By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, CSCS
In response to my previous posts regarding how calories from certain foods affect the body, I’d like to answer a question that is often brought up:
But if you eat more fat, won’t you get fat?
I get it.
It’s a hard concept to wrap our minds around.
We’ve been taught for so long that a diet high in saturated fat will surely lead to heart disease, clogged arteries, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and an ever expanding waist line.
Well, in my opinion (and the opinion of almost everyone else who eats this way), that just simply isn’t true.
Eating fat does not make you fat. I said it. I truly believe it. And here’s why.
While eating enough of ANYTHING will technically make you fat, just because you increase the fat content in your diet does NOT mean you’re bound to gain weight and turn into a slob.
It should be noted that eating high amounts of fat IN CONJUNCTION with high amounts of carbohydrates WILL probably increase your chances of getting fat. So when I promote a high-fat diet, I also am promoting a diet that is lower than usual in carbohydrates. I don’t have anything against “carbs” in general. But I do have something against processed foods or foods that are extremely high in sugar (or any manufactured type of sugar).
I’m not saying cut carbohydrates out of your diet completely and only eat fats. What I’m attempting to do is to merely explain WHY eating a diet that is high in fat isn’t a death sentence like we used to believe.
Oh, and when I say “fat,” I’m talking about a natural source of fat, such as:
- Free-Range Grass Fed Beef
- Cage Free Eggs (the WHOLE egg)
- Wild Caught Fish
- Almonds and Other Nuts
- Oils (Olive, Coconut, Palm)
- Butter (I prefer Kerry Gold)
So just because you pick up a snack at the gas station and it has fat in it, that’s not carte blanche to shovel Little Debbies down your gullet! Remember – high quality fats in conjunction with adequate protein, all while limiting the intake of carbohydrates, will yield the best results.
In fact, studies have shown that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are quite effective not only in promoting weight loss, but they can also promote/retain lean body mass.
“I still don’t get how eating fat doesn’t make me fat.”
Gotcha. KNOWLEDGE BOMB!
When I discussed Insulin in my last post, one of the take home messages (which I may have failed to mention), was that insulin drastically inhibits the mobilization (lipolysis) of fat from fat cells. In other words, if we have a diet that is HIGH in carbohydrates, which spikes our insulin, and we constantly have elevated insulin levels, the chances of us burning fat for fuel go way down. We just simply cannot burn the fat stores that we have with chronically elevated insulin levels.
That’s a pretty general statement. However, for some people, occasional insulin spikes followed by periods of controlled insulin levels proves beneficial as well. All this means is that we “cycle” the carbohydrates we eat in a strategic manner.
Let’s also look at the fact that when we eat fat, we get full much quicker. Eating fats and proteins provide a certain amount of satiety. That is, the feeling of satisfaction.
How many times have we been at a restaurant that provides dinner rolls while we wait for the food? And how many of those rolls do you think we could eat? I’m placing bets at +/- 1,000.
People seem to be able to eat endless amounts of carbohydrates. Then we get full. But then we find ourselves craving more carbohydrates a few hours later. And we continue this cycle over and over. We can’t be satisfied. Just like Claire Dunphy.
The great thing about fat is that it provides us with a long-term, slow release of energy. You’ve never heard anyone say they’re on a “fat-rush” like you would with “sugar-rush.” It just doesn’t happen. Eating fats and proteins leaves us feeling fuller longer, and also with a more steady and sustainable source of energy. This also helps us avoid cravings, avoid binge eating, and we snack less throughout the day.
Also, eating a high fat diet isn’t necessarily going to have an effect on our cholesterol or raise our chances of cardiovascular disease.
Here’s some research:
- Dietary carbohydrate restriction has the greatest effect on decreasing blood glucose levels
- Caloric intakes that have been associated with the obesity epidemic have been caused mainly by carbohydrates
- No dietary intervention is better for weight loss than carbohydrate restriction
- Dietary total and saturated fat do not correlate with risk for cardiovascular disease
- Dietary carbohydrate restriction is a proven way to increase “good” cholesterol levels (HDL)
I think what it comes down to is eating adequate amounts of fat, adequate amounts of protein, and limiting the processed foods, grains, flours, etc. that we eat (so just settle down vegan crazies).
Eat natural foods. If you think something is bad for you, it probably is. Do research on the food you eat before you eat it. Just understand that the body we have is the most complex machine ever made. We constantly take advantage of (in a bad way) its amazing capabilities by making it work so much harder than it needs to.
Eventually, all of our “machines” will break down. It’s up to you to see how long it can last.
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