Performance Enhancing Fats
Dietary fat is a highly controversial subject that has been going through lots of changes during the last few decades. Worshipped during the golden era of bodybuilding in the 60s and 70s, falsely made a scapegoat for heart disease shortly after, and now reinvented in the last decade as a healthy food which especially men should consider because of its positive effects on hormone levels. Even more recent is the ever increasing popularity of the high-fat ketogenic diet, which is currently doing the rounds among the weight loss community with amazing results. Whatever the case, fat is an essential macronutrient that has been much overlooked in the last few centuries. This article will offer you some real insight on the matter.
The Importance of Fat
Fat is considered by many the preferred fuel of the body since we naturally store energy as body fat, but also since most of our hormones are manufactured from fatty acids and cholesterol. Vince Gironda, “The Iron Guru” which was one of the best natural bodybuilders who ever walked this earth, preferred to fuel his body with fats and often mentioned how much he hated carbs. It was his opinion that carbs could make you gain fat easier as well as make you moody from blood sugar swings, not to mention that Vince was very successful in build an incredible physique all on a low carb diet. His results defy much of the criticism that low carb diets often receive on being insufficient for building significant amounts of muscle.
However, carbs are not the devil. They can indeed be very useful for building muscle and improving strength when you know how to use them properly. They are much like the energy drink of the macronutrient world, a bit at the right time can be beneficial, but if you overdo it, you are bound to suffer the consequences (body fat). One very effective way of using carbs is by cycling them. You consume your carbs only around workouts for performance and refuelling muscle glycogen, which will give you an awesome pump and makes your muscles look great. Using carb refeed days or carb meals every 3-4 days can also be effective. At all other times, you stick to high fat and high protein foods, and this will enable you to make lean gains without putting on much fat quickly. It is by far the best techniques out there for body recomposition.
Animal foods is a given on a high fat and high protein diet, but what concentrated fat sources are best to focus on? Let’s us show you what the deal is.
Coconut Oil & MCT Oil
We start off with one of the most hyped oils of the last decade, coconut oil. Coconuts are a good example of why it is important to question the anti-fat propaganda, and especially when it comes to saturated fats. Saturated fatty acids are the primary fats in meat and butter, but also in coconuts. There is no doubt about it that coconuts are a healthy food, many traditional folk groups of South East Asia are alive and healthy to prove it since it has remained a staple food in this region for millennia.
High-fat fruits are rare, and the few that are widespread consumed today consists of mostly coconuts, avocados and olives. All three accounting for some of the most healthy foods you can eat. A good example is the Tokelau population of the South Pacific which gets 60% of their calories from coconuts, and cardiovascular disease is very rare among them. The same applies to the Kitavan’s of Papua New-Guinea. Furthering strengthening the case around coconuts is the research that has shown them to be protective of cardiovascular disease and great food to balance blood lipids. This very much goes against what has often said in media that saturated fats cause heart disease.
But that’s only the beginning for the benefits of consuming coconut oil:
- Promotes thyroid function
- Increases metabolic rate (burns fat)
- Increases testosterone
- Improves cognition
- Beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease
Coconut oil, being mostly saturated fat is also very stable for cooking, making it among the best fats for frying since it does not readily oxidize.
One unique aspect of coconut fat is that the fatty acids are MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), which is a rare type of fatty acids in the animal and plant kingdom. MCTs when consumed are metabolized differently than other fats, bypassing and going directly to the liver where they are instantly turned into energy in the form of ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are what provides most of the benefits of the ketogenic diet since ketone bodies are a more efficient fuel for the heart and brain than glucose. MCT oil (refined coconut oil) is one of the best oils for use on a ketogenic or high-fat diet, but even if you don’t eat such a diet, you can still benefit from using MCT oil.
Coconut oil has positive effects on hormone levels because of its saturated fat content. There are not any human studies on this currently available, but the results have been observed with other saturated fats such as butter. However, there are plenty of rodent studies out there that show an increase in testosterone as well as a reduction of oxidative stress in the testicles.
All in all, coconut oil and MCT oil is about as good as it gets fat wise and something everyone can benefit from. Choose coconut oil if you also want to take advantage of the oils antimicrobial effects, and choose MCT oil if you are more interested in burning fat and increasing performance. Still remember, there is MCT in regular coconut oil as well, you just have to consume more of it compared to the refined and concentrated MCT oil.
Red Palm Oil
While coconut seems to be getting most of the fame nowadays, there is another oil also derived from a type of palm tree which has some unique benefits, red palm oil. Oil from the palm tree, as well as palm sugar, has been widely used in Asian cooking for centuries, but it is less known to us in the west. In fact, it is the second most used vegetable oil in the world.
Like coconut, red palm oil contains saturated fatty acids but to a lesser degree, were about 50% is saturated, 40% unsaturated and the remaining 10% is polyunsaturated fats. It only contains 50% MCTs compared to coconut oil. This fatty acid profile makes it a pretty great runner-up for second place on the best vegetable oils, but the power of red palm oil does not lie in its fat content.
The unique properties of red palm oils come from its color. The red color of the oil is because of the content of carotenoids (same type of antioxidant substances that give carrots and tomatoes their colors), as well as their high content of natural vitamin Es (mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) and other powerful water-soluble antioxidants and flavonoids. That red palm oil contains mixed tocotrienols is a crucial aspect (about 50 times more potent) since tocopherols on their own such as in olive, sunflower and safflower are inferior to a combination of both.
