Fats as Exercise Fuel: Fat Loading

What does Fat do for our body?

Fat is a very important macronutrient and should be part of a balanced diet. One of the most essential functions involves the need for dietary fat to help in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: vision, skin, soft tissue, immune function, reproduction, and cellular communication
  • Vitamin E: an antioxidant to help protect our body from oxidative stress and free radical formation
  • Vitamin K: bone health, aids in blood clotting and reducing risk of coronary heart disease
  • Vitamin D: bone and immune health, muscle strength, modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular function, and reduction of inflammation

Fat also helps in regulating our body temperature, people who do not consume enough fat are found to be more prone to becoming sick, having a fever, or getting an infection. Fat also helps to cushion and protect our organs while being a source of energy for long-term, low intensity activity; this is a great source of fuel for those of you who like to go for long runs or participate in half or full marathons.

**No lower that 20-25% of calories in our diet should come from fat

What are the best type of fats to eat before competing in an event??

These fats can help to reduce inflammation and improve brain health. They can also help to reduce your risk of developing nutrition-related diseases as long as you don’t overdo it.


Natural Nut ButtersNuts & SeedsFatty FishMeatsOilsOther Foods
Almond ButtersCashews SalmonTurkey Bacon Avocado OilAvocados
Sun ButtersAlmonds AnchoviesGrass-fed BeefExtra Virgin Olive OilDark Chocolate (>72% cocoa)
Cashew ButtersWalnutsTunaTurkey SausageFlax Seed OilCoconuts
Peanut Butters Sunflower SeedsHalibutCenter Cut BaconFish Oil SupplementsEgg Yolks
Hazelnut ButtersHemp Seeds SardinesOlive OilFull-fat Dairy
Walnut Butters PecansMackerelWalnut Oil
Brazil NutsTrout Coconut Oil
Macadamia Nuts
Flax Seeds
Chia Seeds


What about the fats I should limit before I compete??

These fats tend to take their time to digest. When you are gearing up for a race or game, I suggest avoiding these fats 8-10 hours before competing. They tend to make you feel sluggish and can hinder your performance.


OilsMeatsFoodsSolid Fats
Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans fat) *found in baked goodsHigh fat ground beef (80-85% lean or lower)French FriesShortening
Vegetable OilsProcessed Meats (pepperoni, sausage)Fried FoodsMargarine
Sunflower OilBaconMayoSoybean Oil based butters
Soybean OilSalami
Corn OilBologna
Cottonseed OilFast Food Beef
Peanut Oil

Should I “Fat Load”?

There has been some research in regards to “fat loading” and the possible beneficial effects on overall performance. Although, some studies have suggested a prolonged time to exhaustion after fat loading, which means more energy for long term when training, no enhancement on aerobic power was found (did not make the athletes stronger or faster). It appears that simply having more intramuscular fat or even enhanced fat oxidation does not equal to better performance in most sports. Keep an eye out for what is to come with fat loading regimens followed by ample pre- and mid-workout carbohydrate consumption, this could be promising.

Take Home Message:

Dietary fats can have both short-term and long-term effects with athletic performance, however “fat loading” as a strategy to enhance athletic performance is currently unproven.

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