Fats Explained

Fat – dietary fat is an essential part of our diet and it provides us with a good source of energy because it is more calorie dense then carbs and protein, more then double in fact with 9.2 calories per gram compared to 4.2 calories per gram for carbs and protein.

Dietary Fats are extremely important for cellular integrity, maintenance of the nervous system, brain function, heart and joint health. They are misunderstood because a lot of people are under the impression that is almost instantly stored as fat and people have noted how eating fat makes them fat. However, it’s more likely due to the fact fats are a lot more calorie dense for the volume of food they provide, for example if you were to fill a casserole dish up full of lettuce and other green veggies chances are the sheer volume of the veg would significantly fill you up and make it difficult to finish yet it will still only provide less than 150 calories whereas 2tbsp of olive oil wouldn’t even touch the sides yet this contains a substantial 240 calories, so you see my point and this is why it’s easy to over consume fat calories and get fat.

Unsaturated and saturatedimage

All fats are made up of fatty acids and the fatty acid chain is made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The word saturated is used to describe a molecule that has no double bond separating the carbon chain, making a continuous carbon chain “saturated” with carbon atoms. Un-saturated refers to the molecule’s carbon chain being broken up or separated by one or more double bonds. The distinct difference between whether the fatty acid has one double bond or two or more double bonds will determine whether it is a mono-unsaturated fat, mono meaning one double bond, or a poly-unsaturated fat which refers to two or more double bonds. How the these fatty acids sit in their molecular structure will determine the way the are used and absorbed by the body. Their structure to put it simply, will determine whether they are good or bad fats, healthy or unhealthy. This is why it’s important to understand the chemistry behind these molecules…. science lesson over… for now

You will always generally find foods that contain both poly and mono fats, the real key is just reading the label and leaning towards the foods with a higher mono fat content…

Mono-unsaturated

Mono meaning one, give’s indication to that fact they have only 1 carbon double bond, this is a good source of fat and should make up most of your fat intake. Mono-unsaturated fats will give a whole host of benefits to your heart, brain, cognitive function, immune system and your hormonal system while decreasing LDL and increasing HDL, double win! These should be the bulk of your fat intake.

good sources are…

  • olive oil/olives
  • peanuts
  • avocados

Poly-unsaturated

Poly-unsaturated fats are what should make up less then half of your total fat intake day as they are in my opinion the third best source of dietary fat for health (1st being omegas-3’s, 2nd being mono fats). Reason they are third is because poly-unsaturated fat despite them bringing bad LDL cholesterol down (low density lipoproteins) they also tend to bring good HDL cholesterol down too (high density lipoproteins) unlike mono-unsaturated fat that will actually bring bad LDL cholesterol down and increase good HDL cholesterol levels. So they are still good as a lower bad LDL levels are good regardless, but you do want to keep a good HDL level too, so make these fats a slightly smaller proportion of fat intake than your mono-unsaturated fat intake.

sources are..

  • oily fish
  • walnuts
  • canola
  • sunflower
  • sesame

Saturated fats

So if you’re a good reader and a quick learner then you’ll know that the chain of mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids are separated by 1 or more double bonds, but with saturated fats there is no double bond separating the chain of carbon atoms so the chain is said to be saturated with carbon atoms…

Essential fats are…. Essential

Essential fats cannot be produced by the body so our body relies on us to seek them out through diet. Don’t be roped into this low fat fallacy that many people still innocently follow today. Omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s are extremely important for brain and heart health but many people obtain inadequate amounts. These essential fats will all assist in the partitioning of nutrients to help build muscle instead of fat and will aid in fat burning. They act as anti-inflammatories and provide the joints with lubrication, without eating them through diet or even through supplementation you are robbing your body of it’s needs and health.

There are certain fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A,D,E,K that can be stored in the body but require the consumption of fat with them so they can be absorbed properly, without fat the body will struggle to absorb them, this is why its recommended you take food with multivitamins so that the fat soluble vitamins are absorbed. These vitamins can be stored in our fat and liver but be careful not to over consume these vitamins, particularly vitamin A as excess amounts have been fatal in fact there is enough vitamin A in a polar bears liver to kill a man, but il save that for another page.

As long as you eat the right types of fats and and are aware of your total calorie intake eating fat will not only benefit your health but some will actually help you burn more fat. When fats are consumed they are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules which help keep a healthy metabolism and nervous system. Include healthy fats in your diet on a daily basis this is easily done by eating some form of oily fish every other day, eating mixed nuts, cooking with canola or olive oil. By doing so it will help give you your essential fats, some minerals and also vitamins A, D, E and K to maintain optimum heart, brain and joint function, you will also get additional benefits such as good bone health, good circulation, cardio-vascular health, good eyesight, hormonal health and general health. Be aware that its calories that make you fat not healthy fats, they are essential so get them in!

