Fats in Diet can be Good for runners

Fats generally have a bad reputation amongst the public these days, and as such, many people, including athletes and runners, believe that eating anything containing fats, is unhealthy. But this isn’t true. It depends on what sort of fats you are eating.

Fats help promote muscle recovery

If you consume foods that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, this is good for muscle recovery. Omega 3 fats are a type of unsaturated fats that are good for the body and are generally found in most fish, nuts, seeds and plant produce.

Most seeds and nuts are high in healthy unsaturated fats. [Photo from Petr Kratochvil]

Most seeds and nuts are high in healthy unsaturated fats.
[Photo from Petr Kratochvil]

For example, actual foods that are rich in Omega 3 in particular, may include salmon, avocado, chia seeds, walnuts and olive oil. These are instrumental in reducing muscle soreness and inflammation caused during hard training sessions and races. So they will speed up recovery in athletes.

At the same time, these fats provide valuable energy sources for the body – which is useful for going the distance in endurance events such as marathons, ultra-running and triathlons. It also helps with the body’s absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K and forms a layer of protection around vital body organs.

Generally, the body is able to store only enough carbohydrates for about 30km of running, yet it can store adequate fats to last hundreds of kilometres of running. So for runners, by consuming more fats and reducing your carb intake, it will help you to go further with less refuelling needed at the same time.

Avoid saturated fats and trans fats

In fact, there are actually only two types of fats where you should avoid – these are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are commonly found in dairy products such as milk and cheese, while trans fats can be found in commercially processed foods including fast food, cookies and candies.

Fast foods are high in trans-fats. [Photo from CDC/ Mary Anne Fenley]

Fast foods are high in trans-fats.
[Photo from CDC/ Mary Anne Fenley]

This is because these fats, to sum it up in a nutshell, are generally harmful because they increase bad cholesterol (LDL), without increasing the good cholesterol (HDL). So this leads to health problems such as hypertension, heart disease and other cholesterol issues. Omega 3 fats and unsaturated fats on the other hand, increase your good cholesterol levels, which makes them more beneficial to the body.

However, many people may try to get rid of all fats from their diet – which should not actually be the case.

Athletes require about 25 per cent of energy from fats

Athletes, including runners, should try and get 25 to 30 per cent of their energy from fats. So for example, if you need 2,000 calories per day, then you should take about 600 calories from fats. Every 1g of fat yields 9 calories of energy, so this means that you need to consume roughly 66 grams of fat per day.

How to get more fats into your diet

Try incorporating nuts into your bowl of cereals at breakfast. [Photo from National Cancer Institute]

Try incorporating nuts into your bowl of cereals at breakfast.
[Photo from National Cancer Institute]

To get more fats into your daily diet, you may want to try incorporating some nuts into your bowl of cereals for breakfast, or snacking on trail mixes (containing nuts and dried fruits) when you are feeling hungry after your workout sessions.

As well, you can choose grilled salmon instead of say, fish & chips for dinner and use olive oil rather than animal-based oils such as butter and lard for cooking.

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