There are so many things that tell us that we should eat less fat. Nutrition authorities, government, big food marketing campaigns and the little voices in our head. It has now been all but accepted that fat makes you fat. Our minds follow this line of thinking and we make our choices accordingly. It makes sense right, fat makes you fat… Except it doesn’t. In this article we look at why eating fat is actually one of the best ways to maintain and even lose weight. Yes, that’s right eat fat for weight management!
If you let yourself go a bit and relax the rules by incorporating some nutritious saturated fats in your diet you will be making a great choice for your health and waiste line. That’s right add rich flavour to your meals and feel full and satisfied – you have nothing to lose! Learn the science behind my advice below.
How fat works in the body
When you eat carbohydrates, from any food source (be it bread, carrots or a sweet) your pancreas produces the insulin so your body can use the glucose as energy and then store the rest in your muscles or as fat.
Glucose (sugars that are broken down from carbohydrates) is the energy source your body will use first because it is the most readily available. If you keep topping up your body with glucose, then it is going to forget how to burn fat and this is going to make weight loss and even management quite difficult. Our bodies don’t just get energy from carbohydrate they can use both protein and fats for energy.
The body can convert protein into energy via metabolic process called gluconeogenesis, where the body generates glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino-acids (proteins when broken down in your body).
Our bodies can run as sugar burners or fat burners. Those who eat low fat and plenty of ‘healthy’ grains are more than likely sugar burners.
When fat is your primary source of fuel then your body becomes accustomed to using this kind of energy. When you run out of glucose and you are used to that source of energy then your body will signal that you’re hungry. So you will crave and ultimately reach for a carby snack.
However if there is no glucose left and you don’t top up your levels your body will eventually produce ketones, which can eventually support weight loss. Ketones are a by-product of fat metabolism and are produced when your body is in a fasted (or carbohydrate deprived) state.
When you body switches to using ketones for energy you have begun to burn fat as opposed to glucose. This is why even if you haven’t eaten for a few hours and might feel hungry, you will not just suddenly run out of energy to live. Our bodies can only store certain amounts of glucose in our liver and muscles; the rest is turned to fat. This means that we have a huge supply of fat that can be used for energy, if our body is in the right state (ie: operating as a fat burner). And when we are thinking about weight loss then that is pretty useful. That’s why it is beneficial to eat fat for weight management.
If you get more of your calories from good quality fats and less from processed carbohydrates (grains and sugary treats), then your body will be used to burning fat for energy. That means it will happily run on the stored energy in your fat cells. You won’t be on a constant blood sugar roller coaster like you would if your main energy source was carbohydrate and your body constantly has to produce insulin.
Low-carbohydrate diets have received huge amounts of criticism for being ‘dangerous’ because they will increase cholesterol and intake of saturated fat. The Atkins diet was one of the most heavily criticised of them all. Perhaps part of the problem is that there isn’t as much money for big food companies in natural whole foods that aren’t claiming to be ‘low-fat’ or ‘lite.’
There is a huge number of studies that show that low-carbohydrate diets are far more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets.
Here are five examples that show statistically significant differences in the amount of weight lost on the two kinds of diets (low-fat vs low-carb).
- A Randomized Trial of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Obesity
- Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women
- Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents
- A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity
- A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
The studies highlight that if you switch your body to a fat burning organism it is going to work for you. You will get hungry less and your body will effectively burn fat as its primary source of energy.
Ketosis: the key to using fat for weight management
Ketosis has become a bit of a buzz word when we talk about weight loss. Ketosis is when your body switches to burning ketones as its primary source of fuel after a longer period of carbohydrate deprivation. For your body to reach ketosis you have to be eating very, very low carbohydrate for a longer period (at least a couple of weeks). While ketogenic diets have been reported to increase mental clarity and treat a range of serious conditions, they are not right for everyone.Women in particular should be careful of eating too low carb because our bodies are wired to stop menstruating when our body sees signs of potential food shortages. I will cover this more at a later date.
You can still get the benefits of a lower carbohydrate diet by just reducing the kind of refined carbohydrates you eat and replace them with whole foods and good fats instead. This means vegetables covered in butter, sweet potato and coconut oil and enjoying fattier cuts of meat with vegetables.
The important things to remember are:
- Fat doesn’t make you fat.
- Fat isn’t unhealthy.
- Eat the right fats and you will do your waist line and your health a huge favour.
You don’t need to be scared of carbohydrates either! In many ways, we have begun to demonise this entire macronutrient group like we used to demonise fat. The solution is to try and get your calories from nutrient dense, natural sources as much as possible.