Fitness

Fat is Fuel, Not Foe (Part 1)

With so much focus on “healthy eating” you would think that the average health of someone in America would be getting better.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about nutrition, so over the next few weeks, we will explore some of the most common myths surrounding fat.

Why fat? Because the “low-fat” push has been one of the most harmful ideas to come out of nutritionism (as Michael Pollen likes to call it).

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Myth: Fat Makes You Fat

It is commonly thought (and taught) that if you eat less and move more, you will lose weight.  

Because fat has 9 calories per gram, it is often advised to just cut out fat, as it will be the easiest way to remove calories. Even more common is replacing fat with carbohydrates.

Carbs only have 4 calories per gram, so now you can get the same quantity of food (in grams) but with half the calories! Hurray!

Unfortunately, not all calories are created equal. Your weight and fat storage is going to depend just as much on how your body responds hormonally to a given food as it is to the amount of food you ingest.

This is not new information.

In 1956, a study came out showing that while caloric restriction could lead to weight loss, there were strange results when the macronutrients were manipulated.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/28131415/Kekwick-Pawan-1956-Lancet

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The researchers found a number of intriguing results.

First, during a comparison of 1000 calorie diets, each composed of 90% fat, protein, or carbs, the results showed a significant difference in weight change based on food emphasis.

The group consuming 90% fat lost the most weight with protein close behind, while the carb group actually GAINED weight.

Not only this, but the researchers also found that when comparing a 2000 calorie diet that was balanced in its macronutrients to a 2600 calorie diet that was high in fat and protein, the higher calorie group lost more weight!

While this is just one study, it was one of the first to compare diets from the perspective of calories and macronutrient breakdown.

Why We Store (or Release) Fat.

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As our understanding of hormones and their influence on fat storage and weight control continue to develop, these findings become less shocking.

One of the most important hormones with regard to fat loss is insulin. It is very difficult to lose fat or weight when we have chronically high levels of insulin.

Insulin is released in response to an increase in blood sugar (insulin signals cells to store sugar, therefore decreasing sugar in the blood), so the more carb-dense your diet, the more insulin you will produce.

This is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes. When blood sugar levels are chronically high, your cells eventually resist the message from insulin to open up and take in sugar. 

When this happens, your blood sugar increases even more because it has nowhere to go, and insulin production increases even more!

So now you have a rapid increase in blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to an increased rate of fat storage. The only way to reverse this process is to cut the sugar (carbs), and allow your blood sugar to stabilize.

Coincidentally (or maybe not so), the best way to keep your blood sugar stable is to have more fat in the diet! 

Is Keto the Answer?

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While you might think that this article is just a big endorsement for the Keto Diet, it is not.

While Keto can be a great diet for some people, going super low carb / high fat is not going to be healthy for everyone.

Not to mention that not all fats are created equal. If you eat a ton of processed meats and drink soybean oil all day, you will be “Keto” but you’re not going to be healthy.

And even if you do eat healthy fats, not everyone’s body responds the same way to that type of diet.

So instead of seeing this as a message to stop eating all carbs and only eat fat, I want you to take away these key points:

1) Fat is not bad for you. Eating the right amount of healthy fat is critical to looking and feeling your best.

2) Carbs are not evil either. Most people do eat too many carbs, so lowering your carb intake is probably a good idea. Eating zero carbs, however, may not be good for you.

3) Weight loss is not the only goal. If you focus on feeling good and getting healthy, you will get to a good weight.

4) Losing weight is as much about taking care of yourself mentally as it is about nutrition. Forcing yourself to be low carb all week only to binge on the weekend and feel so guilty that you give up is not the way to approach your diet.

So with all that said, do try to include more healthy fats in your diet. Not sure which fats you should be eating? Check back for our next article where I will teach you exactly which fats to eat...and which to avoid. See you then!

Mint Condition Fitness is the leading fitness coaching studio for men and women over 45 to lose weight, build strength, and stay active for life.