All the health benefits of consuming mixed Vitamin Es and carotenoids can be applied to red palm oil consumption, and these include things such as:
Reduced risk of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cognitive impairment (beneficial for brain health)
- Blood clotting
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin A deficiency
There are also some unique benefits attributed to men consuming natural vitamin E and carotenoids:
- Reduced risk of prostate cancer
- Improves hair loss conditions such as Androgenic Alopecia (male pattern baldness)
- Antioxidant effect in the testes which is beneficial for hormone levels
However, you need to know that red palm oil is not as stable as coconut oil and many of the oils on the market are oxidized, as well as the oil is easily oxidized when used for cooking. Unless you can find a high-quality source of the oil, we rather opt for using dietary supplements such as patented Tocomin for supplying these beneficial nutrients from red palm oil. If your family has a history of prostate cancer, this is probably one of the best forms of risk reduction money can buy.
This traditional Mediterranean oil derived from the olive tree is often featured at the epicentre of many health “gurus” advice for what is considered a healthy diet for longevity.
Make sure the oil is extra virgin olive oil since other types are often oxidized and is unsuitable for cooking unless done at low heat (you are better of using coconut oil or butter for cooking). The best use of olive oil is in salads where it provides lots of flavours and in combination with balsamic vinegar, makes for a killer salad dressing low in sugar.
Lots of research are showing that olive oil raises levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and hence can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
The benefits do not stop there, a study done in Morocco showed that extra virgin olive oil could have a positive action on the hormonal profile in men, boosting testosterone and luteinizing hormone (the hormone that signals the body to produce more testosterone) by 19.9% and 17.4% percent. Here is another rat study as well which shows a 250% increase in testosterone.
How olive oil does this seems to be by increasing the conversion of cholesterol into testosterone in the testicular Leydig cells. This is a unique benefit not seen in many other foods.
Yes, you’re nutritional dreams are finally coming true, butter is indeed a healthy food compared to popular opinion. Margarine and other vegetable derived butter alternatives are inferior to the real thing and can cause more harm than good.
Besides, using things such as Margarine is madness since butter is not unhealthy, to begin with (if you still find it hard to believe that saturated fats are not unhealthy, we suggest you read this book).
Saturated fats in butter have been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and change the particle sizes of LDL cholesterol to the large size which is not associated with heart disease. Besides, centuries of butter consumption have proven it not to be harmful already. When it comes to nutrition, taking a rational approach rather than listening to the media is the way to go.
Since saturated fat is one of the best fats for boosting testosterone (as we established already when discussing coconuts), butter is indeed one of the best foods for men to include in their diet. Not only that but grass-fed butter also contains many other nutrients beneficial for testosterone such as Vitamin K2, D and A. Vitamin K2 is a rare nutrient which is missing in the diets of many people. Studies have shown vitamin K2 to be able to de-calcify the arteries.
Heart disease is a condition believed to be caused in part by chronic inflammation. Butter contains a short-chain saturated fatty acid called butyrate, which is anti-inflammatory in the body, further adding to the fact that butter can instead be used to potentially prevent and counteract heart disease.
Bulletproof coffee has become a widespread phenomenon, and the idea behind it comes from the Tibetan tradition of mixing butter into their tea. But butter tastes even better in coffee, giving it a creamy taste and substitutes as a quick energy boosting snack excellent as a breakfast replacement on the run or as a performance enhancing pre-workout beverage.
Cacao butter is the fat part of chocolate. To make chocolate as we know it, you have to mix cacao powder and cacao butter to form the mass that makes up chocolate bars.
Cacao butter in itself is a healthy fat and is mostly saturated (57-64% content) in a similar fashion to coconut oil. Cacao butter is often used in cosmetic products since it is ideal in its fat composition to use in skin care, preventing dry skin and soothing to burns and rashes. However, the power of cacao butter does not lie in only its fat, consuming this fat in its whole food chocolate form, as in dark chocolate bars or raw cacao beans or nibs also provides you with a ton of beneficial antioxidants (flavanols) and polyphenols.
The benefits of cacao flavanols could easily fill half this article, but here is a summary of the basics:
- Powerful antioxidants
- Reduces risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes
- Increases nitric oxide production and improves blood flow
- Improves muscle endurance
- Enhances testosterone production
- Increases muscle growth
Not bad for a food that also tastes amazing! As a food that contains significant amounts of healthy saturated fats as well as many other beneficial compounds, dark chocolate is in a league of its own. Try mixing 50-100g melted dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao content) into your pre workout shake and we promise you an incredible pump in the gym as well as enough stimulation to keep you focusing only on your weights!
Conclusion & Execution
The way we think about dietary fat is changing; high-fat ketogenic diets are now being introduced into the medical field as treatments for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Plant based, high carb diets no longer seems to be the only diet advocated among health “gurus”. Whatever your opinion concerning fats is, it cannot be denied that they come with far too many benefits to leave them out of your diet if you are a serious athlete.
To make all of this easy to implement for you so you can easily derive all the benefits from healthy fats, our recommendations are as follows:
- Use grass-fed butter for cooking (most stable fat)
- Consume MCT oil in your shakes, smoothies or other hot beverages (coffee, tea, etc.)
- Use olive oil in all salads as a dressing
- Consume dark chocolate as a pre-workout snack (70% cacao or more)
- Consume red palm oil as a supplement (such as Tocomin brand)
Covering the whole spectrum of beneficial fats does not have to be complicated and can make for an enjoyable diet too.