So, what’s up with fat?
Can a high-fat, low-carb diet really help fight cancer, increase athletic performance and help you LOSE…fat?
Let’s talk fat!
Not too long ago humans were doing everything they could to cut the fat OUT of food and avoided eating anything that was considered “fattening”. Now, people are throwing tablespoons of butter and oil in their coffee and devouring avocados like apples.
Well, it turns out the whole low-fat high-carb diet isn’t really working out, and may actually be harmful. So let’s talk about fat and its benefits. I don’t want to bore you with details on how to go paleo, primal or low-carb…
No, I just want to talk about fat. You make the decision.
Let’s get the basics out of the way.
First, I have to say fat can be “bad”, but only if you are not applying common sense. So let’s go over that first.
One fat gram contains 9 calories, which is five more calories than carbohydrates or protein. Since gaining and losing weight can come down to a surplus or deficit of calories, this could be where fat got the bad reputation. Fat = more calories = more weight gain = bad.
Weight loss and muscle gain are simple mathematical equations; in theory. Surplus of calories, equals gain, deficit equals loss, but viewing food this way is a dangerous game. It causes you to only look at macronutrients (carb/fat/protein) and not at micronutrients (vitamins/minerals), OR what your body and brain NEED…like fat. Not all calories are created equal and just because one food has more calories than another does not make it worse.
Common Sense Check #1 – Don’t add a ton of fat to an already crappy diet.
- Saturated fat is not bad for you (we will talk about this in a minute), contrary to popular opinion, but if you change nothing in your diet, yet add fat, it will add calories to your diet you may be incapable of burning, thus running a surplus. It would be better to cut the sugar and add healthy fat.
- Sooo…If you normally have four waffles for breakfast soaked in syrup with a glass of apple juice, then, you read this article and say “Great! Add avocados, eggs and bacon!”, that’s not how it works.
Common Sense Check #2 – Don’t load up on the wrong kind of fats.
- Processed fats are the bad ones; poly-unsaturated fatty acids, processed oils (canola, corn, or other vegetable oils that have been highly processed), margarine, shortening and other hydrogenated fats.
- Healthy is anything that is naturally occurring like animal fats (grass fed, hormone free, etc.) or plants, can you say guacamole (avocados).
Got it? Don’t add bad fat to your diet and don’t add a ton of fat to a crappy diet.
The Fat Facts
Now, we dive into fat a little deeper (no pun intended). The truth…FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. That whole idea seems to have been a huge mistake. Here is how you should look at it: Healthy fat makes you, well, healthy. SUGAR makes you fat. Bad fats (trans) kill, or, are bad for you.
Please watch this video to understand the carb vs. fat concept in “Why You Got Fat“.
What about saturated fat?
Well, according to 21 studies which included 347,747 individuals; they found absolutely no association between saturated fat consumption and the risk of heart disease…so, there’s that.
What about cholesterol?
I don’t know if I’ll be the first to tell you this, but cholesterol may not be all that bad, and has little correlation to heart disease. If I am the first to tell you this, just breathe. There is a lot of incorrect conventional wisdom out there. There have been studies (and more linked in the sources at the end of this article) done on this and they found saturated fat raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. It also changes the LDL cholesterol from small, dense LDL (very, very bad) to Large LDL, which is benign. If you need more info, this article will REALLY help.
Your brain NEEDS fat!
This part is IMPORTANT. Your brain can be much healthier by lowering your consumption of refined sugar and increasing the healthy fats and fatty acids in your diet. New studies suggest eating this way can enhance cognitive abilities and protect the brain from damage, promote repair and counteract the effects of aging…BETTER HUMANS UNITE! Once upon a time, doctors didn’t believe brain health was related to diet…but that is not the case anymore. Diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and depression are now being treated through diet (increasing healthy fats while cutting grains and sugar). Want to read more on this, check out this crazy long study.
Ketosis, is it magic?
A state of ketosis is achieved by lowering your carbohydrates (50-80 grams a day) and increasing your healthy fat consumption. Your body begins to burn compounds called ketones for energy as opposed to carbohydrates. As long as you maintain low blood sugar your body will convert fatty acids in the liver to these ketones and use them for energy.
Why would anyone want to do that???
For Fat Loss
Lowering your carbohydrate intake to 50-80 grams a day will surely send your body into a state of ketosis and rapid weight loss. Going through the switch from burning carbs to ketones isn’t easy and will take a few days for your body to adjust, but it will and you will shed weight quickly; if you are overweight.
**Do your research before attempt this for weight loss. Mark’s Daily Apple is a great resource. Do it incorrectly and you will be consuming too few carbs which means you probably aren’t eating fruits and vegetables, which isn’t good either. So keep HEALTH as your main priority, never strictly fat loss. Mark suggests resetting your insulin sensitivity, after being ketogenic for a few days/weeks, by consuming 250-300 grams of carbs.**
There are a lot of arguments going both ways for ketosis, or a low-carb diet and being an athlete. The argument for carbohydrates comes into play post workout and you need to restore your glycogen stores. This is especially important if the athlete works out multiple times a day. But that is not to say ketosis doesn’t work…
I don’t like to argue based on scientific studies or research alone when there are people out there DOING stuff. You can read this article about Ben Greenfield competing in the Ironman Triathlon on a ketogenic diet, or this article about going low-carb in CrossFit with good results and new PRs. Even the U.S. Military including Navy SEALs are starting to research and play with ketogenic diets…maybe it is the new thing. Let’s find out…
My suggestion is try it out for yourself! Fully commit to 6, or more, weeks, because your immediate performance will suffer. It is the long-term that will benefit. Most people can’t mentally make it past the few weeks of decreased performance.
This research is just catching on, so I will throw out the whole “I’m not a doctor” disclaimer right now. However, the research says, cancer cells rely on glucose almost exclusively. Chronically elevated glucose levels feed tumors and cancer cells, and elevated insulin levels promote the growth of tumors.
And while it is not hardened fact, ketosis may be a good start in a battle with cancer. However, since I am not a scientist or doctor I don’t want to give anyone advice on a battle with cancer, but I will point you to some interesting articles if you want more info:
- Potential Tactics for Defeating Cancer — A Toolkit in 1,000 Words
- Low Carb Paleo Diets vs. Cancer: A Follow-up Note To Steve Jobs
- Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?
- Ketogenic Diets and Cancer – The Current State of Research
Well, that’s fat! Hopefully I have shed some light on why you shouldn’t be afraid of fat. Now go crush an entire avocado and be healthier for it!
I linked most of my sources IN the article, but here are a few more:
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease, More on Ketosis, Top 9 Biggest Lies About Dietary Fat and Cholesterol, Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people from the Honolulu Heart Program: a cohort study