Recover Faster & Improve your Speed by Consuming Proper Types of Fat
The Fat Balancing Act
Now that we’ve cleared up some misconceptions about the importance of fat in your diet, we can focus specifically on how to balance different types of dietary fats to improve your health & ultimately your performance. As outlined by Dr. Maffetone, the first thing to understand about fats is that not are all created equal. There are many different types of fats with various chemical structures that come from many types of foods sources and are responsible for different functions once inside the body. For the sake of this article, we will break fat into three categories: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats.
Mono unsaturated fats are associated with improved health and disease prevention, and should make up the bulk of fats in your diet. Saturated fats and essential fatty acids from some polyunsaturated fats play an important role in balancing chemicals in your body that regulate inflammation, healing and other important bodily & performance functions.
Source: Dr. Maffetone
To make the discussion of fat easier, let’s divide fat into two categories: first is monounsaturated fat which should make up two thirds of your diet. The second category, which should make up the additional third of your total fat in your diet, includes saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats should be divided equally by Omega six and omega-3 fatty acids.
As the chart above illustrates, monounsaturated fats can be easily sourced from extra-virgin olive oil, almonds and cashews. The most important specific health benefit of monounsaturated oils in their association with cardiovascular health. These fats are known to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats are very stable and virtually immune to oxidation through cooking or through rancidity due to exposure to air, light, etc. The best fat to use regularly is extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained from whole fruit by using the cold press technique, which does not alter the natural antioxidants, phytonutrients or quality of the oil.
The most potent phytonutrients are phenols, which give the oil its bitter taste; although more mature oils have a better, fruitier taste. Very high amounts of phenols are found in extra virgin olive oil. Phytonutrients-including phenols, are virtually absent in almost all other oils, including olive oils that are not extra virgin.
Extensive research illustrates that phenols can help reduce inflammation and possess potent antioxidant properties. This antioxidant activity can prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which is what actually make this “bad” cholesterol bad. These & other naturally occurring substances may also play a role in reducing blood pressure and those with hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure).
Different grades of olive oil
Most olive oil imported is from Spain, Greece and Italy. It is graded by international standards, much like wine, for flavor, aroma and acidity. According to Dr. Maffetone, extra Virgin is the tastiest and has less than 1% natural acid. Highly acidic oils, above 3.3% acidity, have an offensive taste and are neutralized by added chemical agents.
In addition to extra-virgin you may also see these grades of olive oil:
Virgin: this grade is not readily available and is often used to add flavor to lower grades. It contains between 1.0 and 3.3% acid, which adversely affects the case. It is however still a good oil.
Pure: the name can be misleading, as this is the lowest grade of all of oil available. The oil has been neutralized with chemicals to higher than 3.3% acidity, and has the least flavor. This grade of oil is not recommended for eating, if you have some on your shelf, it works well for squeaky wheels.
Light or Lite: these are oils marketed to people who think that fat is bad for them. It’s just diluted pure olive oil, also something to be avoided.
By using mostly extra-virgin olive oil and other monounsaturated oils, as well as eating food that are high in health promoting fats like avocados and almonds, you will be well on your way to balancing your fat intake.
There’s more to balancing your fat than just eating monounsaturated fat. You must also balance the remaining fats in your diet – polyunsaturated fats and saturated fat.
The health benefits of mono unsaturated fats are fairly simple to understand. However, the saturated & polyunsaturated fats that make up the other third of a properly balance fat intake require a different level of understanding. These fats are responsible for the production of different types of an important natural chemical called Eicosanoids (ei·co·sa·noid). Eicosanoids regulate certain bodily functions that are central to optimal human performance and disease prevention. NOTE: THIS GETS SLIGHTLY TECHNICAL – BE PATIENT, THE INFORMATION WILL BE EXTREMELY HELPFUL!
Omega 6-Series 1 Eicosanoids
These fats are found in high concentrations in vegetable and their oils (such as safflower soy and corn). These contain an essential fatty acid, linoleic acid. Essential fatty acids are called essential because the body can’t make them. You must get these from your diet or through supplementation and without them you cannot maintain an optimum level of health or perform optimally. When consumed, linoleic acid is converted by the body to other fatty acids, including gamma-linoleic acid, the key substance for healthy metabolism. The end result is the Series 1 Eicosanoid which is powerful substances for promoting and maintaining health & performance.
Saturated Fat-Series 2 Eicosanoids
According to Dr. Maffetone, fats that convert to Series 2 Eicosanoids include saturated fats and an essential fat, arachidonic acid (AA). These fats are found in dairy products such as butter, cream, meat, egg yolk and shellfish.
Omega-3 Fat-Series 2 Eicosanoids
Omega 3 is found mostly ocean fish, beans and the oils from flaxseed and walnuts. They contain alpha linoleic acid (ALA) an essential fatty acid which is converted in the body to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and finally to the series 3 eicosanoid group. Fish oils derived from coldwater ocean fish already contain EPA and are often used by people requiring omega-3 supplement. Flaxseed oil is also used as an Omega-3 supplement but does not contain EPA and therefore requires other nutritional factors to convert EPA.
