Unsaturated Fat: Omega 3 & Omega 6

Following last week’s post about dietary fats, I decided to start with the better of the bunch: Unsaturated Fats.

Unsaturated fats are unique due to their molecular structure. They are less dense and they will often be a softer or liquid state when at room temperature. A couple of examples would be olive oil and natural peanut butter. That is the big difference between the processed stuff that you can keep in your cupboard and the natural product that you have to keep in your fridge. When the natural version is left out, the oil in it liquifies, as unsaturated fats do at room temperature.

These fats are generally considered to be the ‘healthy fats’ and break into two categories: polyunsaturated (Omega-3, -6, an -9) and monounsaturated. They are considered healthy since they provide a lot of good benefits to a variety of areas on the body. Some of these areas are cholesterol, inflammation, metabolism, and blood.

Polyunsaturated fats are the best of the unsaturated fats and can be found in oils: canola, hemp, fish, flax, and Omega 3/6 supplements. Monounsaturated fats follow as the second best and are most commonly found in almonds, olive oil, peanuts, and avacado.

The Omegas: 3 & 6

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are two polyunsaturated fats that our body uses to balance itself. The natural ratio we were meant to use is 1 Omega-3 to 1 Omega-6 (1:1). Unfortunately, as society has shifted to more processed, less natural methods of producing our food, the balance is proportionately out of whack. The majority of Omega-3 sources are wild animals and plants. Processed meats and meats from animals that are caged or factory-bred generally have a lot of Omega-6 in them from supplements among other sources.

This has led to a ratio of about 1:20-30 (or more) in the average person. Ideally, shifting it down to a 1:1-4 ratio would drastically improve the well-being of many people. While Omega-6 is a good fat, like any other macronutrient, you can have too much and too much Omega-6 can have negative effects on the body such as inflammation, blood clots, smaller blood veins, and joint pain. Omega-3s act as a counterbalance to these issues, which is why the 1:1 ideal ratio works so well.

Picture your body as having tons of little fingers and their sole purpose is to connect to Omega fats, be it Omega-6 or Omega-3. The more Omega-3s you make available to those fingers, the less there are available for Omega-6s to latch onto. You have a finite amount of ‘fingers’ for your body to use, so you want to give it the best shot possible at getting those Omega-3s, right?

Omega-3s & Where to find them

The top 3 types of Omega-3s are ALA, EPA, and DHA. EPA and DHA are the fats you will find most often infor supplementation in the form of pills or liquids. These 2 are found in fish, fish oil, or algae, whereas ALA is found in walnuts, flax, and chia seeds.

Some of the reasons for increasing your EPA and DHA intake are:

  • reduces likelihood of blood clots
  • increases metabolism
  • increases lean muscle mass gains (lean muscle burns fat, so by extension it also helps burn fat)
  • increases cognitive, specifically memory, function
  • reduces inflammation and joint pain
  • decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and various cancers
  • lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol)

So now you’ve seen the bonuses, you want to know how much to take and how to do it, right?

The average person simply does not eat enough fish (or algae, bleh) to meet the recommended minimum intake of Omega-3, nor should we, as eating that much fish can lead to other issues such as increased exposure to mercury and other toxins due to the processing of fish. Others are simply allergic or strongly disgusted by fish (that’s my category!). So how do we do it?

Supplementation. Pill or liquid, either works. Pills can vary in size and quantity of fish oil, but most have around 900-1000mg per pill. Most liquid forms have about 3400mg per 15ml (a tablespoon). The recommendation currently is that the average, not overly active person should be getting 2-3g per day to maintain general every day health. If you’re active, especially if you do something like running or join-intense activities), definitely consider doubling or tripling that to anywhere in 3-10g/day. It helps with cardiovascular strength as well as joint difficulties.

That’s a lot of pills. Keep in mind, even if it just says Omega-3 or some other name, almost always it has fish oil in it. This is very important for those who are allergic to fish. Always read the ingredient labels carefully. If you don’t like the taste of fish (and yes, the fish pills will leave slight fishy burp taste sometimes), try the flavoured liquids out there. I have one that tastes great and not like fish at all, though all the Omega-3s in it come from fish oil. Another pill trick is to freeze them. This didn’t work for me, it just delayed the fishy burps, but you may find it works well for you. Ideally, you should be taking your fish oil with food, whenever possible.

