Is Eating Fat Bad and How Much Should I Eat?

Last time we talked all about protein. While protein is somewhat of a constant, think of fat and carbs as variables that will swing up or down in relation to each other depending on your activity level and goals.

First off, let’s talk about fat. There’s still a common misconception that fat is bad and especially saturated fat will clog your arteries. This simply is not true. (fun fact: only 25% of the cholesterol in your body is from diet – the other 75% is produced by our own bodies!)

There is a long history of why this message was perpetuated, but it essentially came down to some key researchers cherry picking data to fit their agendas and society latched onto these “findings.” Well, guess what happens when you want to make food tasty, but also low fat? You add a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients and it’s no wonder why obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) rates are skyrocketing.

Dietary fat is essential to the body – your cell membranes, hormones, brain function, joints, immune system, and much more all depend on consuming fat.

I was considering going down the rabbit hole of monounsaturated vs. polyunsaturated (PUFAs) vs. saturated fats and how they’re different, but there are plenty of posts out there already if you’re interested. The main takeaways you should know about quality fats:

  • omega-3s are generally anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are generally inflammatory. Both are needed by the body, but over time society has been consuming way more o-6s than o-3s
  • eating fatty fish like salmon will increase your omega-3s which is a good thing. I’m not a big fan of those “superfood” lists, but salmon is pretty much a superfood that we all should be eating more of.
  • while you shouldn’t be afraid of saturated fat, you may want to go lean meats if they’re conventionally raised to keep the omega-6s down which are inflammatory. If you’re eating grass-fed beef, they have a much better omega-3/omega-6 profile
  • when cooking, saturated fats are better because they’re more stable (the reason they’re called “saturated” is that all carbon bonds are paired with hydrogen atoms and therefore, more stable). So things like tallow, ghee, grass-fed butter, and coconut oil are all great for cooking. Olive oil is great as a dressing, but less stable for cooking at high heat. Vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, and peanut oil are not recommended for cooking both for their instability and high levels of omega-6s.
  • I am not a fan of margarine since it’s made from vegetable oil. Eat real butter made from milk and if you can get your hands on Kerry Gold or other grass-fed butter, even better.
  • nuts and seeds can be fine, but don’t overload both because it’s easy to put down a lot of calories and also they’re typically more omega-6. Macadamia nuts are an example of a better option in terms of omegas.
  • Peanuts are not nuts

Now that we’ve talked about the different qualities of fats, let’s talk about quantities. To do that, we’re going to need to do some math.

As I’ve said before in previous posts, we start most people on a 40/30/30 diet, so 30% of calories will come from fat. Our InBody machine will give you a BRM, or basal metabolic rate. This is the amount of calories that your body needs without taking activity into consideration. Once we multiply for an activity factor, we have a TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure.

Let’s say someone’s BMR is 1500 calories and they workout 3x/week. We would multiply their BMR by about 1.3 so their TDEE is around 2000 calories.

Remember that every 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. So 30% of 2000 calories is 600 calories of fat. Divide that by 9 and you get 67 grams of fat per day.

So what does 67 grams of fat look like? Well, it could be 5 tablespoons of olive oil, or 1 cup of almonds, or 7 large eggs. But that would be ignoring the fact that most proteins already have fat in them, even if they’re lean meats. That’s why using an app like MyFitnessPal is a good tool to calculate your daily macronutrients.

While we are not afraid of fat, we also recognize that it’s over twice as many calories per gram as compared to protein or carbs. So this is a main motivation to eat lean meats – it’s to not go overboard on calories without realizing it.

If you’re confused about how much fat to calculate for yourself, we generally find smaller people are around 50-55 grams of fat and more active or larger people are around 60-70 grams. We really don’t want you to be lower since fat is so essential to your body, but it’s definitely possible to be higher fat if you’re lower carb or keto which I’ll talk about in the next post. Remember, for most people fat and carbs are like a seesaw – if one is significantly higher, then the other should be lower. However, most people should aim to have a reasonable amount of both.

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