DOES EATING FAT MAKE YOU FAT?
If you want to lose weight then it makes sense that you should eat less fat right?
Fats, especially saturated fats, have been demonised in the media over the years.
Although it’s intuitive to think that eating fat will make you fat, this is overly simplistic. In actual fact, eating fat will play a key role if you’re trying to lose weight. But how much is too much? How much fat do you need to lose weight sustainably and is there such a thing as “good” fats and “bad” fats?
We’ll be answering these questions and much more in this article.
What are fats and do you need them?
Fats are essential to all life, in fact, your brain is made up of 60% fat! (1)
I know crazy right?
They play a vital role in supporting our metabolism (the amount of energy we use to lose weight), cell signalling, the health of various body tissues, immunity (fighting disease), hormone production (which effects our emotions and mood) and the absorption of many key disease fighting nutrients.
Finally eating enough good quality fats can improve our mood and reduce cravings which can cause us to overeat.
Do fats make it harder to lose weight?
The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. If you want to know how many calories you need to lose weight you can use our simple calorie calculator here.
So instead of blaming fats, carbs or protein, it’s often more useful (and accurate) to focus on the quality and quantity of each one.
With the huge amount of information on the internet, it can be hard to navigate what works and what doesn’t.
That’s why we’ve created these articles and our Free Weight Loss Kickstarter, to help simplify the principles of weight loss so that you can start getting great results sustainably.
Although fats are not solely to blame for the obesity epidemic we find ourselves in, because they taste so great, they can be easy to overeat just like carbohydrates.
Next time you are in the garage, local small supermarket or restaurant, look at the number of high fat and high carbohydrates food and drinks on sale compared to protein and this should give you a good indication of the situation.
Protein is no more important than fats. However, foods high in protein are digested more slowly than fats so help us control our hunger better.
This is why we don’t have a fat-related question on our Health by Science plate. Because we focus on getting lots of vegetables and protein, fat is most often used when cooking and so we rarely need to top up with other high-fat foods.
The other reason we emphasise protein and vegetables is that most people find it difficult to eat enough vegetables and protein, whereas having too many fats and carbs is more often a problem than getting too few.
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How many fats do you need for weight loss?
As we’ve already said, if you don’t eat enough fats then you will find it harder to regulate your mood and your overall health will take a big hit. The optimal recommended intake for fat is less of an exact science as it is for carbs and protein (which you can see here and here).
Most reputable guidelines suggest that 20-35% of your calories should come from fats (2). Once you take into account the optimal recommendations for carbs and proteins which is roughl 1g per kilogram of your bodyweight each day is a good guide.
Like most things in life, the poison is in the dose and you can find your optimal dose by working with our expert coaches.
What does that look like in real life?
The most accurate way to keep track of your protein intake is to use My Fitness Pal which syncs directly with our app which you get free access to in our Free Weight Loss Kickstarter.
If My Fitness Pal isn’t for you then, fortunately, there’s another way…
Your hand can function as a good portion size guide and for fats we use a thumb size. Although not quite as accurate as My Fitness Pal, it’s easy to use, it’s relative to you (the bigger the hand the bigger the portion) and you always have it with you!
What are the best sources of fats?
Now that you know the quantity of fats that you need, it’s important to understand where the best quality sources come from.
Processing food isn’t inherently bad but in general, the less processing a food has been through the more chance it has of sustaining its nutrient density. Nutrients which are key for helping you to feel full and keep your weight under control.
It’s also important to remember that foods are not inherently “good” or “bad”, there are just better quality foods which we should aim to eat more of and “poorer” quality foods which we should aim to eat less of when trying to lose weight.
Can you eat poor quality fats and still lose weight?
A diet missing poor quality fats is not a healthy diet. These foods taste really good and are there to be enjoyed.
Can we live without them? Absolutely.
Do we have to? No.
In our opinion, the problem is that they used to be considered treats but now such foods are extremely convenient, and therefore, common in most people’s diets today. This can make it hard very difficult to control our energy intake.
If, however, you are able to make up 80% of your diet from good quality food, however, then you can get away with eating treats and still losing weight. So long as your calorie intake is low enough.
At first, this can be hard because these foods typically taste great and you will crave them.
Amazingly though, our taste is plastic (meaning our cravings can change) and responds to the foods we eat regularly.
Understanding your nutrition requirements based on your goals and individual barriers is a key part of achieving sustainable weight loss, just like our clients below.
“I’ve been working with Jamie since Feb 2019 and moved to Health by Science with him. I love working out at their gym, everyone’s super friendly.”
Over a 12 month period, David managed to lose over 10kg and record his lowest and healthiest weight in the last 25 years.
Lucy used to think that people like her were not meant to exercise. Lucy has now achieved results she never thought were possible.
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1) JY;, C. C. (n.d.). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20329590/#:~:text=The human brain is nearly,integrity and ability to perform.
2) Liu, Ann G, et al. “A Healthy Approach to Dietary Fats: Understanding the Science and Taking Action to Reduce Consumer Confusion.” Nutrition Journal, BioMed Central, 30 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577766/.