Fat Loss Guide – Why Eating Fats are Important for Fat Loss
Fat loss guide and why eating fats are important for fat loss. Eating Fats are essential to the body, and – you guessed it – they’re essential for fat loss! Fats (and cholesterol) are the building blocks of hormones, such as thyroid hormone, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol to name a few (all of which are involved in fat loss). Your body is capable of making all the cholesterol you need, but you must consume adequate dietary fat to produce cholesterol and optimize hormone levels. Any trainer or coach that says “you don’t need to worry about adding fats” is probably (ahem) taking anabolic steroids or other supplemental hormones; and therefore, can consume little to no fat without any noticeable detriment to hormone production.
How much fat do you actually need? Under natural circumstances however, getting less than 15% of total calories from eating fats can limit hormone production, which in turn, impairs the bodily functions driven by those hormones (i.e., fat burning, muscle growth, reproduction, and mood). Inadequate fat intake also impairs absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), each of which have their own biological roles. On the flipside, getting more than 40% of total calories from fats can lead to inadequate consumption of the other macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates), excessive caloric intake (fats are the most calorie-dense nutrient) and unwanted fat gain, especially in those who are not accustomed to higher-fat diets.1
The official recommendation from the American Dietetic Association is to get 20-35% of total calories from fat.2 Based on my review of scientific literature, 0.3-0.6 grams of fat per pound of lean mass (or goal body weight if you don’t know your body fat percentage) is adequate for optimizing fat loss hormones and meeting other physiological needs.
Now, let’s talk about some of the benefits of eating fats for fat loss!
- Health Hormone Levels
As mentioned in the first paragraph, fats are the building blocks of hormones, and as such, can promote healthy hormone levels when fat intake is adequate (between 15-40% of total calories).
For Men and Women alike, Check out these great hormone tools:
- Long-Term Weight Loss
Studies suggest that higher-fat diets are generally more effective for keeping the weight off than low-fat diets, due to metabolic adaptations that inhibit fat storage.1 So, if you ask me, it’s better to go a little above the absolute minimum fat requirement when your goal is fat loss or weight maintenance.
- Appetite Suppression
Dietary fat helps suppress appetite by activating specific hormones in the gut (such as CCK and PYY)3 and by slowing digestion. Eating Fats also slow the release of nutrients from the small intestine (including sugar), which helps moderate blood sugar and insulin levels, and helps prevent blood sugar lows resulting in hunger and cravings.1
- Insulin Sensitivity (the ability to handle carbs properly)
Certain types of fats are more beneficial for fat loss than others. A diet high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids has been shown to reduce insulin resistance (which in turn, makes fat loss and muscle building a whole lot easier).4
- Omega-3 Fats Promote Fat Burning & Reduce Inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, specifically turn on genes that signal fat burning, and turn off genes that tell your body to store fat.1 In addition, omega-3 fats also reduce total body inflammation, which is key for fat loss (especially abdominal fat loss) and preventing various disease states.5
Fats to Limit or Avoid
Not all fats are as beneficial for fat loss, or even overall health. Inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, another kind of of polyunsaturated fat found in safflower, soybean, sunflower, grapeseed, corn and peanut oils, should be limited due to their potential to promote various diseases, including cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.6
In addition, consuming harmful trans fats (found in processed foods containing “partially hydrogenated oils”) along with an excess of saturated fat can have negative repercussions for fat loss, such as insulin resistance (which promotes fat storage) and increased risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome.4,7
While trans fats should be avoided completely, we do need a minimum amount of saturated fats for hormone regulation, cell messaging, and immune function. Certain saturated fats, like coconut oil, are rich in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) which increase fat burning and can be helpful for fat loss. Still other sources of saturated fats, like egg yolks and butter, are rich in essential fat-soluble vitamins and CLA (a potent antioxidant and fat burner).
Nevertheless, the current consensus among health authorities like Harvard School of Health and the American Dietetic Association, based on review of all the available research, is that saturated fat should be limited to 10% or less of total calories.2,8
The best sources of fat for fat loss are those that reduce inflammation, promote insulin sensitivity and fat burning, and provide fat-soluble vitamins, such as:
- Monounsaturated fats9: olives and olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, almonds, macadamias, and most other nuts, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Polyunsaturated fats10 (emphasis on omega-3): salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and walnut oil, and canola oil
- Saturated fats (limit to 10% total calories): coconuts and coconut oil, palm oil, butter and ghee, egg yolks, “grass-fed” red meats, “free range” poultry, and full-fat dairy
The most important thing to remember in this whole picture is that consuming all the “fat loss foods” in the world will not reduce body fat if you’re eating more calories than you burn. You’ve probably heard it before, and the science still holds true: calorie deficit is the chief requirement for fat loss. Start by figuring out your total calorie needs including exercise, reduce calories by 15-30% for fat loss, subtract your protein and fat requirements, then use nutrient-dense carbohydrates to fill your remaining energy needs!
Finally, you don’t have to eat 100% “clean,” nutrient-dense foods to lose fat. You can still enjoy your favorite foods on a daily basis without hindering your progress – just ensure 80-90% of your diet is made up of nutrient-dense foods for fat loss. After all, the best fat loss diet is a sustainable one so don’t be afraid of eating fats!
Sarah Wilkins, Nutritionist, B.S. Dietetics
- “Ten Amazing Benefits of Eating Fat.” Poliquin – Healthy. Lean. Strong. Poliquin Group, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.
- “Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Dietary Fatty Acids.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107.9 (2007): n. pag. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
- Roussell, Mike, Ph.D. “How Eating More Fat Helps You Lose More Weight.” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., 14 May 2015. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.
- Riccardi, G., R. Giacco, and A.a Rivellese. “Dietary Fat, Insulin Sensitivity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Clinical Nutrition 23.4 (2004): 447-56. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 5 Aug. 2015. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.
- Simopoulos, A. P. “The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.” Experimental Biology and Medicine 233.6 (2008): 674-88. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.
- Krishnan, Sridevi, and Jamie A. Cooper. “Effect of Dietary Fatty Acid Composition on Substrate Utilization and Body Weight Maintenance in Humans.” European Journal of Nutrition Eur J Nutr 53.3 (2013): 691-710. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.
- “The Truth about Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the In-between – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. N.p., 7 Aug. 2015. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.
- “Foods Highest in Monounsaturated Fat.” Self Nutrition Data. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.
- “Foods Highest in Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” Self Nutrition Data. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.