The ideal diet for athletes is a highly-contested topic. Of course, we've learned that different things work for different athletes and just like on-course nutrition, diet should be personalized to your activity level and energy needs throughout training cycles.
There are some facts that every athlete should know, however, about certain aspects of nutrition, and today the focus is on fats—specifically, healthy fats.
"Although fat seems to be a polarizing topic, the healthiest diet for an a triathlete is a diet which is neither very high nor very low in fat," explains Georgie Fear RD, CSSD, founder of One by One Nutrition, author of Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss and co-author of Racing Weight Cookbook. "Moderation is best or about 30 percent of total calories."
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Fear shares that keeping your fats to this level helps with three main factors: it helps manage weight and satiety, allows for a wide variety of foods to be eaten and helps athletes build a diet with the necessary carbohydrates and proteins.
Since fats are a necessary component of a balanced diet, here are three things you should know about the healthy ones.
You can have too much of a good thing.
To much of any fat will have an affect on your body. "It can hamper recovery, performance and health by displacing much needed carbohydrates and protein from the diet," notes Fear. "Eating a lot of fat also correlates with a higher calorie intake, which can make weight management hard."
Some healthy fats are better than others.
"Extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish like salmon or trout, nuts and nut butters, and avocado would be my top picks for health benefits," proposes Fear. "I also have to give an honorable mention to whole eggs, because they not only contain healthy fat, they come packed with protein and other vitamins and minerals athletes need."
They are more delicate than you think.
When cooking with healthy fats, you need to be aware of their limitations to get the most nutrients. "In your home kitchen, make sure to keep oils below their smoke point, and don't reuse cooking oil," offers Fear. "Most oils will be fine over a medium heat, but if you want to crank it up to high for a stir fry, use an oil like peanut or coconut, which won't burn."
Fear also mentions to steer clear of fried foods—especially deep fried—at restaurants. Not only is the oil not the healthiest to begin with, but the recurring heating and long time at high temperatures leads to the accumulation of cancer-promoting compounds.
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