Fat

LAST UPDATED: October 18, 2017

Performance benefits of fat

  • Provides energy in endurance activities
  • Helps the body maintain insulation from the cold
  • Transports fat–soluble vitamins

Some fat is necessary for performance. Fat supplies energy, but not as fast as carbohydrates. Body fat doesn’t burn easily—it needs more oxygen than carbohydrates to be used for energy, so it is not an ideal fuel for high–intensity activity. It also takes time for your body to transport fat from your fat cells to your muscles. This means that fat cannot fuel quick bursts of activity. Fat does, however, provide an important fuel source for prolonged activities. Unlike glycogen, your body can store more fat than you will ever need.

The problem with eating too much fat

The bad news is that too much fat, especially saturated fats, can hurt your performance and health. Highly processed, fatty foods, such as fast food, stay in your stomach longer than carbohydrates. This means that if you eat a high–fat meal before heading out for a long run or a fitness class at the gym, the fat will sit heavy in your stomach and make you feel sluggish.

A high–fat diet also contributes to obesity. Excess body fat can lower your potential to reach optimum performance and affect your physical appearance goals. Excessive dietary fat also increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and cancer—being physically active does not make you exempt from these conditions.

Fat limits for peak performance

For peak performance and to maintain a healthy body weight, you should limit your fat intake to 20 to 25 percent of your daily calorie intake, or the amount of calories remaining after carbohydrate and protein needs have been accounted for. Choose healthier sources of fat such as nuts, olive oil, peanut butter, and avocados, which not only provide important nutrients, but also have added health benefits.

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