Energy source: Fat
Besides carbohydrates, fats are a very important energy source. When the carbohydrates ‘run out’ we switch to fat burning. This means: a direct shortening on our energy level. Because even though our body can store unlimited amounts of fat, fats aren’t very suitable for the speed of burning. During long runs and most certainly with trail running for longer distances fats can be a good energy source. With distances, over 50 km, the pace is often slower, therefor you will burn less carbohydrates and more fats.
This is what you can train during endurance training and by not training too quickly, but training in zones. Maybe you recognise the appetite after such a run, often you would want something fat. However you don’t only see skinny people on the trails. This could have different causes. Many runners focus their attention on carbohydrates and eat too little fat and proteins. Too many carbohydrates will eventually be converted into fats. The big difference is between saturated and non-saturated fat acids.
Fats are often seen as something bad, which we don’t need. However this isn’t true. There are also good fats. Bad fats are the so called trans fats. Fats have their own very important function in our body, like isolation against cold. Besides this, fats are a way of transport for vitamins and minerals. They take care of a good resistance.
Athletes with a very low fat percentage are often also sensitive to viruses. This can cause them to catch every flue that passes by. This is of course not what’s meant to happen.
Saturated fat acids
Saturated fat acids are very stable. This is the case because, all the binding possibilities are used to bind a hydrogen atom (they are practically full and can’t handle any more bindings). Saturated fat is solid in room temperature.
Animals store their fat in a saturated form. They do this, because this form protects the organs better as well as it isolates better, and therefor keeps the temperature of their body better. Besides this the body can store the vitamins A, D and E better in this fat tissue. Fat in meat and butter is saturated fat.
With a relative surplus of saturated fat acids, some of these molecules, because they are so stable, can’t be broken down. The body will then be forced to store them somewhere else in the body. When this happens on the inside of arteries, this could cause arteriosclerosis, in the long run a live threatening illness. Also the elasticity of the cells, suffers from a surplus of saturated fat acids.
Not particularly the saturated fat acids themselves, but the ratio saturated – non-saturated fat acids is important. We as Westerners have a ratio of 20:1, where as a ratio of 4:1 is optimal.
Saturated fat acids are present in:
- meat and meat products
- cheese, dairy butter and whipped cream
- frying fat
- coconut, coconut oil, coconut fat
- coffee creamer
- cookies and pastry
Saturated fats are excellent for frying. Saturated fats don’t oxidize and don’t release any toxic gasses when heated. Using margarine or sunflower oil for frying is actually never a good choice, because they will release toxic substances. Besides this margarine contains trans fats. Conclusion: Fry with saturated fats and bake your cake with dairy butter.
Unsaturated fat acids
Within the group of unsaturated fat acids, we have: the multiple unsaturated fat acids and the singular unsaturated fat acids. Multiple unsaturated fat acids; you can divide these into two groups the omega 3-fat acids and the omega 6-fat acids. Omega 6 is present in oils, which cause us to get enough of these. Arachidonic acid is an acid that is present within the group of omega 6. Arachidonic acid is essential for stopping inflammatory processes, antihypertensive, stopping thrombus and cholesterol formation and stimulating immune cells. The intensive athlete, who often suffers an infection, should take a look at his/her omega 6 level.
Omega 3 has EPA and DHA. This is present in fish and meat. EPA and DHA decrease your cholesterol level and keep your blood thin and by this decrease a high blood pressure. Cultures, which eat a lot of fish, are known for the fact that they barely suffer heart and vascular diseases.
Singular unsaturated fat acids
Another name for singular unsaturated fat acids is omega 9-fat acids. The most known omega 9-fat acids is oil acid. Olive oil, for instance is an omega 9-fat acid and contains a lot of oil acid. Oil acid has a strong cholesterol decreasing effect. It doesn’t increase the level of HDL (high density lipoproteins) cholesterol, however it does decrease the LDL (low density lipoproteins) cholesterol.
Besides this omega 9-fat acids have an anti-inflammatory function. They help the decaying of saturated fat acids and they keep the cell wall elastic. Omega 9-fat acids are present in olive oil, sesame oil, avocados and peanuts. Nowadays we get enough omega 6 and 9 in our system via a natural way, but the omega 3, that is present in deep sea fish and fat fish, we don’t have enough of anymore. For athletes it is advised to, at times eat some deep-sea fish or fat fish in order to get your omega 3 level up.
This maintains the ratio between omega 3, 6 and 9 balanced. Fats are of course important as an energy source, transportation method for vitamins and minerals and way of protection. However the danger of eating them too much is also present when trying to eat more carbohydrates and proteins. So make sure you keep a good balance between these three energy sources; carbohydrates, proteins and fats.