Well folks this is it. The time has come for the third and final installment of the Big ‘Fat’ Blog Post series. If you haven’t seen them, check out Part 1 and Part 2. I hope you’ve all found the information helpful or at least slightly entertaining. The aim was to clear up misconceptions about fat and shed light on some confusing ‘fat’ topics. I know that all of you are feeling a great sadness that there will be no ‘fat fix’ next week – but never fear! We will be following up this trilogy with (drum roll….) – “The Great Sugar Series”, “The Carbohydrate Conundrum” and the “Protein Parade” Blogs in the very near future so watch Facebook for the call for questions! In the mean time, enjoy a plethora of posts on nail biting subjects and keep coming back for more!
Question #1 – Answered By Amy Kubal, MS, RD, LN
When using Paleo nutrition, what role does dietary fat play in endurance athlete performance over several hours?
Contrary to what many endurance athletes believe, fat is a key energy source during long duration training and races. The high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets that are common among the endurance crowd do these athletes no favors, in fact they may result in decreased performance, premature mental/physical fatigue, and injury.
During low/moderate endurance based activity fat is muscles primary fuel source. When exercise is moderate-high to high intensity (race conditions) carbohydrate is the primary source of fuel; when carbohydrate stores run dry the athlete becomes fatigued. This would leave one to believe that fueling up on carbs is the way to go if optimal race performance is the goal. Unfortunately, the muscles can only store a finite amount of carbohydrate and while it is important to make sure they are full “loading” them is only possible to a point. Fat on the other hand, can be stored in the body in abundance (look around and I’m guessing you can see several examples of this…). If an athlete increases his/her reliance on fat for energy (this will decrease the reliance on carbohydrate) it is possible to delay fatigue and enhance performance due to the constant fuel supply.
There have been many studies done with conflicting results. What seems to be the theme across the board is that “fat loading” pre-race is not the ticket; rather fat adaptation with a Paleo diet which is naturally higher in healthy fats, coupled with an increase in carbohydrate from starchy vegetable sources (yams, sweet potatoes, roots and tubers, winter squash) a day or two pre-event to ensure optimal glycogen stores seems to be the best bet. This protocol will have your body ready on both fronts. Carbohydrate/glycogen stores will be topped off and your body will be able to easily shift to using fat as an energy source when glycogen/carbohydrate stores run dry.
Question #2 – Answered By Stephanie Greunke, RD
My cyclist friend told me I needed to eat more fat for energy. I only eat eggs, chicken, and fish for proteins and really don’t like avocado. Do I really need to just use a ton of oils?
Your cyclist friend does not intend for you to start guzzling oils. Healthy fats from nuts, fatty fish, and grass-fed meat will also do the trick. Your diet should be enjoyable and not feel forced. I’d challenge you to try making guacamole or some kind of dish where the avocado isn’t as prominent because you might actually like it! I’m not saying that you absolutely need to include avocados in your diet, but taste buds sometimes need a few exposures until you actually realize a certain taste is enjoyable. When you commit to the Paleo style of eating, you may notice that your affinity for certain foods may change.
Oils can be a great source of fat and you don’t need a ton to reach your ideal intake. Try cooking with coconut oil and use walnut, avocado, macadamia, olive, or other healthy oils as part of a salad dressing or condiment. Try measuring out a tablespoon of oil and seeing how much that actually is. You may surprise yourself at your actual consumption versus what you thought you were consuming.
Fat intake is part of an overall daily intake, so don’t worry about hitting a target fat goal at each meal, just enjoy your foods and make sure your daily intakes are where they should be.
Question #3 – Answered By Elizabeth Legg, MS, RD
Why are omega 3s (n-3s) so important?
With the Big “Fat” Blog Posts 1 & 2 you got a little background on the n-3:n-6 ratio and how their similar metabolic pathways regulate inflammation. When you hear us recommend over and over again to eat wild caught fish and grass fed meats, you can smile upon your knowledge of how these dynamic fatty acids will help your body control inflammation. What else might n-3s do in the body, why are they so important?
Let’s look a little closer at the n-3 derived from fish. The n-3 from plant sources (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) is not efficiently converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docospaentaenoic acid (DHA), which are the fatty acids that directly or indirectly shift inflammation at the cellular level through their many complex activities. When we eat n-3s, all tissues in our body rapidly incorporate them into the cell membranes where they impact cell function. Certain tissues such as the brain, retina, and myocardium, incorporate n-3s in higher amounts suggesting they have a special role in proper functioning of these cells; n-3 content of other tissues usually reflects how much we eat (the more we eat, the more n-3 is in our tissues). Once incorporated into the cell membrane, these fatty acids modulate signaling pathways within the cell exerting influence over gene expression through effects on transcription factors, immunomodulartory effects, and inflammatory processes through mediator production. The overall effect…you guessed it, less inflammation! These pathways are quite complex; if you want to dive deeper the research is easy to get your hands on.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection, but it’s the uncontrolled type of inflammation from reactivity to changes in our environment that is detrimental to our tissues. It’s amazing how these n-3s influence so many systems in the body in so many different ways. From the well known association between n-3 intake and the inflammatory diseases to those we may not think of often (such as poor bone mineral density, type 1 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, fertility, Parkinson’s, and on and on it goes); these dynamic fatty acids are so important! The average intake of marine source n-3s in the typical Western diet is about 150mg per day (comparable to 1 fish meal every 10 days). This doesn’t even touch recommendations previously made at a workshop on essential fatty acids(EFAs) held at the National Institute of Health, by the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, and by The American Heart Association which are 650mg, 500mg, and 300mg per day respectively. These recommendations have quite a wide range, but the point is the typical Western diet is deficient in these EFAs. So don’t be the average Joe! Your cells will thank you.