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.

Fasted Training

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Intermittent Fasting can be a valuable tool to improve your overall health and performance. But how do you fit in intense training while fasting?

Firstly, I wouldn’t recommend that most people just too many changes, too fast. Sometimes that can be too much of a shock to the system, which may lead to a decline in health and performance.

If you’re eating a mostly whole food diet you’re already almost there. Some small changes to your eating patterns and slowly extending your fasting period every couple of days will get you out to a pretty decent daily fast in no time at all.

Training in a fasted state
Training should be completed on an empty stomach and/or after the consumption of 10 g BCAA. Technically, the training is not completely fasted – as over time this could become detrimental to health and performance.

The pre-workout amino acid intake has a stimulatory effect on protein synthesis and the metabolism, is a crucial compromise to optimize results. The 8-hour feeding window commences with the first post workout meal.

Example

  • 1130-1200: 10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Workout;
  • 1300: Post workout meal;
  • 1600: Second meal;
  • 2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

The largest meal of the day is consumed post workout, then calories and carbohydrates are reduced as the day progresses.

Barbells

Early morning fasted training
This is a common example as a majority of the early morning athlete will usually train fasted before starting their day. This example shows how you can train early morning and begin the feeding phase at noon or later.

  • 0600-0630: 10g BCAA;
  • 0630-0730: Workout;
  • 0830: 10g BCAA;
  • 1030:10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 2000-2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

This is my preferred method as I like to train early in the day. I also have a cup of black coffee with some MCT Oil pre-workout.

One pre-workout meal
A common methodology for athletes wishing to train late afternoon or directly after work.

  • 1200-1300: Pre-workout meal. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1500-1700: Workout during this window;
  • 1700: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 200-2100: Final meal before overnight fast.

Two pre-workout meals
The standard protocol for athletes who work normal business hours.

  • 1200-1300: First meal to break the fast. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1600-1700: Pre-workout meal. Similar caloric intake to first meal.
  • 1830-2000: Workout during this window;
  • 2000-2100: Post workout meal (largest meal of day).

The take away
No calories should be consumed during the fasting phase. Exceptions to this are black coffee, tea, BCAA and a cup of bone broth.

The fasting window is the perfect time to be productive. Try not to sit around, get bored and think about food.

Once in the feeding phase, meal frequency is fairly irrelevant. Most people prefer three meals out of habit.

The majority of your daily caloric intake should be consumed during the post workout period, with the largest meal being the first meal post workout.

The exception to this is on non-training days where your largest meal should typically be the first meal of the day, with the emphasis being on quality protein intake.

Remember, there is no one size fits all. If your preference is to eat your largest meal in the evening, then do it. Some people like to like to consume their largest meal on rest days later in the day with family or friends. If this helps you to enjoy your food and stick to your eating pattern long-term then it’s a win.

If training fasted, BCAA or an essential amino acid mixture is highly recommended. If you’re not into having a large supplement program, that’s fine. A whey protein concentrate will suffice and can be consumed during the pre-workout window.

Which method is best?
Depending on what your daily routine and training preferences are, a different protocol will be preferable. If your preference is to train early morning then the fasted training option is likely to be best for you.

Conversely, if you work the standard 0900-1700 business hours and your only option is to train in the evenings, then the one or two pre-workout meals pre-workout protocols will work better.