of fats. Why? Because she and her coach were only concerned about her performance for the games. Now, in her off-season, I can guarantee that her fats are close to that 120g mark and her carbs have come down considerably so that she can recover from her in season sport.
Can you eat higher? Again the answer is yes but only in certain scenarios. This is when we start talking about the Keto diet, which I will save for a later date. People not in a glycolytic sport (i.e. CrossFit, OrangeTheory, HIIT, etc.) or have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes are fine to attempt the keto diet; however, women especially must be careful with the keto diet as it usually does significant damage to the thyroid.
Hopefully, you learned a bit about fats and how much to eat!! If you’re overwhelmed or simply just have questions, sign up for a FREE consult call.
ALSO, the first 5 people reach to out to me through my website will receive a FREE 30-minute strategy call. You get 30 minutes on a call with me to ask me anything in regards to YOUR nutrition and strategies to get you on track.