How much fat?
I had a question about Recommended Dietary Allowances. For instance is there an RDA for the number of saturated fat grams? However, nutritionists always seem to preach a low fat diet, low in saturated fat. So is there a maximum amount of fat which I should always strive to stay under?
The recommendations for prevention of heart disease is to keep total fat under 35% (15 to 30% is recommended) of total calories, but most importantly to keep saturated fat and trans fat (hydrogenated oils) low. Persons at risk for heart disease should keep these fats at less than 7-percent of their total calorie intake, so there is a little room in your diet for these items but not much. Saturated fat includes cheese, fatty meats, and skin on poultry. Trans fat is found in stick margarines, potato chips, and other commercial baked goods.
The majority of your fat intake should come from unsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats can provide up to 10% of calories, and monounsaturated fat can provide up to 20% of total calories. Polyunsaturated fats include soybean and safflower oils, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats include avocado, olive and canola oil, and almonds and cashews.
In regards to fat requirements, you do need to have essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid which are polyunsaturated fats, as part of a healthy diet. Good sources include flax oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, walnut oil, and soy nuts.
Dear Monique Ryan;
I always hear that professional cyclists eat low fat, high carbohydrate, and high protein diets. How much fat does a low fat diet contain? Obviously different people need a different amount of fat, but can you give a ballpark figure?
The amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat that an athlete needs is individual, but we often have to make some general recommendations. Often, you will see an athlete’s diet expressed as percentage of these nutrients, when really grams per pound or kilogram is more appropriate. That’s because endurance athletes need specific amounts of carbohydrate intake based on the volume and intensity of their training that day. They also have higher protein needs their sedentary counterparts. What this means is that they work at obtaining enough of these nutrients in their diet. However, it is not advised to do this at the expense of an adequate intake of fat.
Fat supplies essential fatty acids, and also replenishes your muscle triglyceride stores, a fuel source during endurance training. For most endurance athlete who are consuming adequate calories a diet that is 20to 25% fat calories seems to work. Some days may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs. You can also aim for a minimum of 0.5 grams of fat per pound of weight (about 1 gm/kg weight).
So on a high calorie training day of 4000 calories, a cyclist or triathlete may consume 650 gm carbohydrate, 150 gm protein, and 89 gm fat.
is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over twenty-two years of experience and is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, a Chicago based nutrition consulting company that provides nutrition programs for endurance athletes across North America. Monique consults with the Chicago Fire Soccer Team, and was the nutritionist for Saturn Cycling from 1994 to 2000. She has also consulted with the Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, the Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team, and the Rollerblade Racing Team. Monique has consulted with USA Cycling, and was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Women’s Road Team leading to the 2004 Athens Olympics. She has also provided nutrition consultation services to USA Triathlon for coaching clinics, athlete clinics, and for the resident athlete team and was a member of the USAT Performance Enhancement Team for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Monique is the author of “SportsNutrition for Endurance Athletes,” 2nd edition (March 2007), from VeloPress,which provides sports specific nutrition for road cycling, mountain biking, running, triathlon, swimming, rowing, and adventure racing. She is also author of “PerformanceNutrition for Winter Sports” (PeakSports Press), “Performance Nutritionfor Team Sports” (PeakSports Press), and “Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. Monique is a regular contributor to VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, Outside, and ACE Fitness Matters. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.