Fat Requirements

Fat. The very word sends a shiver up the spine of the leanest athlete. Without a doubt, fat is the most misunderstood and maligned of nutrients.

Most people - including educated people who should know better - take a "fat is fat and should be avoided" approach to eating. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when trying to put on quality mass.

Are all fats created equal and should we avoid fat if trying to gain lean mass? The answer to both questions is a resounding no! It's interesting to note that people have no problem accepting the fact that there are different types of carbohydrates that have different effects on the body as described above.

The terms "simple" and "complex" or "high glycemic" and "low glycemic" get thrown around all the time when referring to carbohydrates. The same holds true for proteins.

Terms such as "complete" and "incomplete" proteins or "high biological value" as well as other terms are applied to proteins when ever we read an article on the topic.

People seem to have no problem understanding and accepting that there are large differences in the types and quality of carbohydrates and proteins they eat, but often think of all fats as being equal, without any unique effects of their own.

"Fat is fat," they will say. They are told to avoid all fats and to consider fat as the enemy of the athlete or the person trying to shed some weight. As briefly outlined previously, fats have just as many biochemical differences and effects on the body, as do carbohydrates and proteins.

There are many different types of fats, such as mono unsaturated, saturated, poly unsaturated, Omega-3, Omega-6, as well as many others. Within this group are even more lipids (fats) such as alpha-linolenic (ALA), linoleic (LA), EPA, DHA, GLA, CLA and so on and so on. The idea that a "fat is a fat and all fats are bad for you and should be avoided" is of course ridiculous advice and is based on outdated research and shear ignorance of the topic.

There is no doubt that certain fats such as saturated and trans fatty acids should be avoided or limited if peak performance, long term health and/or weight loss is the goal.

On the other hand, a great deal of recent research is showing that higher fat intakes, of the right types of fat, do in fact have a place in the athletes diet as well as the average person concerned with long term health, weight loss and performance.

So, the trick to the average reader concerned with such issues should to learn to see fats as a group of lipids that have their own unique effects on the body. We can then shed the old notion that fat is the enemy of the athlete, because it's simply not true.

With that in mind, we will continue to outline the fat requirements for this chapter when an optimized anabolic environment for growth is the goal.

As most people are aware, hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone, insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and insulin are major anabolic -muscle building -hormones.

It's well known that a particular hormonal milieu is needed to increase muscle mass and decrease bodyfat in response to exercise. For example, a weight lifter with inadequate testosterone levels will find it virtually impossible to add muscle mass even though he is weight training and eats well.

A good diet and training regimen is essential for increasing strength, muscle mass and performance. Yet without adequate anabolic hormone levels, you are essentially spinning your wheels. This known fact has been responsible for some athletes turning to synthetic versions of anabolic hormones, such as anabolic steroids and man made growth hormone as well as other compounds. Perhaps, what are overlooked by many people are the effects the macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) have on the production of anabolic hormones.

Testosterone is generally considered the king of anabolic hormones, especially in men. Anything that can positively and safely effect testosterone levels is considered a plus for athletes concerned with building muscle and increasing strength.

Although essential for increasing muscle mass, testosterone has many functions in the human body ranging from libido to immunity to depression. So an increase in testosterone levels can have many positive applications.

This is particularly true for men and women (yes women need testosterone too!) who suffer from low levels of this essential hormone.

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