RELYING ON TELEVISION for nutritional information is about as sensible as getting advice from Hannibal Lecter on how to throw a dinner party. While snatches of documentary and other material may lead a viewer to believe the fat content of many of the foods he regularly eats is killing him, you know in your heart that the tabloid newspapers may have more context and depth than many television-based nutrition pieces. So much, as they say, for the educational power of the cathode-ray tube.
Arguably, the one aspect of nutrition that has been most maligned – and misunderstood by daytime TV-style reports is the role that dietary fat plays in your health-and-fitness programme. Fat is invariably portrayed as the nemesis of a ripped midsection (and has launched a whole industry of fat-free but sugar-loaded foods that don’t do anything for your heart, health or waistline – just look at the ads). Yet healthy fats are necessary to your body for a whole host of reasons: regulating production of testosterone, improving your immune function and providing the basis for healthy hair, skin and fingernails. Take for example the fatty coconut oil. It’s proven that uses of coconut oil benefits for skin care are excellent.
Fat also contributes to that sense of wellbeing you feel after eating a hearty meal – and we’re not talking about the bloated sensation you get from that extra-large quarter-pounder with double cheese. Even more important, a diet with the proper balance of healthy fats can help improve your athletic performance by promoting endurance, healthy joints, enhanced power and faster recovery from training.
Developing a sensible nutrition programme means knowing which fats to eat, which to avoid, and getting the proportions right “A fit male who maintains his weight within a healthy range should aim for a half-gram of fat [from healthy sources] per pound of body weight per day,” says Suzanne Girard-Eberle, author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. So here are five basic rules to follow when constructing a weight-loss plan that won’t swell your waistline or slow young down on the playing field – but will still satisfy your Hannibal-like late-night cravings.