The Skinny on Fats
Packing nine calories per gram, dietary fat is a more concentrated source of energy than both proteins and carbohydrates. Together with carbohydrates and protein, fats make up the essential triad of macro-nutrients utilized to fuel our bodies, creating adenosine triphosphate. Adenisone triphosphate, commonly known as ATP, is created in the body through cellular respiration, which is driven by the formation and utilization of glucose. All food we eat is broken down into molecular forms of glucose; the easiest of the three macro-nutrients for our bodies to “convert” to glucose would be carbohydrates followed by fats, depending on the type of work the body is currently performing and the metabolic pathway being utilized at the given time.
Protein is primarily responsible for muscle recovery and muscle growth post-energy expenditure; it rarely is converted into usable ATP during athletic performance. Each gram of fat contains two times more energy than proteins or carbohydrates are capable of storing, and as a result, you get more ‘bang for your buck’ when providing your body with a diet rich in healthy fats. All of that science tells us that we have two macro-nutrients that fuel our training: carbohydrates and fats. So, why do we need fats at all?
The significance of fats and their utilization/creation of ATP also lends itself to long, endurance-style training. After 20 minutes’ time with your heart-rate more than 15% above its normal resting rate, carbohydrates are exhausted in the body’s ATP storage and use. Fats, capable of being utilized for up to 90 minutes without needing additional fuel or catalysts to create energy, prove themselves far superior to the carbohydrates’ energy expenditure capacity.
Fat also helps move the vitamins A, D, E and K through your bloodstream and absorb them into your body. Fat provides insulation for body temperature regulation by filling up your body’s adipose tissue. The essential fatty acids in fats also play a role in brain development, blood clotting and managing inflammation. Without adequate amounts of fat in your diet, your endocrine system is unable to regulate your hormone levels and has been directly linked to higher propensity of mental health issues including insomnia, depression and anxiety. Fat also is the sole macro-nutrient responsible for body temperature regulation, keeping you from overheating during the Virginia summer months and protecting you from frostbite during cold winters.
Last but certainly not least, omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat, provide optimum nervous system function. Omega-3 fuels your brain, eye, kidney, and liver function; the AHA has also linked omega-3 fats to optimum performance related to the central nervous system. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 cannot be made by your body and must be supplied by diet alone.
The bottom line? Fats are very healthy forms of energy and athletes must pay close attention to the amount of fats being digested daily for athletic performance. From eye function to endurance training, the importance of fats cannot be emphasized enough.
You can learn more about the athletic performance and lifestyle effects of a diet rich in healthy fats by giving us a call at (302) 990-2352.
Yours in heath and fitness,
Coach Antonia Hernandez
2016 08 01