‘Fat’ can mean two things: body fat or fat found in food. Both meanings evoke negative associations: if you eat a lot of fat you become fat, which is unhealthy and aesthetically undesirable. But is that reasoning correct?
The answer: no, not quite.
Your body stores fat from food when there is excess energy. You gain more body fat if you take in more calories than you burn over a longer period of time.
Whether those excess calories come from carbohydrates, proteins or fats does not matter in principle.
BUT FAT FOODS ARE HIGH IN CALORIES, RIGHT?
That’s right: fat has the greatest calorie density of all macronutrients, namely 9 kilocalories (kcal) per gram. That’s more than carbohydrates and proteins, both of which provide 4 kcal/g.
But as long as you don’t exceed your calorie balance, you won’t get fat. So it’s a matter of counting calories. And there are handy apps for that.
In the cut we recommend an energy deficit of 20-25% of your maintenance level.
BUT DON’T YOU EAT TOO MUCH OF FAT QUICKLY?
Yes, you can easily eat (too) much of fatty snacks because they are often tasty and because they have a low degree of saturation. So you don’t get full quickly, in fact, they often taste like more. Both savory snacks (hamburgers and fries) and sweet snacks (pastries and chocolate) contain a lot of fat and therefore easily exceed your calorie budget.
But even now the ‘macros’ count. If you maintain your protein intake (ie according to the ‘protein quotum‘, around 2 g/kg/d), but cut the carbohydrates considerably, you can consume up to 200 grams of fat per day even on a calorie-restricted diet. It is again the energy balance that dictates; as long as you don’t exceed that, fats are not obesogenic.
Snacking makes dieting unnecessarily difficult. After all, you have to cut out almost complete meals to stay within your calorie budget. One solution for this is intermittent fasting. However, we advise to keep snacking to a minimum during the cut and to ’embrace’ a healthy diet with plenty of satiating food.
WHAT TO DO WITH ‘GOOD’ FATS?
Fat performs vital functions in our body and is therefore very necessary. Therefore, do not hesitate to eat a lot of so-called good fats during a calorie-restricted diet. Those are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which you find in fatty fish, nuts and peanuts, liquid vegetable oils and avocados. These fats offer various health benefits and often also have a high degree of satiety.
So it’s a shame to reject a health bomb like salmon just because it “doesn’t fit within your macros”. It’s a question of eating less carbohydrates in favor of good fats.
CARBOHYDRATES VS FATS
Which is better: a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates, or on a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates?
Again, the answer is that it doesn’t matter that much: the best diet is the one that you can stick to most easily, as long as you stick to your energy balance.
However, some renowned body diving coaches have a preference for high carb/low fat in the cut. Not because it is better for fat loss, but because of the important role carbohydrates play in maintaining muscle mass. For example, carbohydrates are the best source of energy for your strength training. In the cut, a high carbohydrate intake may therefore make a (small) difference to muscle maintenance.
Of course, fats also perform important functions for health and muscle maintenance, such as maintaining testosterone levels. Fat intake recommendations range from 0.5 g/kg/d (in a heavy cut) to 1.5 g/kg/d (in the bulk). That amounts to 20-35% of the total calorie intake.
Fat in itself does not make you fat. Whether you gain or lose weight is determined by your long-term energy balance. In the cut, maintain a calorie deficit of 20-25% of your maintenance level.
Your protein intake should be maintained at all times (around 2 g/kg/d), both for muscle growth (bulk) and muscle maintenance (cut). How you divide the rest of your calories between carbohydrates and fats does not matter much. For muscle maintenance in the cut, we do have a preference for a lot of carbohydrates, but not at the expense of foods with a lot of healthy fats.
Avoid snacking in the cut: you have a limited calorie budget and it is better to spend that on nutritious and satisfying food than on fatty snacks.