These should be a big focus aiming to eat omega-3 foods every other day, I however like to consume small amounts of omega-3 & 6 fats everyday by eating linseeds and other seeds

good sources of essential fats are…

  • salmon/mackerel/sardines
  • flaxseeds/linseeds/chia seeds
  • spirulina

Fats are good to eat in small amounts 

As I said some fat’s must be eaten for the normal functioning of the body and organs but saturated fats are the type of fats that can be kept low. They usually set hard at room temperature or leave a transparent stain on paper but generally speaking animal fats, full fat cream, milk, margarine, butter and fats of that nature should be kept an eye on. Although responsible for many cardio-vascular health problems when over consumed, eaten in small amounts will actually be beneficial (for guys in particular) as this will encourage higher testosterone levels due to the cholesterol, but of course stuff your face full of foods rich in saturated fat on a regular basis and the expansion of your waistline will be the least of your worries…

Carbohydrates explained

Carbohydrates – are probably one of the most known of the nutrients and for obvious reason’s. Carbohydrates can contribute to all sorts of health problems from diabetes, obesity and dental caries, depending on the type and time of carbohydrate consumption. Glucose, which is derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates, is the primary source of energy for our cells. They are understood by most people as being “complex” or “simple” carbohydrates, but basing foods on their glycemic index (rate at which the glucose enters the blood stream) is probably more helpful for the average person when choosing carbohydrate sources for health and for promoting healthy body weights. So carbohydrates could be distinguished on the glycemic index on a scale of 1-100, the highest number representing the speed at which 50g of glucose would raise blood sugar as a references. The ratings can be generally distinguished between low G.I (<55), medium G.I (56-69) and high G.I (>70) and foods with a low G.I will be better at maintaining stable blood sugar levels and keeping insulin levels low. More specifically though, carbohydrates are sugars and can be distinguished between three main types mono and di-saccharides, poly-saccharides and oligo-saccharides, all of which have different chemical arrangements. Its the chemical properties of these sugar, namely the lengths and bonding arrangements of these sugar units, which give them their unique actions and varied rates of digestion when consumed.

A crucial point regarding carbs is that when we eat carbohydrates and they are stored within the muscles and they draw in water, think of it like this, for every 1 gram of carbohydrate you eat it pulls in with it roughly 2.5 grams of water and this is why we see such fluctuations in weight when playing with our carb intake. If drop your carbs by 150g, you lose 375g of water, this is the misconception with people thinking they’e lost a ton of fat from crash diets when in reality they have lost muscle glycogen and the water it came with.The same hold’s true when the shoe is on the other foot, how many times have you heard someone complain about putting on all the weight they lost when coming off a diet, they get discouraged and frustrated thinking they have somehow regained all that fat when in fact its just water that comes with an increase in carbs after a low carb period and that why these fad diets focus on weight loss, its a con to get you to lose water weight and nothing more, focus on fat loss not weight loss..

Now the main reason we get fat from eating carbs is from carb choices and time of consumption, most people give no thought to having had their whole days worth of food made up of processed simple carbs, i’ll explain the basic process of why this is bad…

As we all know when we eat carbs we chew it/drink them, swallow it and it gives us energy right? so first thing in the morning were all tired and sometimes we need quick energy yeah? energy drink anyone? right, but there are better ways to get it… i know some people may leave work in a rush so they need quick energy so they grab a energy boasting bottle of lucozade or a redbull and feel energized and feel great and think they can start the day buzzing! you got some good quick energy and your charged!…until your sugars levels crash after an hour anyway then the hunger kicks in, lack of concentration, lethargy and cravings all from consuming sugar, ironically the sugar leave’s you with less energy then before you ate it then it becomes a cycle…and its this kind of thinking, dietary habits and lack of understanding that leads to weight problems and here’s why…

When we eat carbs our body breaks it down into glucose molecules, in the stomach it is absorbed into the blood stream, now depending on the type and quantity of carb it will be absorbed quickly or slowly (or some where in between) depending on it being simple or complex, low G.I or high G.I, fast burning or slow burning, ect, ect,  now when it is absorbed quickly our blood stream floods with sugar and this is dangerous and too much blood in the sugar can be deadly (hence the reason diabetics need insulin but i’ll get to that that later on) so when we eat excess sugar we are completely reliant on our bodies emergency response to this to rid our blood of all this excess sugar and we do have a built in defense for it…

We have an organ called the pancreas that release’s many hormone’s one in particular, in response to carbs is called insulin, when blood sugar levels rapidly rise this hormone is released to control sugar levels. For that reason this hormone can also be responsible for the fat storage that takes place when too many carbs or fast digesting carbs have been consumed. When a lot of insulin is released from consuming simple carbs, think of insulin as a little train running through your blood stream and think of all the excess glucose molecules as passengers, once the excess glucose molecules are picked up by the insulin train it takes them to either 2 destinations, your muscles where they are used for physical activity or converted to muscle glycogen (muscle glycogen is what glucose is converted into when it is stored in the muscles for later use) or the glucose will go to its less desirable destination….your fat!

