Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Skinny on Fat

Researching the information for an earlier posting—"The Energy Bar Standoff" (March 20, '09)—left me wanting to know more about the good and bad of fat. Okay, I know what you're thinking....This guy has way too much time on his hands. At the moment, that's probably true, however, I think it's important for my fellow runners to know the skinny on fat. Bottom line is you need it. Not all of it and not all of it in the same amounts, but you need it.

Similar to your favorite superhero comics, there are the good guys and the bad guys. The "good guys" are comprised of the liquid or soft monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids. These types of fats play an important role in your overall good health.
Monounsaturated Fats: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds
Polyunsaturated Fats: vegetable oils (i.e., safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts, seeds
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: salmon, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds, flax oil, walnuts
The "villains" are comprised of the hard saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are considered villains because they increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood and a high level of cholesterol in your bl
ood is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Saturated Fats: Animal products (i.e., meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard, butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils
Trans Fats: partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (i.e., crackers, cakes, cookies), fried foods (i.e., doughnuts, French fries), shortening, margarine

Whoa! I know what you're thinking....You mean I can't eat chicken? seafood? cheese? The answer is, "Of course you
can." Those foods are listed as villains because they do contain saturated fat, but that doesn't mean you can't eat them. Actually, you need a certain amount of saturated fat for proper digestive function, growth, and several other processes. Also, the saturated fat foods listed vary greatly in the amount of saturated fat they contain. For example, beef has a lot more saturated fat than chicken breast.

The key is eating more of the good fats than the bad. Trans fats should be avoided completely. Most sources I found said that individuals should limit their intake of saturated fats to less than 10% of their daily calories, however, in 2006, The American Heart Association did lower that percentage to 7%. The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises the following fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age 2:
Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35% of your total calories each day
Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories
Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories
The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark's Food Guide For Marathoners, recommends that healthy marathoners have a diet with about 25% of the calories from "primarily healthful" fat. So, for an 1800 calorie diet, a runner could use 450 of those calories on fat (31.5 of which could be from saturated fat). She also says that runners should include a little fat in each meal because not only does it help in the absorption of certain vitamins, but it can also help enhance performance. Clark says that runners who boosted their intake of healthful fat from 17% to 30% of calories were able to run longer and also had less inflammation afterwards. (To order your own copy of Nancy Clark's Food Guide For Marathoners, see the "My Picks" carousel under the Runner's Market on the right side of the blog.)

So, what are the most important things to remember from this posting?
  1. Fat plays a key role in overall good health (well, except trans fats).
  2. Some fats are better than others.
  3. Eat more unsaturated fats than saturated.


David Criswell said...

Good posting. There is another good post on the same topic at the Training Peaks blog - http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/2009/03/fat-and-the-endurance-athlete.html

Great insight on both posts.


Chic Runner said...

Great post. This is so helpful and I forget it's not about just dieting but using these things for my health!

Running Through Life said...

Right on with this post. I have cholesterol issues and you provided a n excellent description of everything.

RunnerDude said...

Hey David! Thanks for headsup on the Training Peaks post. Just read it. More great info on the topic! Thanks!

RunnerDude said...

You're a wise lady, Chic Runner!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Tony(Running Through Life)! Keep up the running. It definitely helps keep the cholesterol down. PS: Those pics of Chicago on your blog look really, really, cold!!!

Mark U. said...

Good post!

Dr. Monty from the Fitness Rocks podcast provides similar conclusions in his many podcasts on-topic. Having visited Alaska last year I've fortunately come away with a love for Salmon, and combine same packets of Almonds, both healthy food types.

Off-topic, but after my morning runs I've recently begun eating more Kiwi fruit, high in antioxidants and fiber, while helping to restore blood sugar level without a spike in insulin (see http://kiwi-fruit.info/kiwi-fruit/Health+Benefits+of+Kiwi+Fruit)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mark! Haven't been to Alsaka (want to), but I've really gotten into eating the fish full of Omega 3 too. Easy to fix and tastes good with not a lot of seasoning. Not as good a fresh, but those seasoned prepackaged salmon and tuna steaks in the pouches in the tuna section of the store aren't too bad either. Love the almonds too! They're great for the immune system and heart and are great for a midday snack to keep you going and feeling full. Now I need to get me a stash of Kiwi fruit!