How to get more fat in your diet

a heart shaped butter pat melting on a non-stick surface

Most foods that we eat today have some amount of fat content. 

Fat is an amazing flavour enhancer. It makes everything taste better.

Many people are starting to accept that fat is not all bad and have started to make the shift into lower carbohydrate diets. The thing is, when you lower your carbohydrate intake, you will need to increase one of the other macro-nutrients, protein or fat.

From a nutritional perspective, humans have evolved eating mostly protein and fats. In fact, it was the shift into eating more fatty tissue and organ meats that made cognitive revolution occur. This is also known as the development of the human brain.

More recent times have led to the vilification of dietary fats, however it’s not all bad. Additional to providing flavour, dietary fat from whole food sources provides the necessary intake of valuable fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.

More and more research is proving that the real enemy is excessive carbohydrate and processed “food” consumption, combined with an overstressed, sedentary lifestyle, that is causing the explosions in obesity and chronic “diseases of lifestyle” that are so common in present day populations.

Here is a bunch of ways to get more fat into your diet:

Use whole, full-fat ingredients
It’s time to remove all of the low-fat or lite food products from the pantry and refrigerator.

Look for full-fat dairy products. Milk (if tolerant), butter, cream, yoghurt and cheeses. Add in avocados and some pastured eggs. Try to add natural fats rather than avoid them entirely.

Fatty cuts of meat can be more flavourful, and are often cheaper than leaner cuts. Wild salmon and sardines contain high amounts of important omega-3 fats and make valuable additions to the dinner plate.

Cook with fats
Cook your vegetables, meats, fish and eggs in natural fats like butter, ghee or coconut oil.

Use a variety of natural fats for flavour
Different fats can provide different flavours to your food. This will create variety to your meals without too much complication.

Try experimenting with these fats and oils:

  • Butter and ghee;
  • Lard, tallow, duck fat, or any other animal fat;
  • Coconut oil;
  • Olive oil;
  • Macadamia nut oil;
  • Avocado oil.

Top your dishes with butter or oils
A drizzle of oil. A dollop of sour cream. Melt some butter. You can top off almost any dish with some health promoting fats.

Garnish with high fat foods
Avocado. Cheese. Olives. Nuts and seeds. All of these high fat foods are packed with nutrients and important fat-soluble vitamins, so add these to your meals when available.

Eat more cheese
Cheese is a simple addition to any meal. It can even work as an appetizer. It goes with just about anything and can be eaten at anytime of the day. Packed with both protein and fat it makes a perfect addition to any meal or gathering.

If you are sensitive to dairy products, you may be able to tolerate hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Cheddar and Gouda as they have generally low amounts of lactose that most people will be able to manage small to moderate amounts.

Cheese is often served as dessert in my house.

Blend fats into your coffee or tea
Adding coconut or MCT oil to your morning coffee or tea is quick and easy. Full-fat cream works just as well and will give you that milky flavour with very little lactose content.

The combination of caffeine and MCT’s will provide you with some mental clarity, make you feel more alert and focused, as well as reduce the typical caffeine crash.

It will prime the body to shift from glucose to fat as a fuel source which will also keep your appetite suppressed for longer.

Tips for intermittent fasting

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People have chosen to fast intermittently for thousands of years. All historic societies have practiced fasting, either by choice or out of necessity.

Many of the benefits of fasting were known in ancient societies. Fasting periods were often called “cleanses or purifications”. The goal was always the same. To abstain from food for a prolonged period of time for health reasons. People often believed that this period of abstinence would cleanse the body or toxins and rejuvenate their bodies.

More recently however, with the advent of agriculture an industrialisation, food has become so readily available the society has basically forgotten all about fasting. Today people have a dependence on processed carbohydrates and sugars, which has contributed to the obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemics we see today.

Fasting can potentially deliver huge benefits such as, weight loss, increased energy and physical performance and even the reversal of type-2 diabetes.

Here are some tips for conducting fasts:

  • Drink water;
  • Drink black coffee and tea;
  • Keep yourself occupied;
  • Give yourself a month to assess if intermittent fasting is good for you;
  • Follow a low-carbohydrate diet in-between fasting periods. This will reduce hunger and makes fasting easier.
  • Don’t binge eat when breaking the fast. Ease back into eating with whole foods.

Remember, fasting isn’t for everybody. There is no real point in continuing an extended fast if you’re miserable. When starting out, it’s probably best to first condition your body to eating a lower carbohydrate, whole food diet. This will reduce the body’s dependence on glucose or sugars as an energy source.

Then begin to extend the duration between meals over time, before attempting a longer fasting periods.

 

Coffee and Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent Fasting has become one of the most popular dietary patterns in recent times. It is most popular within the health & fitness industry and many people are tinkering around with it to see if they can benefit from the plethora of health benefits associated with it.

Some of the most common questions surrounding fasting is;

What actually breaks a fast? And, can I have coffee?

The first question is fairly easy. Simply put, you’re eating or you’re not. Now for the coffee.

For most people, I wouldn’t be too worried about whether or not this is the case. The fact that you are already going 12-24 hours without any caloric intake places you ahead of the curve simply by being open to the idea that you don’t have to eat every other hour. Some coffee with full-fat cream isn’t really going to take away what you’re trying to accomplish.