As a final note on fish oil: A study was done on the effect of fish oil supplementation and exercise for an average, non-athletic person. When combined with moderate exercise, 45 minutes a session, three times a week, the participants who supplemented with fish oil (6g/day) saw an average decrease in body fat by 5% over the span of 3 months.

Fat: The Falsely-Accused Villain Of Food

Fats have a really bad reputation in our society. The amount of ‘low-fat’ or ‘no-fat’ products out there is atonishing. We’re told to cut our fat intake down and that fats are the evil of the food world. The overwhelming belief is that fat, essentially, is how we become fat. Our logic dictates that if we eat fat, it will become fat on our bodies.

This thinking is wrong. The label ‘fat’ when looking at food groups (not body composition) covers a large number of types of fat. Yes, some of it is the reason we, as a society, have gained weight, but that doesn’t mean we should cut out all fats. There are some fats that are amazing for our bodies and even some fats that fight other fats. Why would you want to cut out something that helps you lose fat?

We need to stop and own our bodies. We need to educate ourselves in knowing what is or isn’t good for us. Avoid bulking everything under one label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us.

I eat bacon. Not your gross, mechanically-separated and full-of-ingredients-I-can’t-even-pronounce chicken or turkey bacon, but bacon from a pig that has 4 ingredients in it: Pork (not mechanically separated), salt, water, and spices. No words ending in ‘ate’, ‘ose’, or sounding like something I learned in high school chemistry.

“You must trim the fat of that before you eat, then.” Nope. I put it on the plate straight as it is and savour every piece of it. If society is to be believed, I’d go up in weight, right? I’m eating something that is fairly full of fat on a regular basis.

I’ll let you know when the scale ever shows my weight going up from that, but it might be a while. Ever since I started changing my foods to include some fat, a small but reasonable amount, my scale has gone down. Albeit this also came with the change to cut down on my grains and starches signficantly, but increasing my fat intake has not had any negative effect on my weight or body shape (since fat weighs less than muscle). I’m not putting on fat, and in fact, I’m seeing more muscle definition than I did eating ‘low-fat’ options.

The power is in knowing what fats are your friends. So let me introduce them: Saturated and Unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are usually identified by their sub categories: Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Trans fats. I know we’ve all heard of Trans fat.

Part of the reason fats get the reputation they do is they have more calories per 1 gram than the other macronutrients out there:

  1. Fat – 9 calories
  2. Alcohol – 7 calories (for reference, not a macronutrient)
  3. Carbohydrate/Protein – 4 calories

If you’re counting calories, the choice seems obvious, right? Carbs and protein are the ways to go. But counting calories doesn’t work in almost all cases. Carbs serve one purpose for our bodies: energy. Unless you’re working your muscles with high intensity workouts, you aren’t going to be burning many carbs. We don’t use carbs to fuel leisurely walks or sitting in front of the T.V.. Your body can only store so much carbohydrate, a finite amount depending on your muscle mass. So the rest of it goes into storage. I’m sure we all know what storage looks like on a body.

So although carbs have lower caloric value per gram, they don’t bring a lot of value to your every-day meals except when consumed around work out times (to fuel and repair your muscles). Calorie counting would have you eating them regardless. Let’s dispense with calorie-based judgements and look at what fats can do to justify the calories, shall we?

Dietary fat has many roles in our body’s fuction (compared to carbohydrate’s 1 function, energy):

  • Energy source
  • Forms the brain and nervous system
  • Hormone manufacturing and balance
  • Source of 2 essential fatty acids: linlenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6)
  • Forms cell membranes
  • Aids transport of fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K

So fat and carbohydrates both serve as sources of energy. I just said we don’t burn enough to use our carbs so why would having fat as a source of energy be a good thing? Won’t it just go to ‘storage’ with the extra carbs?

No, it won’t. It already is storage. Most of us have a fairly good sized store of fat, as well. We have a virtually unlimited supply of that stored energy called fat. They call it ‘burning fat’ for a reason.

