What about fat in your diet?

Many of the fighters and athletes that I work with really don’t have a good grasp on how much fat they are eating, let alone how much fat they should be eating. They are frequently focusing so much on eating protein or not eating carbs, that the fat content kind of gets ignored. I mentioned in an earlier article that MOST of men who are training full time (2 times a day most days, plus additional cardio) need at least 3000 Kcals.  This is based on an average male body size of 5’10” and 200lbs, with an average age of 28. This is not designed to promote weight loss, but to provide adequate fuel for training and maintaining muscle mass.

For a 3000 kcal diet, a reasonable fat goal would be 20-25%, or 600 – 750 kcals. That’s the equivalent of 66 – 83 fat g/day. This would mean that the carb intake would be around 50-55% and the protein intake around 20-25%.

On diets that are a little higher in protein, they tend to be a little higher in fat. That’s because animal based protein carries with it more fat. For example, a 6oz portion of fairly lean beef is going to have upwards of 42g of fat. The same portion of chicken breast will only have 18-30g fat. The type of meat you select will greatly affect the amount of “fun” fat you can build into the diet. Dairy products are often used as protein sources and they can carry additional fat (especially saturated fat) as well.

It’s also important to point out the if you prefer to use whole grain foods and higher fiber foods, they will typically be a little higher in fat than lower fiber choices. The bran portion of the grain is where the fat content is contained. Cereals (think granola) that are higher in fiber can also be higher in fat because of the nuts they use to boost the fiber. They also cook or roll the granola in oil, be sure to read the label.

It is certainly easy to get too much fat, but you don’t want to be so careful that you don’t get enough. Many of the guys I work with admit that they are afraid to eat fat at all. Here are a few of the problems that can happen if you don’t eat enough fat:

  • You will end up feeling not satisfied. This eventually leads to a “binge” where you seek out pizza or something that has the fat you are craving in it.
  •  Fat in the diet provides a mouth feel that communicates to the brain “this is yummy and I like it it.” It signals the serotonin response that tells your brain you are satisfied and done. If this “trigger” doesn’t happen, your body puts itself on a mission to make it happen.
  • Over time, when there isn’t enough fat in the diet, you put yourself at risk for essential fatty acid deficiency. There are lots of special fats and fat soluble vitamins that are present in fat. When you over restrict fat, you miss out on these. This can cause drying of hair and skin, brittle nails, hair that breaks, and an overall dullness to the skin.

If you are eating a balanced diet (which means adequate carbs, protein and fat) that provides the right amount of calories, and you aren’t going crazy with high fat food choices, your fat intake will be right on target without you having to measure it. However, if you want a little help or affirmation that what you are doing is right for your training goals, just talk to a dietitian  to see what and how you are actually eating. Knowledge is what gives you the power to change.

Mary Cabral, RD/LD
Owner, www.Rudog.com