The Feed – The good the bad and the ugly on fats

RobLeave a Comment

If you are ignoring fats in your diet you are missing out as an athlete

The Feed is back! Sorry for the delay in getting new episodes out on The Feed but I think you will like what we have in store for upcoming shows. On this weeks show I am going to cover the topic of fats and how they could be fueling your next workout, ride or run to great effect!

Before we jump in as always we have a note and some offers!

Note: Before you get out pencil and paper for the show I want to let everyone know that this show will have extensive show notes. To find the show notes simply go to or search for the show title on our website.

Note: We will be offering up a 2018/2019 PPC/EQC Training Kit to all of our athletes and listeners. Sign up for the newsletter to get the earliest notice and details of how you can find the design and store to order yours. We will be making LS/SS Jerseys, Bibs, Jackets, Vests and SS Skin Suits Available for order. We are very close to releasing pictures and order details!!!!

Offer: I am extending the athlete sponsorship by one week to those that want to receive heavily discounted coaching services! If you are interested I need you to email me ASAP !!!! I have 3 spots left and a couple of athletes that are maybes. Time to make a decision. Do you want this to be the best possible season or not?

OK, Let’s get back to the topic at hand and cover what fats are. I realize that for some of you this may be a review but I want to set a baseline of what fats are available and what fats are meant to fuel you as an athlete.

What are fats – Fats come in two types saturated and unsaturated. Fats are present in many of the foods we consume not just animal based sources of food. These fats are often referred to as oils or lipids. Most food that contains fats will contain both saturated and unsaturated fats but in different ratios.

Unsaturated fats are any oils that have fatty acid chains of one double-bond chemical structure or more. The unsaturated fats are Mono-saturated, Poly-Saturated, and Trans Fats.

Mono-saturated – These are fatty acids that contain one Double Bond between two elements, which are present in the amino acid chain. The more double bonds within the fats, the thicker its viscosity. Mono-saturated fatty acids are often used in the Mediterranean, olive oil as a prime example contains 80-85% Mono-saturated fats.

Poly-saturated – These fatty acids contain more than one Double bond and so tend to be a lot thicker. They can be found in fish, nuts, legumes and are generally seen to be a good thing in diet, studies have shown that they reduce heart disease and are an important part in a healthy diet.

Trans Fats – These are often thought of as the artificial fats, created through hydrogenating plant oils, though they can occur naturally in some foods, such as milk, they are often linked with serious heart risks and health issues such as liver dysfunction, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Common uses include cooking oils for fast food restaurants and fat alternatives.

Saturated fats or saturated fatty acids contain no double bonds due to being saturated with hydrogen. Saturated fatty acids are what we typically find in animal fat that we consume.

Ok now that we have gotten through the high school biology and chemistry class on fats what’s next?

Athletes should always think of their nutrition and what they eat in terms of daily nutrition, training, and race nutrition.

Daily nutrition is what we use to fuel our lives and training and race/event nutrition are what we use to fuel our performances.

So when I think about fats I often think more about what is bad for me than what I think is good for me and until the last several years I never thought about fats as fuel for training much less racing.

Very early on in my return to cycling, I had purchased The Training Bible from Coach Friel and in his section, on Ergogenic Aides he mentioned the use of MCT or Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are found in certain foods, as a source of fuel for rides beyond the use of carbohydrates. This intrigued me so I headed out to my local Health Food Store and picked up the smallest bottle of MCT I could find and followed Friel’s directions. It tasted awful but like any good athlete, I wouldn’t be deterred by taste over performance until a week later on a particularly hot ride that the mix made me violently ill. So that was it no more fats in training for me!

Fast-forward to 5 or 6 years ago, and Coach Kelli Jennings at Apex Nutrition convinces me to add Coconut Oil to my morning smoothie or one of my pre-training smoothies. Extra virgin organic coconut oil has lots of MCT so I was a bit nervous how my stomach would handle it. The reason for the addition of the Coconut oil served a few purposes. The first was to induce satiety. Fats will leave you feeling full longer. The next thing was to provide a more calorically dense meal. At the time I had been on a restricted diet calorically to induce faster weight loss but once the race season started I was falling flat on my face and needed a way to consume more calories and was having a hard time stuffing enough food down so fats became a big part of my daily nutrition. The other reason was what Coach Friel wrote about as using fat as an additional substrate for fueling training, racing, and events. While I wasn’t quite ready for racing with Coconut Oils melted into my sports drink I was sold on consuming coconut for the other reasons.

Fast forward to late last year and I have a fantastic call with the owner of about how I had been having some metabolic issues the past few years. My issues meant that once trusted racing and training fuels were leaving me miserable, bloated, feeling lethargic or worse. Which of course are not what any athlete wants to deal with in training or on race day. So Rafal at Spring Energy explained to me that I was likely no longer able to handle Maltodextrin or Dextrose in my diet as a carb source. I didn’t tell Rafal that this worried me but it did. See Maltodextrin and Dextrose are the carb sources that most sports drinks and training and racing fuels use as their prime source of carbs. Rafal later explained that I could use natural whole foods to fuel my training and racing. I knew this of course but eating real food during training and racing for me was often logistically impossible. So he sent me samples of his Spring Energy Gels and Sports Drink Mix. It was fantastic! No bloat, no upset stomach, even energy throughout training and my race. I was sold!

