Dietary Fat vs. Body Fat: What You Need to Know
WHAT IS DIETARY FAT?
As the name suggests, dietary fats are fatty acids that you ingest through your diet. Fats are a calorically dense food at 9 calories per gram of fat. Compare this to 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates. Dietary fats have received a bad reputation over the years due to misinformation and popular but harmful dietary trends. Dietary fat is often mixed up with body fat under the assumption that one leads to the other.
WHAT IS BODY FAT?
Body fat can be found in adipose tissue within the body. Body fat is a stored glycerol-based substance that is the result of a complex insulin response, which I’ll expand on below. Storing fat was once a crucial starvation survival mechanism. In the modern day, the easy and plentiful access to food sources has made this storage instinct obsolete. Still, the body continues to prepare itself by storing calories. The current obesity epidemic that can be seen worldwide has placed dietary fat in a negative spotlight with some prematurely pointing to dietary fat as the sole cause of body fat. With all this negative publicity, many people are asking, “Is eating fats good for me?”
IS FAT GOOD FOR YOU?
The short answer: Absolutely. Dietary fats are a crucial part of the human diet. Fats provide our bodies with ample, slow-digesting energy. On a cellular level, fats ensure healthy hormone levels, form the lining of synapses, and support skin and eye health. The catch is the type of fat you should be eating. The Western diet is packed with an overabundance of processed saturated fats and unhealthy trans fats.
THE REAL ENEMY
The real enemy of weight gain is the sugar that is found throughout many food sources. Sugar is everywhere, with an emphasis on processed goods. When you ingest a processed sugar, the hormone insulin spikes and forces the body into an anabolic mode. This is beneficial for serious weight lifters who want to build muscle as they may time an insulin-response post-training to encourage amino acid utilisation. However, if there is no activity to help burn calories and support muscle anabolism, then you end up storing calories as fat. The trick is to limit your daily intake of sugar. Avoid processed sugars and focus on the natural sugars you find in whole foods.
THE FATS YOU NEED
Eggs (with yolk)
EAT FAT, WATCH PORTIONS
Too much of any good thing can be trouble. The same goes for dietary fats. If you are looking to control your weight, then you want to focus on counting your macronutrients so that you can control your overall caloric intake. Remember that one gram of fat provides 9 calories! Healthy fats are necessary for the body but you don’t want to overdo it. Depending on your fitness goals and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) I would recommend getting in between 15% and 45%. The lower end of the spectrum is for those wanting to shed body fat or prepare for a bodybuilding competition. If you are trying to gain muscle or build strength, add more healthy fats into your diet.
Dietary fats are a vital part of the human diet and should make up a good portion of your daily caloric intake. Focus on healthy fats such as wild salmon, nuts, and seeds while staying clear of processed fats that you will find in packaged desserts.