The big difference is, unlike with carbs where you need high intensity exertion to burn, when at rest or in low intensity activities such as walking and most steady-state cardio, you burn fat. When you are not challenging your heart and body with high intensity work outs, the fuel source of choice is fat (and some muscle, but I’ll save that for another discussion).

Most people are encouraged to intake 30% of their diet in the form of fats, 10% for saturated and 20% broke evenly between our two favourite unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. There is a change coming slowly to this structure though as more and more people are encourage to increase their fat intake breakdown, particularly when it comes to Omega-3s vs Omega-6s.

A diet high in saturated and polyunsaturated fats (from unprocessed food sources) is not as detrimental as we’ve often believed, however, a diet that focuses on ‘low-fat’ can lower testosterone levels and cause the remaining testosterone to be ineffective. Remember, fat helps manufacture and balance hormones. Cutting it down, or out entirely, will have effects on the hormone balances in your body.

Over the next few posts, I will be delving more into the different fats like omega-3s, omega-6s, saturated, trans fat, and a little on cholesterol. I hope you guys find this info helpful.

A really helpful summary of Coconut Oil. I’ve been encouraged to use this in my cooking instead of pretty much every other type of oil. As you can see, the benefits are numerous!

justinsfitnessblog

Coconut Benefits
Unadulterated virgin coconut oil contains a number of beneficial medium chain triglycerides (MCT), including:

  • Lauric acid
  •  Myristic acid
  •  Capric acid
  •  Oleic acid
  •  Linoleic acid

Just so there’s no confusion, yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat. But because of its unique “medium chain” molecular structure, you need not worry about packing on the pounds.

MCT’s are unlike other unsaturated fats in that they provide many of the crucial metabolic constituents needed to burn fat, maintain healthy body weight, boost energy and immune system function, regulate thyroid activity, fight fatigue and absorb vital nutrients. And among all of the pro-health compounds inherent to coconut oil, Lauric acid is clearly the most promising and significant.

MCT’s As An Energy Source:

The good news doesn’t stop there, however. MCT’s, especially those in coconut oil, are not stored in the way that other saturated fats are. Rather, they are immediately metabolized by…

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I have a love hate relationship with squats but I can’t deny how great they are. This is a great post to really get into squatting properly (it’s not as easy as sitting in a chair)

fitterstrongerbetter

Okay, this is definitely my last post tonight, there is such a thing as overkill. But I did promise a post on squats, so here it is.

Whether or not you’re taking part in my fitness challenge for the week or month, squats are an exercise that should not be ignored. There’s a little confusion as to whether full, deep squats are bad for you as opposed to 90-degree-angle squats known as half squats and that is because some trainers believe they put excess strain on your knees, potentially causing damage.

I do not agree. Why? Any exercise performed incorrectly will cause excess strain on your joints and cause damage. Done properly, any exercise will cause strain on your joints which your body then adapts to – so don’t sweat it and in the words of Nike: Just do it.

Benefits of full squats instead of half squats

  • Works the…

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Three Reasons to Drink More Water

I can’t emphasize this enough and GimmeFitness summed it up nicely!

Love it! I really want to try this, and I may have to tweak it a bit to fit it into my food regimen but I can’t wait!

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Occasionally a post from here will be reblogged on another site. I am always interested to see who is interested in which recipe and I check out the blog. Fitness Over Sixty reblogged the Thai Spring Rolls and called out to all vegans to take a look at the recipe. The author introduced the re-blog by saying “I love this chef, although he is all carnivore, he knows how to cook.” I loved it. Yes I am. I eat it all (and too often too much of it). That is one reason why I am always excited to feature guest bloggers that make wonderful, healthy food. I would like to welcome a new guest blogger, Diana. She is the author of the Foodnthoughtpeddler blog and fits the bill of making wonderful, healthy food. Welcome Diana…

A few words about me and my approach to food and nutrition:

I…

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Steady State Cardio and Fat Loss

I’ve been spending a lot of time working with my trainer and doing research on my own about how to get the results I want, what the obstacles are for my success, and what is the best way to get where I want to be. There’s so much information out there, some dated, some recent, and all of it confusing!