You might be asking how did we just go from discussing fats to carbs? Two reasons. One is that when you look at fueling your training and racing you have to think about the substrates that fuel your efforts, fats, and carbs. The other reason is that My Spring Energy uses Coconut Oil and Chia Seeds in some of their gels. So I actually raced on natural sources of carbs and fats and didn’t get sick. Instead, I felt the best I had in years in racing and training. Why is this? A lot had to do with utilizing natural sources for fuel but I also believe that the even burn had, even more, to do with the inclusion of fats. See 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, where protein and carbohydrates only account for 4 calories each per gram.

So does this mean the entire show is about Coconut Oil and MCT? No, not at all. Let’s talk about what good fats you can add to your daily nutrition next.

Nuts, seeds, dairy, and other sources.

I will eat nuts and seeds on longer training rides, especially on long cold winter training rides. The rides are slower and real foods seem to last longer on these rides and its really easy to throw in some cashews, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and dried cherries into a small freezer bag. However, throughout the day when I am having a hard time getting my calorie counts up I will grab a handful of, pecans or, almonds or cashews as one of my snack items.

If I am trying to cut weight I will not consume dairy and certain times of the year when head colds or allergies are prevalent I will remove dairy from my diet. However not all dairy is bad and can be quite helpful. I love Greek yogurt and will often consume it with a scoop of whey protein as recovery fuel or as late day snack to help limit the potential for catabolic effects overnight after a really hard training day. I also love cottage cheese as a late day or early evening snack and will often add peaches to it.

In a recent call with one of my athletes who is a medical professional we were discussing animal protein in the diet and how well the old adage the fewer legs the better holds up. When Red Beef is good occasionally I was told that Pork was a better substitute and he reminded me of some potential issues with kidney function and consuming larger quantities of pork. I don’t eat much pork instead I eat more chicken. Another recent conversation I had with my former Strength Coach and how he was prepping one of his new athletes for a competition was the inclusion of more fish in their diet. Adding fish to your diet means limiting tuna and salmon to once a week each or twice a week for one. The reason for this is the chance of higher levels of mercury. This doesn’t preclude us from eating more fish it just means that we switch to white fish varieties like cod. So why is fish so great? Well, its incredibly lean form of animal protein that also provides us with Omega 3s.

You don’t have to consume, nuts, seeds, dairy and animal protein to get good fats into your diet. You can also add Avocado and avocado oil, Olives and olive oil and coconuts and coconut oils as well as eggs.

So when fats are good they are really good for us!!!!

Fat is a concentrated source of energy – 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, much more than a gram of protein or carbohydrate which both contain 4 calories.  The body can pull on its fat reserves during lean times for energy, converting fat into glucose.

Fat provides a cushion to help protect our vital organs – without fat our organs would be more prone to damage.  Furthermore, fat acts as an insulator, helping us to maintain the correct body temperature.

Fat enables our bodies to process vitamins A, D, E and K, which are all fat soluble and vital to good health.

Like amino acids in protein, fat contains essential fatty acids (EFA’s).  These EFA’s are, as their name suggests, essential to good health and likely to help the heart and immune system.  The human body cannot make its own (synthesize) these EFA’s and therefore has to get them from consumption of fat.

Some fatty acids – like omega 3 – may provide other health benefits such as complimenting the cognitive processes of the brain.

Fat makes food taste better.


So when fats are bad they are really bad for us!!!!

Due to its high calorific value (1 gram of fat = 9 calories) it is easy to consume too many calories when eating fatty foods.  Unused calories can be stored by the body as fat and will cause weight gain.

Our bodies store fat for lean times and have evolved to cope with seasonal availability of food – storing fat when food is plentiful and burning it off when food is scarce.  In the modern world, and for most people, food is plentiful all year round – our bodies store fat but never burn it off, as fat accumulates we become overweight.

Fat can cushion and protect our internal organs; however too much-cushioning means more bulk and weight which in turn increases the workload of the heart and other organs.

Your body (the liver) produces cholesterol, which is vital to a healthy body and a building block for other essential chemicals that the body produces.  Cholesterol is a waxy substance that, in low levels, flows freely around your body in the blood.  Higher levels of cholesterol mean a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Some fats are worse than others.  Saturated fats are worse for you than unsaturated fats – this is to do with their chemical structure and how the body processes them.  Trans or hydrogenated fats – which are almost exclusively manufactured (although do occur naturally in small quantities in meat and dairy produce) and are used in many processed foods are particularly bad and are linked to an increased risk of high cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease.

Other resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.