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  • Writer's pictureMuscle Nation

Is Dietary Fat Bad?

Despite popular belief, a bit of fat in your diet can actually help you build muscle. The key is knowing what type is best to achieve your goals and how much to include in your daily diet.

Dietary Fat (the fat we eat) is a macronutrient that provides energy for your body. Our bodies

digest dietary fat primarily in the small intestine. The pancreas produces enzymes that break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The liver produces bile that helps you digest fats and certain vitamins.

In other words, the fat you eat "doesn't go right to your hips." Body fat is created by our bodies to store energy (excess calories).

Great! I can eat fat! Can I have Ben & Jerry's for breakfast?


There are good and bad kinds of fat; (more on this after a bit of science...).

According to, "Fat in your diet has an influential role in maintaining optimal cell structure and hormone levels, both of which are crucial for supporting a muscle-building environment. Fat is required to protect cell membranes, the vital exterior of every cell, and myelin sheaths surrounding nerves, says Harvard Health Publishing. Dietary fat is also essential for muscle movement, blood clotting and inflammatory response, which helps the body repair from injury during intensive training.

"All kinds of fats have over twice the energy when compared to carbs and protein. Dietary fats provide nine calories per gram while carbohydrates and proteins each provide four calories per gram, according to the American Heart Association. Fat ingested as food is synthesized by oxidation and broken down into fatty acids, which are transported via the bloodstream to fuel your muscles during your training sessions."

Also, fat helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. These micronutrients include vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are crucial for building and maintaining muscle.

  • Vitamin A is an important antioxidant, particularly for endurance training, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

  • Vitamin D is needed for normal muscle function — low vitamin D levels have been tied to muscle instability, according to the June 2018 Bone Reports publication.

  • Vitamin E helps to prevent muscle atrophy and promotes muscle regeneration according to Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Scientists found that a deficiency of vitamin E inhibits healing of plasma membranes. Keep in mind that membrane tears occur as we use our muscles and this is a natural part of our body's ability to repair itself and grow new muscle fibers.

  • Vitamin K also assists with post-workout recovery and endurance. Dietary fat assists with Vitamin K absorption and bioavailability. Not only that, but a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in July 2017 claims that vitamin K2 can help restore mitochondrial function and may increase the function of skeletal and cardiac muscle.

And most importantly (in my opinion), having a healthy level of dietary fat can increase testosterone production. We know that testosterone is the primary anabolic hormone--that which induces muscle growth and hypertrophy. But wait, there's more!

  • An article published in the World Journal of Men's Health states that higher levels of testosterone in the bloodstream correlated with a decline in the risk of heart disease and had a negative correlation with obesity.

  • According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, most people start losing muscle around age 30. A lack of physical activity (including a sedentary lifestyle) can cause between 3 and 5 percent loss of lean muscle mass each decade. This muscle loss may be due to lower testosterone and estrogen levels, present in both men and women.

  • The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, states that significantly restricting fat intake may result in reductions in testosterone levels that could impair hormonal response (in both men and women). Collective data from the review indicated that when extremely lean body compositions are attained through aggressive dieting, the caloric deficit and loss of body fat may have a large impact on testosterone levels.

OK, OK. So what can I eat?

When possible, avoid trans fats and substitute saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats...

  • Use oil instead of solid fats. For example, saute with olive oil instead of butter, and use oil when baking.

  • Eat fish, such as salmon and mackerel, instead of meat at least twice a week to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bake or broil seafood instead of frying it.

  • Choose lean meat and skinless poultry. Cut off the visible fat from meat and poultry, and remove skin from poultry.

  • Avoid Cheetos, Doritos and almost everything in that grocery aisle.

Eat the following in moderation:

  • Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Chia Seeds, Edamame, Cashews, Pumpkin Seeds, Flax Seeds

  • Avocado, Coconut, Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olives

  • Dark Chocolate

  • Whole Eggs

  • Full-Fat Yogurt

Important Tip:

The USDA says the recommended amount of fat in an adult's daily diet should be under 10%. What does that mean for you? That depends on your overall daily consumption. That does NOT mean you should immediately start eating more fat and it DOES mean that you should be mindful, if not outright mathematical, about adding fat to your diet. Remember: fat contains twice the number of calories as carbs. So if you're watching your caloric intake, eating fat means potentially eating smaller portions. The good news is that fat will make you feel full faster and with less food.

Good luck, Muscle-Nation!

And I'll see you in the gym.

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