The more recent lesson I’ve been getting has been about steady-state cardio. Not all cardio, not metabolic or interval training, but just steady state, endurance cardio. Most people know me as a new runner. I completed my first half marathon February 2011 and have since done 2 more. I’m looking to add a few more races to my accomplishments this year, but as I have been looking at my training plans, and how to balance my resistance/weight training with my endurance training, I’ve been reading a lot about the conflicting nature of these two types of training.

Steady-state cardio is especially challenging for women, regrettably. The way our bodies are meant to function, once we hit a certain point in the cardio threshold, our wonderfully versatile bodies start to cling to fat for two reasons: 1) because that is our main source of fuel at longer endurances and 2) because for women, the cardio triggers a natural response to protect ourselves so we are better able to bear children.

No, I’m not saying fit, trim women can’t bear children. However, our bodies have natural instincts and the one triggered by excessive cardio is a flight response that essentially says you need to have that extra fat to protect yourself. It’s annoying, it sucks, and unfortunately, it’s nature. Another reason to ask Mother Nature what she has against women.

Compared to steady-state cardio, interval or metabolic training challenges your heart rate and often will not only raise your metabolism during your work out but keep it elevated anywhere from 24 to 36 hours after your work out is done. You continue to burn calories and resources as if you were working out for an extra day!

It really throws a lot of challenges into planning an endurance training regimen, though, if you want to have results in your muscle definition and drop fat without dropping muscle. It’s something for which I have yet to find a good balance.

I was recently sent this article that I think will do a much better job at explaining how it works and why. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

April 9 – Full Body

Still playing catch up with the work outs. Thanks for hanging with me while I sort things out.

This work out has 3 groups instead of the usual 2.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Ab Wheel: 15 reps – note: remember to keep the abs contracted both while rolling out and rolling back in, to avoid your back dipping on the way out. Focus on using the abs as your sole or main source of rolling back in. Gradually, work on rolling a little further each time, keeping the hips low. I like to picture it as a plank position as my full extension goal.
Push Ups: 15 reps – note: be sure to contract your abs the whole time to avoid curving the lower back and to draw strength from your core. Remember you want to aim more for lowering your face/chest to the ground, not dipping your hips.
Box Push: 80 lbs for 2 full passes – note: contrary to the video, I like a lower surface. Keeping the hips/butt low (think of a squat in terms of angles) and using the legs to push hard. Distance can vary but I usually count a pass as 1-way for the full length of the gym.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Pull Ups: 15 reps – note: try to control coming down, keeping the abs tight and not curving the lower back. You want to feel it in the shoulders/shoulder blades, so focus on the contraction there.
Jumping Lunges: 30 reps (15 each side) – note: as with regular lunges, try to keep your stance small enough that you can have a 90 degree angle in the back leg (not wider), keeping your abs tight and back in line with the thing of the back knee. You don’t want to be leaning forward and a pelvic tilt will help you balance. You do want to go all the way down into a full lunch position.
Dragonflies: 15 reps – note: you want to have control the whole time, keeping your back straight as you reach the lower parts of the movement. Go as low as you can before your back arches, using your contracted abs to keep everything stable. Do not swing or bend your legs to get up and don’t go past the chest. You want a straight motion.

Group 3 – Repeat 3 times
Scissors: 20 reps (10 each side) – note: unlike in the video, I do a 2 second pause between switching legs. Like in the dragonflies above, focus on the core and keeping the lower back flat. You can rest your head on the ground if neck discomfort is an issue.
Plank: 1 minute hold – note: contract through the abs, supporting the lower back. As mentioned in the video, you want to be straight, so don’t keep your butt up too high (that’s cheating!) and also don’t bring it down so low that your back is curving. I find most people tend toward the former (too high) and thus reduce the effect of this exercise.
Ins & Outs (wide arms): 20 reps – note: the version here is in the second part of the video (with arms extended). Normally I do this in more of a V-sit position, balancing on the butt, as opposed to the video where she is lying on her back. You will feel this in your legs but you should also

