Both recreational and professional athletes strive to keep their body fat levels low. The situation is similar when following a reduction diet. How to match the right amount of fat in the diet to the objectives set?
The importance of fats in the diet of athletes
Apart from carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, fats are one of the main nutritional components. They are essential for life and play a number of important functions in the body. Products rich in fat are not recommended in large quantities, because they can contribute to the development of obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Especially athletes give them up, due to the fear of excessive fat gain. They limit both saturated and unsaturated fats to a minimum. Unfortunately, they often forget how important the latter are – especially those that the body is not able to synthesize on its own. These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The former are divided into short-chain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and long-chain eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. The latter two are found in fatty fish, among others. The body can also produce them from alpha-linolenic acid. EPA and DHA are then converted into hormone-like substances, such as thromboxanes, leukotrienes and prostaglandins, among others.
They are responsible for the blood clotting process, contributing to improvement of the body’s reaction to injury. In addition, they increase the tension of blood vessels and take care of the immune system. Prostaglandins, which reduce the ability of red blood cells to clot and reduce blood pressure, play a particularly important role. What’s more, they affect the proper functioning of the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems and relieve inflammation.
This plays a particularly important role in the case of athletes, whose muscles are highly exposed to microtrauma and inflammation as a result of intensive training. Prostaglandins are largely responsible for the muscle anabolism we experience after training and lead to an increased rate of muscle recovery.
Fats and muscle tissue gain
Steroids are hormones built on fatty compounds. One of them is testosterone, a key male sex hormone that affects libido and muscle development. As research has shown, a diet high in animal fats rich in cholesterol and saturated fatty acids translates into maintaining high testosterone levels. The greatest increase is seen when monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids are consumed in a 2:1 ratio.
A low-fat diet that provides less than 20% of the daily caloric supply may contribute to lower cholesterol levels. On the other hand, a high fat supply adversely affects androgen levels. Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids have a positive effect on testosterone production.
Fats – a valuable source of vitamins
Fats are necessary for the absorption of vitamins soluble in them. This is why low-fat diets are simultaneously deficient in vitamins A, D, E and K. Lipids allow for the absorption and transport of these compounds and the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Our body, yes, is able to produce some vitamin D as a result of UV exposure. It also produces a small amount of vitamin A from beta-carotene, which is found in many fruits and vegetables.
The situation is slightly different in the case of vitamin E. Its sufficient quantities are found only in egg yolk, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Vitamin E effectively delays skin aging, protects against heart disease and reduces muscle soreness after exercise.
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