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Why do we need fat?

Athletes often fear fat because they think it is going to make them fat. Fats are an important component of our diet because of the many functions they serve in our bodies.

We need fat to:

  • Absorb the fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K)
  • Lubricate our joints and build healthy cells
  • Provide us with energy
  • Help us to feel full
  • Provide us with essential fatty acids including omega 3 fatty acids that we obtain from food because our bodies are not able to make them

While we need fat, it is important to note that not all fats are the same. Choose unsaturated fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) while limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats. Unsaturated fats are the “healthy” sources of fats include nuts, seeds, nut butters, fatty fish such as salmon, olive oil, olives, and avocados. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, beef, pork, cheese, poultry with skin and cream and trans fats are found in some packaged foods such as some crackers and cookies. Avoid fried foods and pastries especially before practice and games as these sources of fat will weigh you down instead of providing you with the energy you need to succeed.

Fats have 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram, making fats a dense energy source. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 25-35% of calories come from fat while limiting saturated fats to less than 10% of total calories.

Why not try a peanut butter sandwich as an after school snack to fuel your body pre practice or pre game? The combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat will give you the energy your body needs while keeping you comfortably full.

 

Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian with a private practice on Long Island.  Her practice, LNZ Nutrition, LLC specializes in sports nutrition, weight management and food allergies. Linzy has worked with intramural to elite athletes to help them maximize their performance through diet. Follow her blog https://lnznutrition.com/blog-media/ and instagram page LNZnutrition for more nutrition tips and product finds, and visit her website LNZnutrition.com to learn more about her and her services.

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