Nutrition Basics - Fats
Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Similar to carbs, we assume high fat diets will have a negative impact on our health, especially when we realise it has 9 calories per gram. However fat has an essential roles including protecting the internal organs, thermoregulation, the uptake and storage of fat soluble vitamins, providing the energy component of the cell membrane, hormone storage, being a source of essential fatty acids and fuelling low-moderate intensity exercise.
Types of Fat
Fats can be categorised based on their chemical structure:
Saturated Fats: Solid at room temperature, most animal products.
Unsaturated Fat: Liquid at room temperature, Monounsaturated / Polyunsaturated, Mainly plant based sources, Omega 3 & 6 (Essential Fatty Acids).
Trans-fats: These are artificially created fats used in the manufacture of foods. They increase shelf life and the flavour-stability of foods. These are the ones to avoid.
Essential fatty acids (EFA)
EFS's help reduced cardiovascular risk, improved blood lipid profile and reduce cognitive decline with ageing. Sources of Omega 3 include oily fish, nuts, seeds and dark green vegetables.
When timing your fats, there are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind.
For reference, we are mainly focusing on starchy carbs in the context of this article, not fiber as that will not significantly elevate blood glucose or insulin.
First, large amounts of fats are not recommended with large amounts of carbs. Generally you will want your meals to be either carbohydrate OR fat dominant with an appropriate serving of protein. Of course, a “large” serving is relative to the size of the meal but an easy guideline to start out with is a 4:1 ratio. For example, if you have 60g of carbohydrates then you would try to limit your fats to 15g or less. This accounts for the trace amounts of fats that you might have from even lean protein sources and some carb sources (like oatmeal).
Conversely, if you were having a fat dominant meal with 40g of fat then you would try to limit carbs to 10g. This usually isn’t a problem though if you’re just having a source of protein and perhaps some additional fats as not many of those contain carbohydrates as well. Keep in mind that we are not counting carbs from fibrous vegetables or the trace amounts that you might get from nuts.
When we look at the most appropriate times to have fat-dominant meals, these will usually be the meals furthest away from your workouts. As we covered the basics of timing carbohydrates in a previous article, meals with your higher amounts of fat will naturally go in the meals where you need carbs the least.
Unless you train first thing in the morning before eating a full meal, your first meal of the day is usually the best place to have the largest serving of your fats for the day. It gives your body a sufficient supply of fuel to burn to help regulate blood sugar and hormones. This is also helpful when taking in your fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) in the morning to improve transportation and absorption. Even more important than quantity though is the quality of the fats you’re having at this time.
If you do happen to train first thing in the morning, a carbohydrate meal might be preferred as your first whole-food meal of the day as it would be your post-workout meal. After that, you could just make your next meal a few hours later your first higher fat meal.
Fats are an essential nutrient for health, recovery, and performance. The quality and timing matters just as it does for your other macronutrients, protein and carbohydrates. Remember that consistency is the key to your long-term progress and continuing to learn will ultimately speed up your future results.