Fat for Athletes (and the greatest Guacamole Recipe you will ever taste)

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So, it was just a few years ago that the general consensus was that, if you didn’t want to be fat, you needed to stop eating fat or severely limit your fat intake. Then, along came Dr. Atkins and the South Beach Diet and all of a sudden fat was not the problem anymore…it was those evil carbohydrates. With Dr. Atkins diet you could eat almost as much fat as you wanted with very little discernment about what type of fat it was or where it was coming from (i.e. was it from animals, nuts, seed, dairy, etc). Now we are all about Omega-3 fat (and for good reason…read on). However, everything that even has the slightest amount of the stuff in it has a huge label that covers the entire package stating that it has “over 100mg of Omega-3s”. I can just hear people thinking in their brain, “Wow, over 100 mgs…I should buy that”. Do they know why Omega-3s are good for them or if 100mg is even worth talking about? Is 100mg the amount you would get out of 1 flax seed or out of 10 handfuls? I am guilty of this type of thinking as much as the next person. Why? Because our society is really good at marketing and making us believe in things with very little actual knowledge. All we need is for Dr. Oz to come on Oprah and mention a product and we will go out and buy it. Now, all of you out there who love Dr. Oz, please understand that I am not opposed to what Dr. Oz does necessarily…I am just pointing out that a lot of people will follow other people or things if they are marketed correctly…whether or not they understand the product.

So, with that said, why should you listen to me talk about Fats and what is healthy for you? Answer: Because I am going to try to give you the resources to understand what I am talking about and not just try to advertise it well enough so that you will blindly follow. I took most of my info from an excellent book titled “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” by Udo Erasmus. Dr. Erasmus is widely recognized as an authority on the effects of fat on the human body and does an excellent job of explaining it in this book. He gets deep down into the science of fat but he also gives practical applications and easy to read sections that you can use without having to read about double carbon bonds and molecule chain length. The book is over 450 pages long but is set up so that you can read parts that apply to you without reading the whole thing.

So, let’s talk about fats and their affect on athletic performance. What are most athletes, specifically endurance athletes, looking for in their food choices? I would say that, in general, endurance athletes are interested in finding foods that give them the energy levels necessary to maintain their training schedule as well as their regular life. Quite often this results in extremely high carbohydrate intakes and low fat intakes. The low fat intake may not necessarily be on purpose but rather a result of a diet made up mostly of low fat carbohydrates leaving little room for fat and protein. That, coupled with a general mindset that fats make you fat, keeps many endurance athletes’ fat intake relatively low. The interesting thing is that there are actually fats out there that increase oxidation rate (the rate at which your body produces energy from food), stimulate metabolic rate (your ability to burn calories efficiently), and increase energy production. I know there has been a lot of info out lately on how some fats are actually good for you and can lower your overall cholesterol (hence, the mass marketing of omega-3s)…but I haven’t really heard any reports on how they can affect your energy production. This is huge for endurance athletes! What if you could lower your cholesterol, lose body fat, and increase your energy production at the same time!?!?…wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, you can…lower your carb intake a bit and throw in some healthy fats.

So what makes one fat better than the other in terms of oxidation rate, metabolic rate and energy production? According the Dr. Erasmus, it has to do with the length of the fat chain and the number of double bonds (I know…I said you wouldn’t have to listen to this if you didn’t want to…I’ll be quick). The shorter the chain and the more double bonds, the more it increases these three things. So which fats have these characteristics? Well, the two most important are referred to in Dr. Erasmus’ book as “EFAs” or Essential Fatty Acids. These two essential fatty acids are Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids.
The key is to eat the right balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. The right ratio is about 3:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3. Most people eat too many Omega-6 fats and not enough Omega-3 fats (so, yes, the marketing and hype about Omega-3s is not actually all hype). That may be mostly because Omega-6 fatty acids are found in a lot of processed and fast foods that are a large part of the Western diet whereas Omega-3s are found in fewer foods and are rarely used in fast foods and processed foods. Here are some sources of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids:

Omega-6:

• Flax seeds
• Hemp seeds
• Grapeseed Oil
• Pumpkin seeds
• Sesame oil
• Walnut oil
• Pine nuts
• Pistachio nuts
• Sunflower seeds (raw)
• Olive oil
• Wheatgerm oil
• Avocados
• Corn oil
• Safflower oil
• Sunflower oil
• Soybean oil
• Cottonseed oil

NOTE: The 5 oils at the bottom of the list are often used in processed and fast food production and often become nutrient poor during the processing or frying.

