Many of us have heard many times about the fact that olive oil is a "healthy oil," but what exactly does that mean or how much of it to include in a daily diet to maximize
the benefits if any?
We at fitFLEX often promote the many benefits of healthy fats because it's an aspect of diet that many would-be bodybuilders overlook. Americans in general get more fat in their diets than they need, most of it from unhealthy saturated fats in such foods as desserts, fatty meats and fried foods. Probably the single best thing regular Americans and bodybuilders can do to improve their diets is reduce saturated fats, replacing them with healthy fats.
Olive oil is often praised because it has one of the best fat profiles of all the oils. Canola oil also has an excellent profile, and these two oils should serve as cornerstones of your healthy fats. Olive oil has a richer, more distinct flavor, which is great as a seasoning, but it may overwhelm some dishes. Canola oil has less flavor and is an excellent choice for adding healthy fat calories without overpowering foods.
Essentially, there are three types of fat to examine in determining whether a particular food is right for a bodybuilder: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated, all of which refer to the chemical structure of the fat molecule. For your purposes, think of them as the good, the ambivalent and the ugly. Bodybuilders -and others concerned about their health - should try to ingest the majority of their fats in the form of monounsaturated. A tablespoon of olive oil contains about 10 grams (g) of monos, 1 g of polys and 2 g of saturated fats. A tablespoon of canola oil contains about 8 g of monos, 4 g of polys and 1 g of saturated fats. A tablespoon of butter, on the other hand, contains a 3/1/7 mono/poly/sat profile - that's far too much saturated fat for optimal health, appearance or performance.
One other caution on healthy fats: When you heat oils to a high temperature, you change their chemical structures. Frying foods in olive oil is not nearly as healthy as, say, grilling a chicken breast and then lightly sautéing it in olive oil at a moderate temperature. In other words, you can still cook with oils, but keep temperatures moderate to keep their healthy chemical structures intact. Add olive oil to tomato sauces, but don't let them boil. If you have to fry foods, use a cooking spray, then add healthy oils as a seasoning.
The quantity of fats you consume is also important. Bodybuilders who are not in contest-prep mode need to consume 15-25% of their daily caloric intake from fats. If you're a bodybuilder who eats 3,000 calories a day, you need 450 to 750 fat calories, or up to 80 g of fat a day. As even the healthiest profiles demonstrate, you're going to get some saturated fats from almost every fat source. The key is in the balance. Try to keep total saturated fat grams to fewer than 25 per day while taking in 50-60 g of monos (and polys - nutrition labeling often doesn't make a distinction between the two). If your daily diet varies from this 3,000-calorie model, adjust these other numbers accordingly.
Relying on simple foods, such as healthy oils, olives, avocados and nuts, will allow you to keep better track of your fat ratios. Bodybuilders often supplement their healthy fats by taking essential fatty acids (EFAs) or flaxseed oil. Also, remember that even healthy lean cuts of meat can have a gram or two (or more) of saturated fat, depending on serving size, so it's easy for the amount of saturated fat a bodybuilder takes in to start to add up over the course of several "low fat" meals. Choose your foods carefully, make certain you're taking in enough monos, and you should notice improvements in your bodybuilding progress and your ability to recover from training.