Fat vs. Fiction

The truth about the "F" word.

If your aim is to enhance your health and improve your physique, you need fat in your diet—and the right kind.

We’ve been fed false propaganda that says fat is bad. The call to avoid dietary fat is a theme in mass media and emanates from flawed and antiquated scientific literature. Professional bodybuilders as recently as 10 years ago were eliminating all fats from their diet and in the process, limiting lean muscle gains. My old buddy, bodybuilding legend Lee Labrada, is a perfect example. Early in his career I used to chide him constantly about how bad it was that he used to eliminate all dietary fat. I told him that if he would eat fat he would’ve been much, much bigger and even harder. But what I love about Lee is that he admits when he’s wrong. It was while we were hitting a chest workout together in San Antonio some 10 years ago, when Lee came clean and finally told me I was right. To this day he openly sells fat-based products like EFA and krill oil as part of his signature line.

She’ll probably kill me for saying it, but even my über-shredded fitness fanatic girlfriend, Tricia, is a reformed fat-o-phobe. Dietary fat, which used to be nonexistent in her diet, B.C. (Before Colker), is now central to her eating. Tricia would be the first to admit that when she ate no fat she had more body fat, less muscle, worse shape to her body, suboptimal physical performance, and more injuries. All that is now A.D. (After Doc) a thing of the past. With ample fat in her diet, Tricia has less body fat, more muscle, better body shape, improved performance, and far fewer injuries. Plus she’s a sexual beast in bed! Err…I hope I didn’t just say that out loud. (Oh, but I did.) Anyway, you can also benefit in this way when you understand which fats to include.

For years consumers were pumped false information that all unsaturated vegetable fats were good for you. We were urged by the food industry, and even our doctors, to avoid butter, and instead use things like margarine, vegetable shortening, and corn oil. Of course, now we now know that these same oils are directly linked to obesity, heart disease, and even cancer.

Similarly, we used to think that it was as simple as just saying that saturated fats are the bad ones and unsaturated fats are the good ones. But this is certainly not the case and, at the very least, overly simplistic. For example, coconut oil and avocado (85% fat) are both saturated fats, yet they’re extremely healthy. Coconut oil supports hormones in the body by augmenting the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone, which is an important precursor to numerous hormones including the sex steroids and adrenal hormones. There are additional positive infuences, particularly on thyroid function. So, it has a prometabolic effect in numerous ways, thus helping keep body fat down.

Coconut oil also improves blood sugar control, thus enhancing energy and endurance. It has the added benefit of increasing digestion, helping absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and supporting immunity by resisting viral, bacterial, yeast, and fungal infections. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a type of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). It has been shown that lauric acid increases the “good” form of cholesterol (HDL) and is a potent body fat incinerator, thus explaining why clinical studies confirm lower abdominal body fat among study participants and lower cholesterol. Similarly, avocado has numerous health benefts. In addition to many of the aforementioned, avocado has an unusually large load of healthy polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA’s) along with a fatty acid called oleic acid. These natural substances reduce infammation in the body and support healthy digestion and vitamin absorption.

Further complicating matters is that much of the nutritional information available today fails to even mention that there are “essential” fats. Just as with amino acids, the word  “essential” refers to the inability of the body to manufacture the nutrient and the necessity to obtain it through diet. Two key essential fatty acids are the polyunsaturated fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 or “n-3”), and linoleic acid (omega-6 or “n-6”). These two types of essential fats are distinct from one another. Omega-6 is immediately active when consumed and relatively commonplace in the diet. So deficiency is less likely (it’s readily available in foods like poultry, eggs, nuts, and grains). In contrast, omega-3 in the diet isn’t particularly metabolically active until it undergoes a conversion to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are not found in dietary abundance, occurring mostly in cold-water fish, rabbits, and wild game. So the likelihood of omega-3 deficiency is far greater.

I used to recommend eating a great deal of sashimi (raw fsh) in order to get the greatest amount of healthy fat from their diet, thus limiting the need for excess fat supplementation. But in recent years the emerging concern over toxic mercury levels has made this approach problematic. Supplemental liquid fat—anywhere from 3–10 tablespoons per day (depending on your size)— now seems to be the most sensible approach. It can be taken straight or added to salads, on meats, or into protein shakes. - FLEX


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