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Fat & Your Athletic Performance

Health & Nutrition

Fat & Your Athletic Performance


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How much fat you should consume will vary depending on you activity level and lifestyle, but the fat in your diet should be 20 to 35% of your calories. While there is a risk of developing heart disease or obesity from too much consumption, some fitness professionals don’t get enough. High fat diets are not recommended for long term health, but healthy fats are needed to maintain a healthy weight.

Feel full longer

Fats have twice as many calories per gram as carbs or proteins. Fats also digest more slowly than carbohydrates and stay in the gastrointestinal system longer. Fats also make food taste great and add texture. The types of fat an athlete consumes depend on the preferences of the individual. The key is to stay in the 20-30% range, because studies show there is no athletic benefit to going over that percentage.

Aid Metabolism

Fat calories can be burned from any one of several sources, including muscle fat, adipose tissue fat, blood lipoproteins or consumed fat. The type of exercise and intensity will determine a person’s metabolism of fat. The meal you eat before exercise also plays a part in how much fat you metabolize, because your body will deplete those fat sources first.

image1Provide fuel to working muscles

Fat is the primary fuel source during endurance exercises. After carbohydrate stores are depleted, the body turns to fat stores. It’s also the primary source of energy during rest. It is important to get the essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), fish oil, sunflower seeds and avocado. Fatty acids also support healthy blood clotting, blood pressure, vascular dilation, heart rate and immune response.

Keep skin and other tissues soft and pliable

Fat helps keep the skin and other tissues soft and pliable, and also protects the organs. Adipose tissue is the largest source for stored energy in the body and there is also fat within the muscle. The body requires at least 3-4% body fat to have essential functions. Fats are part of the structural cell membranes of the brain and spinal cord.

Reference: Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance: Second Edition Melinda M. Manore, PhD, RD, CSSD, FACSM, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL 2009

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