Here is an overview of your fat breakdown:
2/3 of your total fat – monounsaturated fats
1/3 of your total fat – polyunsaturated and saturated fats
The smaller one third portions must now be divided into three equal portions of Omega-6, saturated fats and omega-3 fats to properly balance the Eicosanoids produced from these fats and to achieve optimum health & performance.
Any type of fat can be used for production of energy. But the balance of all these fats and a diet can have a significant impact on health, prevention of disease and optimum performance. You need approximately equal amounts of all fats in the course of the week, but not necessarily at each meal. By eating a balance of all three fats you have an idea ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats, 2:1 and you’ll also be on your way to balancing all three series of Eicosanoids. If you are a vegetarian, take approximate equal ratios of Omega 6 & Omega 3.
Imbalances may occur due to consumption is too much of one type of fat and/or not enough of another. For example if you eat too much meat and not enough vegetables, beans or fish, you man may end up producing too many Series 2 Eicosanoids. Certain foods vitamins and drugs can also affect fat metabolism and Eicosanoid production.
In addition to unbalanced fat consumption, imbalances in Eicosanoids can occur for other reasons:
– Lack of vitamins and minerals required for the conversion of fats to the respective Eicosanoids. These include vitamins B6; see comic E, niacin in these minerals magnesium calcium in zinc.
– Certain dietary factors such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, excess saturated fat, and excess sugar and other carbohydrates and low protein intake can inhibit the conversion of Eicosanoids.
– Lifestyle factors such as stress and aging will prevent or diminish formation of Series 1 & 2 Eicosanoids.
– According to Dr. Maffetone, another important factor in Eicosanoids balance is the real possibility that Series 1 Eicosanoids will convert to Series 2 instead of Series 1 Eicosanoids. This can occur when too many Series 1 fats are in the diet; when there’s too much insulin produced due to a diet too high in simple carbohydrates; and if you have to much physical, chemical or mental stress.
Factors that Improve Series 1 & 3 Eicosanoid Production
Factors that Inhibit Series 1 & 3 Eicosanoid Production
|Vitamins B, C and Niacin|
|Low doses of Vitamin E, Magnesium, Zinc & Calcium|
Excess Saturated Fat, Sugar Processed Carbohydrates
|Alcohol in moderation|
Low Protein Diet
|Black Currant Seed Oil|
Emotional and Physical Stress
Source: Dr. Maffetone
Eicosanoids & Inflammation
Perhaps the most important function of Eicosanoids is their association with the body’s ability to handle inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s way of responding to and repairing itself from repetitive motions and activities (ranging from walking, to high intensity exercise). The body continuously produces inflammatory chemicals as a response to our daily activities. Once these inflammatory chemicals have done their work, anti-inflammatory chemicals are produced to stop the process. A simple illustration is the way the body reacts to a cut: reddish, swollen and hot to the touch.
Series 1 & 3 Eicosanoids have anti-inflammatory properties; Series 2 have inflammatory properties. Too much of either can result in a chronic state of inflammation, resulting in various health issues including arthritis, colitis and chronic injury. Chronic inflammation can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and others. The scary part about this inflammatory process is associated with the distribution of anti-inflammatory medicine; this is because your body is not producing enough of its own anti-inflammatory chemicals. Do see how this becomes an issue as it relates to both your overall health and ultimately your performance?
Additional Functions of Eicosanoids
Series 1 & 3: decrease blood clotting & dilated blood vessels resulting in lowered blood pressure & increased circulation.
Series 2: constrict blood vessels increasing blood pressure & blood clotting – in a healthy manner.
Improving your fat intake
Since Omega-6 is prevalent in most diets, most people lack Omega-3 fat in their daily diet. Adjusting your daily intake of cold water fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, anchovies and mackerel), almonds, walnuts, pecans and green vegetables will address the possibilities of an essential fatty acid imbalance. An additional item to help balance your Eicosanoids is sesame seed oil. This oil helps prevent Omega-6 oils from being converted to arachidonic acid, improving your balance of eicosanoids.
Personalized Fat Intake
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge of how fats work in the body, especially their influence on the metabolism through eicosanoid function, you are now positioned to improve your diet in accordance with your body’s particular needs. Now comes the big question: How Much Fat Should I Have In My Diet? The answer to this question is 100% dependent on the individual’s activity level (frequency, duration and intensity). Obviously the harder you train, the longer you train and the more frequently you train, the higher your needs will be.
As we have discussed, you have to get over the idea that a low fat diet is actually healthy, research has illustrated that a low fat diet can be very unhealthy because of the reduced intake of essential fatty acids. After following Dr. Maffetone for over fifteen years, I have read where he has been successful with his individuals and athletes (including 6 Ironman Hawaii wins!) ingesting up to thirty to forty percent of their daily calories from a healthy balance of fat.
Next week I am going to be providing you a unique nutrition challenge to help you create a personalized nutrition program that will help you determine your specific needs of protein, carbohydrates and fats in an easy to follow process. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this (or any article), please email me directly and I will be happy to answer any questions or clarifications you may have. Merry Christmas to everyone!