The body is made to store fat so eating these fast carbs at the wrong time is a sure fire way to gain excess luggage. If you have not exercised intensely within the last hour and you eat these fast carbs you body has no use for all the sudden and excess sugar so the body will get rid of it by sending it to your the fat cells as after all storing fat is what your body is designed to do so essentially all your doing is assisting it. This is how people get fat eating sweets, insulin mops up and stores the excess sugar in the fat tissue, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when excessive amounts of insulin is released to control excessive amounts of sugar in the blood, instead of your blood sugar maintaining its normal stable levels it goes really high so you feel buzzing but then insulin takes out more then it should leaving you with sub-normal sugar levels which leaves you fatigued, hungry, with headaches and craving more sugar which incidentally leads to a vicious cycle of continuous fat gain.

Once you start down that road it becomes easier and easier for your body to store fat and eventually the pancreas becomes overworked then when you eat carbs the pancreas ends up either producing too much insulin or the body develops insulin resistance where the insulin no longer controls blood sugar, so when either one happens it means you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes = very bad. People just don’t realize how easily this can be influenced by poor diet.

That’s why slow release carbs are important, when there is a slow and steady release of sugar into the blood stream there is no threat so only small amounts of insulin or next to none is released and the sugar is used up efficiently and fat storage is not encouraged. This relates to fat loss because you’re body cannot burn fat while there is a large release of insulin. This is why low and no carb diets are efficient for fat loss, a low or no carb intake means low or no insulin which means more body fat can be burnt and less is stored…

When individuals are not sensitive to the effects of insulin (non exercising people and people with type 1 diabetes) they will store the sugar as fat as mentioned but when an individual is sensitive to the effects of insulin (such as an individual after a weights workout) and you eat sugar your muscles will be the ones to soak up the sugar not your fat so you can eat marshmallows, haribo, lucozade after training (providing its not 2 bags of each) and know in full confidence, its actually beneficial in helping your muscles recover as the glucose is converted into its stored energy form, glycogen, which will fill your muscles up with energy giving you fuel for your next workout putting you in a muscle building (anabolic) state.

Bodybuilders have manipulated this by having copious amounts of sugar (over a 100g for big guys) after their weight training workouts so they can use insulin as an anabolic hormone, because as the insulin is released it will pick up the passengers (glucose and protein molecules) and because the muscles have been sensitized to the effects of insulin by weight training, it sends the nutrients straight to them sore and trained muscles providing an optimum environment for muscle growth and recovery.

The funny thing is, a lot of guys that take these post work out shakes don’t know this and some often steer clear of the ones with a high sugar content in fear it will be no good for them when in actual fact its exactly what they’re muscles are screaming for. Fast digesting carbs include all processed carbs, white bread, white rice and pasta, all sweets, low fat ice cream, basically anything with a low fiber content low fat content will most likely be a simple carb.

Take this home…

So the take home message is fast carbs are only good to consume after intense sessions for post workout only and slow carbs should be the carb source in every meal. So when you see someone sitting on the train drinking a fizzy drink or eating sweets, white bread or any processed carbohydrate, you can sit there with well informed confident yet sympathetic face knowing they are causing them self unnecessary fat gain and are over working the pancreas.

All these health problems associated with just eating the wrong type of carbs just goes to show how our bodies are not fully adapted for today typical processed carb rich foods. Carbs get a bad rap because they can promote fat storage and they do they can be stored quite easily as fat bit only if you eat the wrong types at the wrong times or by simply eating too many. Your body only has a limited capacity to store carbs in your muscles and once you fill that capacity up there is then an endless capacity of storage in your fat cells (worlds heaviest women comes to mind) and this is why its easier to get fat eating carbs. Now carbs should not be considered bad, what makes them bad is a lack of understanding about how they work inside the body and then doing the exact things that encourage them to be stored as fat. Everyone perceives carbs with a two dimensional view and sees them as nothing more then energy but there’s so much more then meets the eye.

There are really a few main things that cause carbs to be stored as fat, 1) if your muscle or liver glycogen stores are full excess will be stored as fat, 2) if you are in a calories surplus i.e consuming more calories then your burning then carbs are much more likely to be stored as fat regardless of muscle and liver glycogen capacity and 3) eating fast digesting processed carbs when your muscle are not sensitive to the effects of insulin. Any blood glucose from food not being used by the muscles are either converted into glycogen or fat, if it is converted into glycogen it is usually stored in the muscles or the liver, the muscles have a much larger capacity then the liver for storing glycogen. Fruit sugar fructose is stored in the liver while glucose is usually for the muscles, now if i were to tell you eating too much fruit will make you fat, some of you may be surprised, but liver glycogen stores will be full after around four banana’s then excess is stored as fat, so it is very possible.

So! as we should know now excess sugar at the wrong times will cause fat to be stored, the take home message is, eat sugar at the right times when a) you are exercising intensely or b) immediately after exercising intensely and all your other meals should be made up of high fibre slow burning carbs below 55 on the G.I scale, then you have a recipe for good health and low body fat levels, phew! my fingers are killing me…