Tip: Get Your Fat Intake Down To A Science

Take this advice from a researcher and bodybuilder.

The Macronutrient With The Most Calories

When it comes to fat intake, there are a few guidelines I follow and recommend. First, a little fat goes a long way. The obvious 9 calories per gram adds up quickly, even with a tablespoon. This can be an advantage for weight gain, of course. But even during weight loss, I like to keep some fat in the picture.

It's true that aspects of our cells' fat burning machinery are maintained (induced) when some fat is present in our meals. Second, monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) sources are best, for both the nutraceutical qualities of the fatty acids themselves (oleic acid) but also for the phytochemical antioxidants that typify foods like olive oil, avocado, seeds, and nuts. I also like saturated fatty acids from coconut oil for texture and for the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) they provide (about 60% of total).

People differ widely in baseline characteristics, but for me, about 20 grams of these fats per meal (usually four per day) works well. When I was dieting for competition, I'd eat as few as 10 grams of fat per meal, which can be tough.

EPA & DHA Awareness

A mistake I see with many people is that when they supplement fats they either take too little EPA and DHA (omega-3 fish oil fatty acids) or put too much credence in the "omega 3-6-9" type of fat supplement. Unlike coffee or other whole foods, when it comes to fat supplements, I'm after the total combined dose of the "active ingredient" EPA and DHA – about 2,000 mg per day.

I take my dose all at once because fats are much less sensitive to exercise timing. Regarding type, so many fats in a typical diet are already omega-6 (which we seriously over-consume and are a substrate for inflammation) and omega-9 (like the aforementioned MUFA). Remember, when we take a dose of omega-3 fats, we don't typically think of them as a portion of daily calories, which would be miniscule (2 g x 9 kcal per gram = just 18 kcal).

It's also worth noting that expanded fat supplement choices should be on everyone's radar: MCT, affordable structured triglycerides, and even other omega-3s like stearidonic acid. Each is a tool that brings its own benefit. My mantra has long been that fats are more nutraceutical than the other macronutrients.

I can't say I avoid particular fats other than trans fats, which are quickly leaving the commercial food supply due to consumer pressure. I will say that if carb avoidance isn't working for a client with leanness goals, taking a carefully measured look at fats can be eye-opening. Like I said, the caloric density is very high and it adds up really quickly.

To summarize:

  • Fats contribute aggressively to the daily calorie meter
  • MUFA foods are best
  • Seek a solid dose of the active ingredient in a fat supplement
  • Go for a variety of food and supplement fat choices