Fats in Bodybuilding

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The guidelines for the bodybuilder really go along with the health guidelines in respect of fat. Oily fish, remember, is a great source of protein, as well as omega-3 fats, so is an excellent food to consume. Tuna is a traditional bodybuilder's food, and has significant amounts of omega-3s, especially the blue-fin variety from the South Atlantic Ocean.

Also, there is excellent evidence that Omega-3 fish oils help muscle anabolism when supplemented to post trauma patients with the amino acids glutamine and/or arginine and RNA (see Chapters 8 and 9) (Kemen, et al 1995; Atkinson, et al 1998). This is of great interest to the science of bodybuilding, but there is, as yet, no research looking directly at the effects of supplementation with omega-3s on muscle growth.

Bodybuilders tend to want to keep lean, so consume a fairly low fat intake. Too low an intake of fat, however, could be detrimental to optimal muscle growth. Bodybuilders have high-energy requirements due to the intensity of workouts, and the energy required for growth, so fat is a valuable source of energy. As discussed in Chapter 1, variety is important, so consuming fatty foods occasionally will add variety to the diet. Consuming monounsaturates on a daily basis will also provide adequate amounts of the essential fatty acids. It may be an idea to this in the form of a high monounsaturated margarine or spread, or many bodybuilders like to have a tablespoonful of virgin olive oil a day - sounds horrible, so mix it into a glass of orange juice to mask its taste.

Even for the bodybuilder trying to lose fat, e.g. in dieting for a competition, including some fat is essential, as traditionally bodybuilders eat as near to zero fat at this time as is possible. By consuming some fat, not only do you obtain all essential fatty acids for good health, but it also helps stop the metabolism from becoming too stubborn and slowing down from lack of energy coming in. Fatty foods also contribute to satiety (feeling full up), important to the hungry dieting bodybuilder! A source of oily fish every day or two, and a spoonful of olive oil a day is ideal.

Indeed, some bodybuilders argue to eat actually quite a high fat diet in contest preparation (as high as 40 % total energy intake), and cut those carbohydrates down or out. This method is effective as their calorie intake is still in deficit, but I cannot see why the science of this method is more effective than the method I describe in Chapter 17.

I have tried to demonstrate that for good health and bodybuilding, some fat is needed, and it is the type of fat which is more important than total fat intake. Fat is a valuable source of energy, and beneficial to good health; an overlooked important point in bodybuilding in order to keep well to train and grow optimally.

I'll look at fats again in Chapter 9, where I'll discuss the use of fat supplement concoctions in bodybuilding, including essential fatty acids (EFAs) and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

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