You Can’t Train a Bad Diet!: Fat

Okay, I am going to keep this one short but sweet (irony for a post on fat!). Eat too much fat and you will store it as fat, it is the most calorific of the macronutrients. Eat too little fat and you run the risk of harming a number of different metabolic processes in the body as it’s consumption is vital to maintain health. Fat consumption should be at around 25 to 35% of your daily calorie intake. For someone eating around 2500 calories that would be about 625 calories (70g) to 875 calories (97g). Dipping below this is usually performed in “fat” exclusion diets- this is no more effective than any other form of calorie cutting and in turn may affect your health.

What happens if you go lower? Well this is the contentious point, fat exclusion diets work because they deprieve the body of it’s most energy rich nutrient, therefore it shifts calorific balance to a negative and the body will look to scavenge  energy from stored carbohydrate or fat. Is this effective? I will round up different types of diets later in more of a review- the key with fat is that it depends what else you are eating. The reason why there may be a negative with fat removal though is that fat plays a role in a number of the bodies processes and therefore removing it may not be totally beneficial for your health.

What happens if you go higher? Again if total energy intake is too high then you are likely to store energy. A strategy of many dieters is to add more fat to diets when you reduce carbohydrate intake. This is not a bad strategy as it can help avoid issues with hunger.

Fat per gram has a higher calorific load then it does not mean that you will be consuming a large amount of food to make up for the carbohydrates that are missing. The negative of this is calorific load- an elevated fat intake in line with high unrefined carbohydrate consumption and minimal fruit and vegetables is pretty much where most peoples diets are in the western world- it doesn’t take a rocket scientist therefore to tell you if you are fat eat less, be it fat or carbohydrates. As I mentioned in my previous post on carbohydrates- their value should be fitted to activity. There is no additional performance benefit to high fat diets though there are a number of positive metabolic processes that a good profile of fat consumption will encourage.

Quality counts as well, there are two broad categories of fat- omega 3 and omega 6. While not going in to their role massively (as this blog is to serve as a more applied method of delivering information…. hopefully) we get a lot of Omega 6 in our diet compared to Omega 3 and the balance should be as low as 3:1. Currently, in the average Western diet it is estimated to be up to 40:1. Take home point we don’t need more fat from poor sources. Omega 3 is found in oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackrel), walnuts, most meats (depending upon what the animal is fed) and dairy products can be quite a good source as well. Adding these foods daily can have an impact on Omega 3 levels. What foods will not add quality to your diet? Mainly the key with fats is to avoid trans-fats found commonly in processed foods and avoid manufactured vegetable oils. Most processed foods will contain poor quality fats so these are best avoided when trying to live a “cleaner” lifestyle.

The take home point here is that quality counts. The amount of fat consumed may be variable though there can be potential decrements of dropping fat consumption levels. A higher intake of fat may be okay, though this is dependant upon calorific load, the amount of carbohydrate consumed as well as again the quality of what is consumed. The public health message currently suggests that all fat is bad though as you can see this message is currently at odds with new research which suggests that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to fat consumption.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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