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5 ways healthy fats make your calories work for you

5 ways healthy fats make your calories work for you

Gone are the days of logging miles on the treadmill or hours on the exercise bike trying to outwork your calories. If you have ever spent 30-60 minutes on a piece of exercise equipment it may show that you burned somewhere between 200-800 calories (dependent on speed/intensity).  After a workout, have you ever thought to yourself “wait a minute, how is it possible that one mocha, latte, or smoothie has more calories in it than I just burned in one hour of exercise?” Thankfully, there is an abundance of scientific studies and anecdotal evidence that demonstrates “what” you eat is much more important than “how much” you eat. With some simple food choices, you can eat in a manner that will support your health and fitness goals. One of the fundamental choices you can make is to begin utilizing healthy fats as a primary source of calories. Healthy fats will stimulate your body to increase your metabolism, serve as a source of sustained energy, promote a feeling of fullness, increase your cardiovascular capacity and decrease inflammation.

Here are some recommended sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocado
  • Olive
  • Coconut
  • Nuts
  • Palm oil (ethically sourced)
  • Egg yolks (ideally organic and/or pastured)
  • Full-fat dairy (ideally organic, pastured, and/or grass fed)
  • Animal fats (ideally organic, pastured, and/or grass fed)

1. Boost Metabolism

Healthy fats are the building blocks for the hormones essential to developing and maintaining muscles. Muscles have a higher metabolic rate than body fat; thus, by maintaining lean muscle mass you will burn more calories throughout the course of the day. The consumption of healthy fats does not stimulate the release of insulin.  However, this does occur with the consumption of carbohydrates. Consumed carbohydrates are broken down into glucose.  The presence of glucose in your bloodstream stimulates the release of insulin to aid in transferring the glucose into your cells for energy. Unfortunately, excess consumption of processed and simple carbohydrates will result in the storage of the unused carbohydrate calories as body fat.

2. Sustained Energy

One of the best analogies I’ve heard for comparing fats to carbohydrates as a source of fuel is to imagine your metabolism as a wood burning stove.  You can keep the fire burning within your stove by continuously adding kindling (i.e. carbohydrates) to it all day. Or you can feed your stove a slow-burning log (i.e. fats) 2 or 3 times a day. Both options will work, however using fats for a fuel source is much more efficient. Fats have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate. Thus, per weight, you can obtain twice the amount of energy from fat compared to carbs. 

3. Increased Satiety

A wonderful benefit of utilizing healthy fats within your meal planning is satiety.  Eating healthy fats will result in feeling full while consuming an overall smaller volume of food compared to eating a high carbohydrate diet. In addition, the satiety you will experience can last for hours on end. As your body adapts to burning fat for fuel, you will find a significant decrease in hunger cravings.  Gone will be the days of getting “Hangry”!

4. Increased CV fitness

There are a couple of nice cardiovascular (CV) side effects from incorporating healthy fats into your diet, as well. These CV benefits include increased oxygen uptake (VO2) and decreased carbon dioxide (VCO2) production at the cellular level.  A decreased production of VCO2 will result in more efficient breathing. Basically, your body will become more efficient at utilizing oxygen and experience a decrease in the amount of CO2 that needs to be exhaled. All of this will result in you becoming less and less “out of breath” with physical activities.

5. Decreased Inflammation

One of the most important benefits of utilizing healthy fats as a fuel source is a decrease in the number of reactive oxidation species (ROS), aka “free radicals” produced at the cellular level. An overload of free radicals is associated with cellular and systemic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is associated with a myriad of illnesses including obesity, diabetes, cancer, neurological and cardiovascular disease. Eating your “anti-oxidants” is important, but it is probably more important to produce less of these free radicals.

Bonus Tip:  Try to eliminate and/or moderate your consumption of “unhealthy” fats as much as possible.  Unhealthy fats may contain chemical residue from their production, are unstable, easily oxidized and contribute to cellular, cardiovascular and systemic inflammation.  The most common types of unhealthy fats are trans fats and “vegetable” oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean.

Literally, you are what you eat.  The cell walls of your brain and body are built, in part, from the fats that you consume. The nutritional choices you make will directly impact the quality of cells you are regenerating on a daily basis. Go ahead, eat some healthy fats and witness the wonderful transformation your body makes, inside and out.

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