April 5 – Back

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. My computer died so access for posting was limited. I will be trying to catch up on the workouts that got missed, so here is the first of likely a few updates.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Dumbell Push Press: 20 lbs (each hand) for 12 reps – note: focus on straight form,using the legs to provide some of the power, and keeping the core strong.
Jumping Pull-Up with Burpee: 12 reps – note: avoid swinging to get yourself up. The jump should be straight, and as minimal as you need to complete the pull up (if possible). Try to control coming down so you’re not just dropping down. You don’t have to go slow coming down, but you want to be controlling it. I try to aim for a steady 3-5 count when lowering myself down.
Rope Whip: 30 seconds – note: if for any reason you can’t do both ropes, grasp one rope length with both hands. You want to be sure to focus on contracting the abs, supporting the lower back (no hunching) and keep your breathing steady. Adjust the speed to your level, but the goal should be to get the waves to reach the end of the rope.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Side Plank Twist (#12 in the video is the closest I could find for what I want): 8 lbs for 20 reps (10 each side) – note: the form from the shoulders down in the video is good, but the differences from the video are: you are on your palms and starting in a normal plank position with 1 dumbell between your hands, you alternate twists (reference #12 in the video for body form) while lifting the dumbell with a straight arm all the way to 180 degrees. Controlling it while you lower it to the ground, once you’re back in starting plank position, you take the weight with your other hand and repeat on that side. Key points to focus on: keeping the abs contracted, arms straight, and hips down. There is usually a tendency to shift or lift your hips when you rotate or switch arms. Try to keep control of your body to prevent this.
Lateral Raise: 8 lbs for 12 reps – note: keep the shoulders down and back as well as the abs contracted. Avoid swinging the arms and try to start from the sides along your thigh, not in front. Starting in front allows you more momentum which decreases the amount of work your shoulders are doing.
External Rotation: 2 lbs for 12 reps – note: you should feel this in the back around your shoulder blade. Start really light since even if you don’t feel it in the first couple, you will feel it by the end if you’re doing it correctly. The whole body should remain still with only the forearm turning. You want to keep the wrist straight and the elbow stationary.

April 3 – Shoulders/Upper Back and Abs

I split my workout routine to cover my upper back/shoulder blade area and some abdominal/core work.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Seated Row: 45 lbs for 12 reps – note: be sure to start the movement with your shoulder blades. You want a strong contraction as you near the end of the pull. Try to avoid leaning forward or back, keeping a straight back (but with a neutral curve in the lower back), with no rocking motion.
Face Pulls: 30 lbs for 12-15 reps – note: like above, you want the contraction in the shoulder blade area while making sure the arms and elbows don’t drop down.
Bicep Curls (bar): 20 lbs for 12 reps – note: remember you want a straight back (abs contracted), shoulders down, wrists straight, elbows in and not swinging with the motion.
Bent Row: 20 lbs for 15 reps on each side – note: keep the abs contracted to keep the back neutral and keep the focus on contracting the shoulder blade.
Reverse Flies: 8 lbs for 15 reps – note: the more forward you bend at the hips, the harder the movement becomes. The contraction, as you probably guess, should be focussed mainly in the shoulder blades.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Heel Touch: 20 reps on each side – note: try to raise your chest high enough so your shoulder blades are off the ground. If you have neck/throat/chest discomfort doing this, you can rest the head back down on the ground.
Ab Wheel: 20 reps – note: I LOVE this exercise. It’s brutal on an arm day, though, so if you’re doing heavy arms, it may be best to postpone it. Remember to keep the abs contracted both while rolling out and rolling back in, to avoid your back dipping on the way out. Focus on using the abs as your sole or main source of rolling back in. Gradually, work on rolling a little further each time, keeping the hips low. I like to picture it as a plank position as my full extension goal.
Medicine Ball Twists: 16 lbs for 20 reps on each side – note: it can be hard to keep yourself supported, with abs contracted, and continue breathing but try to push throug it. You want to be getting a full turn in the upper body, shoulders should be square to the walls on either side of you, and you want to bring the ball (or your hands if you’re doing it without weights/medicine ball) all the way to the ground, which if you’re fully turned, should be next to but slightly behind your hip.