Healthy dietary fats are very important for bodybuilders for a variety of reasons. They positively affect hormone production, recovery, growth, and overall health. In a proper bodybuilding diet, they will be a key to unlocking fat stores for fuel and getting lean. Yes, you can and should eat fat to lose fat.
These dietary fats should be added to every meal. Since your diet should be relatively low in overall fat it’s important to make sure you’re avoiding bad fats while including healthy ones. That way the majority of the fats you consume are positively affecting your training and muscle growth.
Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Yes, we’re going to use the classic sphaghetti western to illustrate the differences between forms of dietary fat.
As in the title of the Clint Eastwoods movie dietary fats have three distinct “characters”, if you will.
Let’s look at these different characters and the foods that contain them.
Just like Lee Van Cleefs’ iconic character “Angel Eyes”, saturated fats typically leave you in an unhealthy state. Nothing good comes from them.
Saturated fats are certainly not the bodybuilders best friend either. They negatively affect insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity can make it hard to lose bodyfat and gain muscle by decreasing growth hormone output. They also increase inflammation which can slow recuperation between workouts.
Also, like any fat, saturated fats contain 9 calories per gram as opposed to protein and carbs at 4 calories per gram. Because they don’t add anything beneficial to your diet it’s best to avoid these high calorie nutrients.
Examples of Saturated fats to avoid:
- egg yolks
- Fatty animal meats (hamburger, hot dogs, fatty steaks, etc..)
- Fats in cheese and dairy products.
(Although cheese and dairy are good sources of protein, it’s best to choose the low or no fat versions to avoid the saturated fat content.)
Eli Wallachs’ charming Tuco character represents arachidonic acid. This scoundrel is always trying to cause trouble. It has no regard for your well being and it’s best to stay out of Tucos, err…I mean arachidonic acids way. In the long run it may see you pushing up daisies.
Arachidonic acid is a special fat that increases inflammation in the body. Only a small amount is needed. Excess amounts promote chronic diseases over time including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and many more. Bodybuilding should be a healthy life long activity. Do yourself a favor and limit intake of this chemical now.
Some supplement companies actually suggest supplementing arachidonic acid! They claim an increase in muscle building through the inflammatory process. This is a big mistake. It is unlikely to add any muscle and arachidonic acid should be avoided if you value your long term health.
Foods containing arachidonic acid:
Keep consumption of these to a minimum
- egg yolks
- organ meats
- deli cuts
- fatty red meats
- Some Bodybuilding Supplements – buyer beware!
As you can see, many of the foods containing arachidonic acid are also high in saturated fats. Avoid the saturated fats and you’ll typically keep arachidonic acid intake low.
Bodybuilders are known to love eggs. That’s fine and eggs are an excellent source of protein. Just avoid the yolks or at least eliminate as many as you can.
Clint Eastwood portrayed “Angel Eyes” the good character of the movie. There are actually two “good” characters in the world of dietary fats, however. Monounsaturated fats and specialized polyunsaturated fats called omega 3 fatty acids or just Omega 3’s.
The monounsaturated fats are “good” because they have no impact on your hormones and inflammation processes like the other fats. They are really neither good nor bad in that respect. They do, however, slow the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. This keeps insulin and blood sugar levels from spiking.
Have you ever eaten a large or high carb meal and felt very sleepy a few hours later?
This happens because the carbohydrates spike your blood sugar levels too high too fast. Insulin is released by your body to bring the levels back down. But so much insulin is released because of the meal that blood sugar goes too far down. This causes you to lose concentration, energy, and makes you feel like you need a nap. When your blood sugar levels are stable you avoid these up and down cycles of energy.
Keeping blood sugar levels from spiking will help you stay energized and alert throughout the day, burn more fat, and produce good hormones. These hormones will help you toward your bodybuilding goals by promoting recovery, growth, and repair.
Monounsaturated fats should be added to every meal to achieve this benefit. You don’t need a lot though. Just a little bit with every meal will do.
Foods that Contain Monounsaturated Fats
add in small amounts to every meal
- Olive Oil
- Canola Oil
- Macadamia Nuts
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3’s are specialized fats that promote the formation of hormones that decrease inflammation, help recovery, improve muscle building, and increase fat loss. The specific omega 3’s that cause this are called EPA and DHA. They are found in cold water fish but are more easily and safely taken as a fish oil supplement.
Fish oil is a very popular supplement for general health but it can be the bodybuilders friend as well. A few capsules per day can go a long way in helping with your training and overall health.
To summarize our movie characters of the dietary fat world let’s review what we’ve learned.
In the ideal bodybuilding diet, certain guidelines should be followed for dietary fats.
- Avoid saturated fats and arachidonic acid
- Add monounsaturated fat to every meal
- Supplement EPA and DHA with a quality fish oil
Dietary fats can be the bodybuilders’ friend. With a little knowledge they can help you achieve your goals faster and increase your health along the way.