An OFM Primer on Fats
Below is a “cliff note” version of fats in order to give the OFM athlete the info needed in order to understand the area so that they can make the right food choices and provide more mental clarity.
We have 3 different types of fats. All fats then come in different lengths, short, medium and long.
How they are structured and how long they are, govern their function.
These are fats that have carbon to carbon single bonds e.g. look like this
C – C – C – C – C – C – C – C
These are very stable bonds and are aligned straight so they are stable and pack together easily. This means that do not break down easily and do not go rancid. Hence, they are good for cooking and also do not create any free radicals.
So they are only termed “saturated” simply because they are saturated with single carbon bonds. They are not saturated with extra calories. Its just how they are formed.
Examples: butter, lard, cream, cheese, fattier cuts of meat (pork belly, rib eye beef, t-bone), lamb, egg yokes, coconut oil.
These are fat that have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other. e.g. looks like this:
C – C – C = C – C – C – C
A double bond is easier to break than a single. So these fats are still quite stable, but not as stable as saturated fat.
Examples : avocado, olive oil , all nuts and seeds, nut butters and seed butters.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more pairs of double bonds and, therefore, lack four or more hydrogen atoms. e.g look like this
C – C – C – C = C – C – C = C – C
As they have 2 or more double bonds , they are easier to break down. The breakdown of the double bonds creates a free lone electron, this is known as a “free radical” . These guys don’t like to be free so they try to jump and latch on to other molecules. But by latching on, they disrupt the bonds of other molecules and this is what is termed inflammation. Heat breaks down these double bonds, so high temperature cooking with these types of oils is harmful
Examples: nuts, seeds, eggs, oily fish
All fats and oils, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are some combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats. Some have an even mix. For example, Salmon actually has a fairly even mix of all types of fats. Some contain a higher percentage as a majority. For example, olive oil, contains mainly Oleic acid which is monounsaturated.
Finally, how long they are is important to note. Saturated fats found in butter, cream and coconut oil are short to medium in length. This means that they can get metabolized quicker and used as fuel. So these foods are actually better direct sources of energy.
The two key important points to understand about what makes fat “bad are as follows:
- Refined Polyunsaturated Oils
The thinking was that saturated fat caused heart and cholesterol problems so the focus then shifted to making oils and foods with more polyunsaturates.
Extraction of oils from foods like sunflower seeds, corn, soya, safflower, canola requires heat and pressure. Not to mention solvents. But we know that high heat and pressure cause oxidation. And we know that polyunsaturates have lots of double bonds that can be oxidized. So, making these oils causes lots of free radical production. Free radicals cause cellular damage.
2.Omega 6 Content
Omega 6 means that the last double bond is located on the 6th carbon atom of the chain. One of their important functions is the production of prostaglandins. These have hormone-like properties and govern all inflammatory processes, a combination of controlling the pro-inflammatory actions and anti-inflammatory actions. However, omega 6 fatty acids cause more pro-inflammatory reactions. They compete with the omega 3 fatty acids which have more anti-inflammatory properties.
This raised inflammation is what is linked to many of todays diseases – arthritus, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, IBS, cancer and various auto-immune diseases.
Hence, we don’t want too much Omega 6 fat in our diet. We want more omega 3 fat or at least a balance of the omega 6:omega 3 ratio. However, this ratio has been shown to be skewed in the modern diet at 20:1 instead of 1:1.
How that has been caused is two-fold as I am describing here.
1 – cooking everything in these refined oils. These oils particularly from seeds, are loaded with omega 6’s. So not only are you consuming an oxidised oil, you are consuming excess omega 6 fatty acids.
2 – our modern diet contains foods with too many omega 6 fat sources. If you look at the ingredient list of any sauce, dressing, pastry, soups, crackers, crisps, biscuits, even “healthy” cereal bars… you will see the oils such as sunflower, canola, rapeseed, and vegetable. In fact, most packaged foods in the supermarket and even foods at cafes and restaurants are made using refined oils.
Lastly, and this goes back to always looking at how our ancestors lived. The meat they ate came from animals that were free to roam and feed. Today, most of our meats are not free to roam and are fed grain and seeds. The very grain and seeds that contain more omega 6 type fats.
As an OFM Athlete, we need to be going back to our roots and avoid modern refined foods. Directly related to that, as athletes, we want to manage our inflammation and follow a more anti-inflammatory nutritional approach. Athletes create enough stress for their bodies as it is. We don’t want to be adding fuel to the fire by causing more inflammatory stress from the foods we eat.
