Fat Needs for Athletes


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Last week we covered protein needs for athletes. This week we will look at fat needs for athletes. Fat is often misunderstood by athletes and those trying to lose weight. They think that they need to minimize fat in order to “lean out” or lose weight. However, our bodies need some fat to help absorb fat soluble vitamins, provide protection for our internal organs, and provide insulation.

The recommendations for fat for athletes is 0.8 to 1 g/kg of body wieght. We will continue to use Sandy, our desk-bound marathoner from the last two posts, as our example. She is 5’5″ tall and weighs 140 pounds (140/2.2 = 63.6 kg). Based on these recommendations, Sandy would need:

  • Low end of range: 0.8 g/kg x 63.6 = 51 grams
  • High end o range: 1.0 g/kg x 63.6 = 64 grams

To translate this into calories, multiply by 9 because there are 9 calories per gram for fat (4 for carbohydrates and protein, and 7 for alcohol). This gives Sandy between 459 and 576 calories per day from fat. If Sandy is using a food tracking software or app, she can enter one of these (or the average) as her fat goal for the day. If her package asks for the recommendation in percent of calories, she would divide the fat in calories by her total daily calories and multiply by 100. For example, if she needs an average of 2000 calories per day, her range of calories from protein would be 23 – 29% ((459/2000)*100 and (576/2000)*100). The lowest amount you want from fat is 15% and the highest is 35%. Normal intake is between 20 and 30%. However, if you are consuming a lot of nuts and nut-butters (like peanut butter or almond butter) you may go up to 35%. You should try to limit your saturated fat intake (which is primarly in animal meats) to 10% or less of your calories. For Sandy, this would be 200 calories (2,000 x .10) or about 22 grams of saturated fat ((2,000 x 10)/9).

Fat-containing foods include oils, butter, nuts, and a lot of other foods. This is where label reading comes in handy. Having fat, along with carbohydrates and protein, at each meal will help you stay satisfied longer.

Next time, we will cover carbohydrates. If you have questions about fat, let me know.

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