Some people however, myself included, like to look a little deeper. So… let’s start with black coffee.

Here is how black coffee affects some of the more common fasting benefits.

Ketosis
Fasting is a quick and easy way to get into ketosis. You don’t have a choice in the matter. As your body depletes its glucose supply, it will automatically begin to break down excess body fat to produce ketones as a fuel source.

This study found that the consumption of caffeine boosted ketosis in humans.

Fat Burning
Fat burning is another popular benefit of fasting. As stated earlier, coffee has been shown to increase ketosis, so it would be safe to say that coffee also increases fat mobilisation and burning.

Insulin Sensitivity
In the short-term, fasting can reduce insulin sensitivity. This is a physiological measure taken by the body to preserve the little glucose that is remaining for the brain.

The real benefits occur over the long-term, where fasting is an effective way to improve your insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Just about everything that makes you more efficient at fat burning and expending energy, rather than the storing of energy,  like exercise, low-carbohydrate diets and fasting, tend to improve insulin sensitivity over time.

Coffee has a similar effect. In the short-term it reduces insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. With long-term use, coffee improves both insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Many studies have found that the more coffee you drink, the lower your overall risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Autophagy
Basically, it’s cellular cleanup. Autophagy is one of the ways that the body keeps its cells healthy and maintained, by recycling dead or damaged cells. Fasting is one of the best ways to induce autophagy. It is actually one of major selling points for fasting.

That covers black coffee. What about the common additions to coffee?

Coffee with butter, coconut oil or MCT oil
Technically, this is breaking the fast. If you’re consuming calories (and depending on how much fat you add, it could be a significant amount of calories), these calories break the fast.

Pure fat however, has little to no effect on insulin, blood glucose, or any other measure that would indicate a broken fast.

By adding some fat to your morning coffee, you won’t be burning as much body fat. You will however still be burning a lot of fat.

It will most definitely help you fast for longer periods. For some people, adding some fat to coffee can make fasting more tolerable. If you can go 12 hours on black coffee, but a tablespoon of MCT oil can help you get 16-24 hours, then the addition of MCT oil is probably a good thing.

It shouldn’t affect autophagy. It’s protein consumption that interrupts autophagy. Butter has a small amount, but it shouldn’t interfere unless you’re consuming it in large amounts.

Coffee with cream
An ounce of full-fat cream has almost a gram of carbohydrate (lactose) and protein. Some cream in your coffee won’t affect your fat burning very much, but it might reduce the amount of autophagy. The point here is that your coffee should be black with maybe a tablespoon of full-fat cream.

That being said, if you’re fasting you may be already eating a paleo or ketogenic type diet which have been shown to increase autophagy. This is all a matter of degree and probably still a net win.

The takeaway here is that some autophagy is not zero autophagy.

Coffee with almond / other nut milks
Firstly, why? Black coffee all the way please. Maybe a little full-fat cream. Ok, I there are a lot of people who can not tolerate diary and can’t really stomach black coffee. Enter the almond / other nut milks.

As long as you’re staying away from the sweetened versions, or those fortified with additional proteins, and you’re not having half a cup or more at a time, then a little nut milk won’t make much of a difference.

There isn’t much nutritionally to most nut milks.

Coffee with collagen
Collagen is one of my favourite things to add to my black coffee. It is however, pure protein. Consuming protein tends to increase mTOR and inhibit autophagy. All this means is that having collagen in your coffee during a fast will probably help with fat burning and suppress your appetite for longer, but it will reduce the benefits of autophagy.

Ordering coffee
Try black coffee. Nothing beats it. Drip. Pour-over. Espresso. Long blacks. Whichever the method. It’s the simplest way to maintain a fast.

Ask for full-fat cream. A lot of coffee houses will stock it. Just be careful when using the “cream” that is set out for customer use. That will usually be cream mixed with milk, giving you too much of a protein and carbohydrate hit that will potentially break the fast.

Avoid nut milks. A lot of places will use sweetened nut milks to add flavour to their coffees. They’ll also overdo the amount. An almond latte will have up to 8 ounces of almond milk, which will definitely break your fast.

Intermittent Fasting 101

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Intermittent Fasting (IF) is more of a dietary pattern than a diet. Simply put it is an eating pattern that cycles between feeding and fasting. Sounds simple?

There is no real specificity to which foods are to be eaten and which are to be avoided, with the focus being on when you eat your food. In this respect, it is more accurately described as an eating pattern.

Common methods of IF involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.

Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Our ancestors didn’t have access to supermarkets or fast food outlets, and at times food wasn’t even available for them to hunt or gather.

As a result, the human body was able to adapt to be able to function optimally bothe physically and cognitatively without food for extended periods of time.

In fact, sporadic periods of fasting is more natural than eating 3 or 4 meals per day.

Common methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are many ways to conduct a fast, all of which contain a period of eating and a period of fasting. During a period of a fast, you eat very little or nothing at all.

However, Paul Jaminet, the author of the Perfect Health Diet has a valid argument for the consumption of coconut oil and bone broth during a fast.

