I recently attended a lecture on running and nutrition. Halfway through the night I heard “Eat Fat to Burn Fat.” Funny thing is that I have heard this same lecture many times but this time – this slide just struck me as odd. I asked for more explanation and was told that eating fat would train your body to burn fat. I trusted the speaker enough to follow the advice but over the next days it kept bothering me – why? I wanted to share some of that research with you. Although I found nothing about the training part I did discover a ton of information concerning how dangerous a low fat mindset is for our bodies.
A calorie is defined as the amount of energy required to increase one gram of water one degree Celsius. To measure the calories in various foods scientists break the food bonds down to just hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. The increase in the water temperature then provides the number of calories in the food. Using this method they determined that:
- Proteins contain 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram
- Fats contain 9 calories per gram
GASP… 9 calories per gram! That is twice that in the others so it must be bad and fattening. More calories intake means more fat! Or NOT…
When scientists determine the calories in food they have to use enough energy to break the food down to hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Our body does not break down proteins and fats. They are only partially broken down in the body. Amino acids are used to build our muscle, hair and skin. Fatty acids are used to build myelin sheaths, cell membranes and hormones. Because the body only breaks proteins and fats down to amino acids and fatty acids the caloric intake will not match laboratory results. Proteins and fats are used as building materials rather than converted completely to energy so little or none will go into fat storage.
Carbohydrates on the other hand are converted to energy. If that energy is not needed immediately it is stored as energy. Glycogen is a ready energy form stored in the liver and muscles. Body fat is the long term storage form of this energy. When carbohydrates are broken down the extra sugar in the body causes a release of insulin. Insulin opens the doors to store fat in fat cells. Insulin must be present to store fat and carbohydrates are the mechanism to raise the blood sugar to trigger the release of insulin.
Fat and proteins will not trigger the release of insulin. Therefore fats without carbohydrates will never be stored as fat. Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating enough carbohydrates to overflow glycogen stores and force insulin to store the energy will. Eating a balanced meal with fat, protein and healthy carbohydrates is the key.
Fat Deprivation Signs
- Brittle Nails
- Carbohydrate and Stimulate Craving
- Dry, Limp, Thinning Hair
- Loss of Lean Body Mass
- Body Fat Gain Around the Middle
- Mood Disorders
- Scaly, Itchy Skin
Types of Fat
1. Structural Fats – class of fats used a building materials within your body. They are used for structures such as cells, hormones and brain components. Review the list of fat deprivation signs – all are covered by the lack of building materials your body needs to constantly rebuild.
2. Body Fat – reservoir of fat found in fat cells in the form of triglycerides that is used as insulation and energy.
3. Dietary Fats – come from animal and plant sources. They are composed of structural and body fats. Plant fats are oils that are made up of fatty acids.
Two final points:
- When fat is included with a meal it slows down the transient time of food therefor decreasing the glycemic index of the meal. The lower the glycemic index the less insulin released to handle the sugar. The less insulin the less energy long term storage.
- Fat also is specifically used by the lower intestine to trigger the brain that the body is satisfied – stop eating. When fat is not included in a meal that CCK trigger is not sent to the brain. This can results in carbohydrate cravings (all day grazing/snacking).
Fats are needed by the body just like water. Cholesterol (a fat) directly impacts metabolism. Essential fatty acids can not be produced within your body and must be consumed to build hormones and repair cells. Although I didn’t find any research to prove that eating fat trains the body to burn fat, I definitely found enough research to suggest that trying to fit fat under some acceptable count is not smart. Let your body’s internal system tell you when it has had enough – until then enjoy good healthy fats like coconut oils, avocados, olive oil and nuts.