Omega 3:

• Albacore tuna
• Sardines
• Salmon
• Mackerel
• Atlantic herring
• Swordfish
• Lake trout
• Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
• Soybeans and soybean oil
• Walnuts
• Brazil nuts
• Soy nuts
• Olive oil
• Hemp seeds
• Pumpkin seeds
• Avocados

So, how do you figure out how much Omega-3 fatty acid to put in your diet? Well, each gram of fat carries 9 calories, and Dr. Erasmus recommends that 15-20% of your diet be made up of fat (some recommend even higher levels of fat…up to 35 or 40%…such as Mark Sisson and his “Primal Blueprint”) and 1/3 of that should be made up of EFAs at a 3:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (Whew!). So that means that, if you eat 20% of your calories from fat, you would need 400 fat calories for a 2000 calorie diet. Approximately 133 of those calories should come from EFAs and that means that roughly 35 calories should come from Omega 3s. Somebody check my math, please. 35 calories of Omega-3s is about 4 grams. That means that if you buy those eggs that say that they have 100mg of Omega-3s in them and expect to get all of your daily value from it, you would have to eat about 40 of them to get there. Avocados have about 253mg per cup so you would have a hard time getting there all on that too. However, flaxseed oil has an astounding 7 grams of Omega-3s in one tablespoon.

OK…so, I feel like I am down a little too far in the weeds and I need to bring this back to something practical and useable. So, what should you do with all of this? Well, if you are interested and really want to know more, go get the book. If not, then here is what you do:

Get 20% (or more…but I don’t usually recommend more than 35%) of your calories from fat and 1/3 of that from EFAs. Try to get 4 or more grams of Omega-3s and make sure that your Omega-6s don’t come from processed stuff or fast food but from natural sources like nuts and seeds and olive oil. How do you get enough Omega-3s? Well, the easiest way is to keep some flax seeds, flax seed oil, or fish oil around and just mix it in with other stuff. Flax seeds or flax seed oils mix in with recipes better than fish oil because you can grind the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or spice grinder and there is really no taste to speak of (unlike with fish oil)…so you don’t even know it is in there. If you don’t like that idea, you can increase your fish intake and eat more avocados, seeds, and nuts…and of course, omega-3 fortified eggs 😉

Finally, you could also try Shakeology from Beachbody. This meal replacement shake from Beachbody has flaxseed in it and provides some Omega-3s. This is an excellent way to get your EFAs in a healthy shake that has a ton of other essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Check it out here

So, I will finish this blog with a great recipe for guacamole that is a great source of healthy fat and can even be fortified with more omega-3s with a little ground flax seed if you like.

Guacamole

Ingredients:
• 2 Haas Avacados (make sure that they are fairly ripe/soft)
• 1 medium tomato or 2 plum tomatoes
• 1 small yellow onion
• 3 tbsp of fresh chopped cilantro
• Pickled jalapeno slices
• Lime juice or Lemon juice
• 3 minced or chopped garlic cloves
• Salt to taste

Procedure:

1) Remove the meat from the avocados and mash in a large mixing bowl
2) Dice tomato and onion and add to mixing bowl
3) Add chopped cilantro (only use fresh not dried)
4) Dice Jalapeno slices (I use about 15 or so slices…not whole peppers) and add to bowl
5) Add minced garlic
6) Add approximately 3 tbsp of lemon or lime juice (I usually use lime)
7) Then add the secret ingredient: Approx 1-3 tbsp of the pickling juice from the jalapeno jar. The more juice the more jalapeno flavor…but also more sodium.
8) Mix and mash until the major chunks of avocado are smoothed out into a creamy texture
9) Salt to taste if desired (should be good without any salt)

What to eat it with:

Fried tortilla chips, right?….wrong! Try taking uncooked corn tortillas and baking them in your oven until crisp. Much better for you. You could also try baked whole grain pita chips or you could spread it on a turkey sandwich or have it in a salad.

ENJOY!

Ryan Chapman
B.A.S.E. Training
www.tribasetraining.com

16 Comments

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