That means we need to limit omega 6 fats and increase omega 3 fats.
Getting more saturated fats back into the diet to power your OFM training and competitions is relatively easy and can be accomplished without having to adhere to a rigid protocol. In fact, most OFM athletes are amazed at how easy it is to maintain on a daily basis once they reach the “zen” of OFM.
So the fat guidelines for an OFM Athlete are as follows:
- Avoid all refined cooking oils
- Cook with the more stable saturated fats : butter, ghee, lard, duck fat, goose fat, coconut oil
- Avoid foods made using refined polyunsaturated oils
- Source foods made with natural fats e.g. hummus made with olive oil instead of sunflower oil.
- Eat more omega 3 foods and limit grain fed animals e.g. consume salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, grass fed meats and wild game
- Eat mainly saturated fat , some mono and poly. Saturated fat is the cleanest to burn as it creates no free radicals.
- Don’t eat high omega 6 foods in excess. Nuts like almonds have lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. However they are also naturally high in omega 6 type fats. So while a handful a few times a week is fine, several handfuls, along with scoops of almond butter and treats made with almond flours…. is just too much of a good thing. It results in excessive omega 6 consumption and ruins our omega 3:6 ratio.
It is best to always take a sensible approach to your food choices. Buy foods as close to their natural state is a simple rule of thumb. That means the words on packaging such as “reduced fat” “fat free” “low in saturates” etc, are foods that should be avoided.
Fresh Whole foods which are naturally high in saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are easily found in any supermarket and are generally easy to prepare in spite of the saturated fat phobia which has invaded the American psyche.
Fresh meat (including organ meats), poultry, and fish, egg yolks. Dairy: cream, sour cream, butter, whole milk yogurt, cheeses. Avoid low-fat or fat-free dairy and very lean cuts of meat unless you are adding fat back in.
Coconut oil, coconut milk. Coconut oil/milk is very high in saturated fats which are relatively quickly metabolized but are does not contain the fat soluble Vitamins A, K, E, D which are found in animal sources.
Cured meats like bacon, salami, prosciutto, copa, pancetta, pate, liverwurst and Braunschweiger, foie gras, etc. are all great choices. These traditional cured meats do contain a small amount of preservatives so it is recommended they compliment your intake of whole fresh meats rather than make up the bulk of your meat intake also keep in mind they tend to be less processed than hot dogs, SPAM, bologna etc which should be avoided..
Foods like cream, butter, and cheeses are great sources of fat and can be very practical for lunches and snacks.
Most OFM athletes will find that as they “fat-adapt” they will drop snacking per se then begin to drop a full meal (or two) and replace it with a snack.
Typical OFM meals:
- Coffee or Tea with heavy cream.
- Whole Eggs with bacon, ham, sausage, steak
- Avocado and cheese omelette
Many OFM athletes find a cup of coffee or tea with heavy cream (or butter or coconut oil) and a VESPA 30-45 minutes prior to a workout is all they need to sustain them for a prolonged hard morning workout.
The key to starting your OFM day (unless competing) is to keep the carb load to a minimum so your body sets off on a fat-burning day. This will not only help control appetite and energy levels but is an integral part of OFM metabolic training. So while a teaspoon of sugar or honey in coffee or tea with heavy cream is not going to affect the OFM athlete too much a large bowl of yogurt or oatmeal or potatoes with your eggs and bacon will set in motion the blood sugar rollercoaster and impact your potential to use “fat as fuel”.
Salad with meat/poutry/fish/hard-boiled egg, preferably using homemade dressing to avoid the soybean oil found in virtually all salad dressings.
Snack of salami with cheese.
Make Lunch your meal of the day with a meal-size portion of meat/poultry/fish, vegetable finished with butter or bacon fat etc. On most days avoid having a portion of starch like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, bread, pasta etc. When including carbs always “sneak” them in under a blanket of fat.
OFM athletes should try to consume this meal as early as possible to enhance sleep and digestion. Each athlete needs to determine what works best for them and their situation.
Meal-size portion of fresh meat/poultry/fish, fresh vegetables finished with butter or bacon fat etc. This includes fruits one eats like a vegetable like avocadoes, tomatoes, etc. On most days avoid having a portion of starch like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, bread, pasta etc. When including carbs always “sneak” them in under a blanket of fat.
Many OFM athletes will find they feel and perform better when their evening meal is a light one. This is especially true for the daily routine outside of competition.