Know Your Fats
Did you know that fats too act as a source of energy like carbohydrates, more so during exercise? They help increase the amount of energy you can generate and also reduce the expenditure of glycogen (the reservoir of glucose) during your long runs. This can help in having a stable energy supply, better endurance and faster finish times. However, moderating fat consumption and choosing the right fats remain a challenge. For better health and performance, your balanced diet should provide around 50% to 60% of the calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 30% from fats and 10% to 15% from proteins.1,2
Types of fats
There are 3 types of fats: unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated fats are considered to be healthy fats, whereas saturated and trans fats are considered to be unhealthy fats and hence their intake needs to be limited. Unsaturated fats are known to help lower the cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of various heart diseases. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid and an unsaturated fat, is critical for proper development of the brain, nervous system and eyes. On the contrary, saturated and trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower the levels of good cholesterol, thereby increasing your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Unsaturated fats are further categorised as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.3,4 A list of food sources of unsaturated fats is given below.
Tips on healthy fat intake
Here are some of the tips that can help up your healthy fat intake.
- Reduce the sources of saturated fats such as butter, cream, deep-fried foods and full-cream dairy products.
- Choose low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk and low-fat yoghurt.
- Beware of hidden fats in processed foods and takeaways. Reading the label is the best way to know the fat content in the food. The ingredients are usually listed in the decreasing order of their presence in the product. Try to avoid the foods that mention fats first.
- Include the sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the diet such as fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Fat is an essential component of a runner’s diet. Remember to have a healthy fat intake as part of your diet before, during and after the run. Keep moving. Good luck!
- Australian Institute of Sport. Current Concepts in Sports Nutrition. Bruce, Australia: Australian Institute of Sport; 2016.
- National Institute of Nutrition. Dietary guidelines for Indians – A manual. Hyderabad, India: National Institute of Nutrition; 2010.
- FAO food and nutrition paper. Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Rome, Italy; 2010.
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Lifestyle coach facilitation guide: Post-core. Atlanta, USA: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention; 2016.