Here is a list of the most popular methods

  • The 16/8: Also known as the Leansgains protocol. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your caloric intake to 8 hours, such as 12-8pm, then fast for 16 hours.
  • Eat. Stop. Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.
  • The 5:2 diet: This method, you can consume up to 500 calories on two, non-consecutive days, then eat normally the other five days.

By reducing the total caloric intake over a period of time, all of these methods should lead to weight loss, so long as you’re not over compensating by overeating during your eating periods.

This can be avoided by eating natural whole foods such as, meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, with some fruits and nuts.

Most people find the 16/8 method the easiest, most sustainable method to adopt. It is also the most popular.

How intermittent fasting affects your cells and hormones
During periods of fasting, several things happen to your body on a cellular level. For example, your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible as an energy source.

At the cellular level, certain cells initiate important repair processes and change the expression of some genes.

Here are just some of the changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH levels increase up to 5 times, this provides benefits to both muscle growth and fat loss.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels allow stored body fat to be more readily accessible.
  • Cell repair: When in a fasted state, cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
  • Gene expression: Certain changes occur in the function of genes in relation to longevity and protection against disease.

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for many of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Health benefits
There is a lot of science backed evidence showing the health benefits related to optimising weight control, the health of your body and brain. There are even some studies that suggest it may help you live longer.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss
Conventional wisdom discourages skipping meals, which is often associated with eating disorders and unsustainable crash diets. However, deliberately practiced IF, can be a powerful tool for weight loss.

Fasting involves caloric restriction. Sometimes, it easier to fast than to count calories.

Hormonal changes involved in fasting also promote weight loss, even if you don’t restrict calories. Fasting lowers the body’s levels of insulin, a hormone that prevents the release of stored body fat. With lower insulin levels, your body turns to stored fat for energy.

Here are some of the health benefits to intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss: As mentioned above, when performed correctly, it can be a healthy weight loss tool.
  • Insulin resistance: This study showed that IF can reduce insulin resistance,  which could prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduced inflammation: A key driver of many chronic diseases.
  • Heart health: IF may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All risk factors for heart disease.
  • Brain health: IF may protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Cancer. Animal studies suggest that IF may prevent certain cancers.
  • Anti-aging. Animal studies suggest that IF may extend lifespan.

Intermittent fasting and athletic performance
Initially, training in a fasted state might seem a bit contradictory. How can the body perform with fuel? Provided you’re not fasting for too great a period, IF can actually improve your athletic performance.

For endurance athletes, the benefits of fasting come from a two-pronged approach: training in the fasted state, and competing in the fed state. Fasted training can improve performance by forcing your body to adapt to lower glycogen stores and use glycogen more efficiently. Essentially, training in the fasted state adds another stressor, forcing your body to compensate and become stronger. This sets you up to get a huge boost from competing in the fed state.

Short-term fasting is also useful for power athletes. While fasting for several days at a time will hurt your progress, intermittent fasts less than 24 hours will not cause muscle loss or send your body into “starvation mode,” as long as you consume adequate calories and protein when you do eat.

On the contrary, when you lift in a fasted state, your body uses protein more efficiently afterwards, boosting muscle growth.

Weightlifters seeking to gain lean mass without also gaining fat should look into Martin Berkhan’s Leangains program, which specifies an eight-hour “feeding window” and a sixteen-hour fast every day.

Is intermittent fasting for everybody?
Like just about everything else in human nutrition, there is no one size fits all. This certainly applies to intermittent fasting.

For example, if you’re already underweight, pregnant, under heavy stress or have a history of eating disorders, a medical or health professional should be consulted prior to commencing a fast. In these scenarios, IF could actually have disastrous implications rather than be a benefit.

Some people just love food. There is nothing wrong with that. Enjoying traditional dishes from around the world can be a great experience. Bonus points if you’re sharing that experience with family and friends.

If you’re already eating a whole food diet, are generally more fat adapted, exercise moderately, have good sleep patterns, limit chronic stressors and are generally doing the things that make you happy then you’re probably in a good place to start playing with some fasts.

The bottom line
Basically, if you’re hungry, eat. Starving yourself only will cause additional stress.

If you’re already stressed, don’t IF. You don’t need another stressor.

If you’re completing high intensity training everyday, don’t IF. Unless you’re genetically gifted, you will need plenty of fuel to prevent overtraining.

If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.

Listen to your body. Try not to eat just because it’s midday and it is generally lunch time. At the same time, don’t feel guilty if you’re supposed to be in the middle of a fast and you’re reaching for a handful of macadamia nuts or some beef jerky. Try it out, skip a morning meal, sneak in a workout or go for a walk and see how you feel.

If you’re not ready, your body will tell you pretty quickly. Feeling lightheaded, reduced performance in workouts, cognitive decline or a general reduction in energy are all makers that you might need to fix a few things (food, sleep, stress, etc.) for a few weeks and try again.

In a perfect world, we’d all have an excellent metabolism, with a job we love and plenty of time to spend with friends and family. But unfortunately, it’s not and we don’t. We can, however, make the most of the world that we live in today.

Eat real food. Be active. Enjoy life.