Sports Nutrition Tip: What you need to know about fat

I’m particularly excited about today’s sports nutrition tip from Brian St. Pierre. As in the past, this tip is a “teaser” from the Nutrition Guide he wrote for my new program Ultimate Hockey Transformation.

Today’s tip covers a topic that is essential to fueling consistently high performance and making significant gains in off-season training. It also happens to be one of the most misunderstood topics. Check it out and post any questions/comments you have below the article.

Enjoy! – KN

Tip #6 – Eat Healthy Fats at Most Meals and Snacks by Brian St. Pierre

While the reputation of dietary fat seems to have improved somewhat of late, in general nutrition recommendations, it has taken a beating for years (or decades, even).

In reality, certain fats are really important for those who are looking to improve their health, body composition, and performance. And they can be extra important for hard-training athletes.

In the 70s, 80s and even early 90s, people thought that dietary fat made you fat, slowed you down, deteriorated your health, and caused heart disease. Fortunately, we have learned a lot since then, and now realize that the right fat intake can actually help to prevent all of those things!

You need an appropriate intake of healthy fats:

  • for your cells to work properly
  • for proper production of both testosterone and estrogen
  • for proper immune function
  • for the absorption of important nutrients like vitamins A, D, E & K

What Makes Fat Healthy?

In general, the determining factor in whether fats are healthy or not is if they meet 2 criteria. They should be either:

  • naturally occurring (such as the fat in nuts and seeds)
  • relatively minimally processed (either they’re whole foods, or they’ve been simply pressed or ground)

A solid list of healthy fats would be:

  • Oils such as olive, coconut, flax, canola, fish, algae, and a little butter
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Nuts such as almonds, Brazil, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
  • Nut butters such as almond, cashew, etc.
  • Peanuts and natural peanut butter
  • Seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.
  • Dark chocolate (in moderation)

Of course, other foods have some fats (especially whole eggs, fish, dairy, and meats). But these fats (above) are healthy fat superstars, and are ones you should look to add to your intake to boost health, performance and body composition.

What Are Unhealthy Fats?

Now, there are some fats you should look to keep to a minimum in your diet. These fats tend to increase inflammation, risk of heart disease and cancer, and other nasty things.

Unlike healthy fats, unhealthy fats:

  • don’t naturally occur in the foods they’re found in; and
  • have to be created through an industrial process.

These would include fats such as:

  • Trans fats (look for the ingredients partially hydrogenated and vegetable shortening)
  • Industrially processed oils (these would include corn, cottonseed, safflower*, soybean, and sunflower* oils)
  • Fried foods (which are cooked in oils that are repeatedly heated, which damages them and creates some nasty compounds)

*There are high-oleic versions of safflower and sunflower oils that are okay in moderation.

How Much Fat Should You Eat?

In general, athletes should aim for 0.5 g of fat per pound of target bodyweight. So if you want to be 140 pounds, fat intake should be around 70 grams. Or if you want to be 200 lbs, fat intake should be around 100 grams.

This doesn’t have to be perfect, and I have a really simple way to get in this intake:

Men should eat ~2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fat at most meals, and women should eat ~1 thumb-sized portion of healthy fat at most meals.

Thumb-Sized Portions

Image From (see: Forget Calorie Counting)

This is a great starting point to make sure you are getting enough fat for your needs. But it is just a starting point, and is not set in stone. When trying to lose weight, you may want to cut some meals down by 0.5-1 thumb of fat. And when trying to gain weight, you may want to add 0.5-1 thumb of fat to a few meals. Let hunger, fullness, and results be your guide, and try not to over-complicate it.

-Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, CISSN, PN1

P.S. For more information on how to get a copy of Brian’s incredible hockey nutrition manual, click here: Ultimate Hockey Transformation

Brian is a Registered Dietitian and received his Bachelor’s in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, where he also received his Master’s in Food Science and Human Nutrition. He is a Certified Sports Nutritionist as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Brian worked for three years at Cressey Performance as the head Sports Nutritionist and as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, working with hundreds of athletes and recreational exercisers of all types. During this time, he also authored the High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide, Show and Go Nutrition Guide, Ultimate Hockey Nutrition and dozens of articles for publication.

Nowadays, he works closely with Dr. John Berardi as a full-time coach and a nutrition educator at Precision Nutrition. In particular, working closely with our elite athletes and fitness professionals. As part of the Precision Nutrition mission, he helps to deliver life-changing, research-driven nutrition coaching for everyone.

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“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University