To lose fat, sometimes you have to eat fat. I know, I know, this statement just "feels wrong." After all, years of anti-fat campaigning have convinced us that fat is what makes us chunky. But did you know that monounsaturated fats and certain polyunsaturates actually speed up the metabolic rate?
Eric Noreen, a lipid researcher at the University of Western Ontario, believes that the best of the fat burning bunch are the highly unsaturated omega 3s called EPA and DHA. According to Eric, these omega 3 fatty acids can potentially help burn blubber through 3 different mechanisms.
1. Allowing the body to burn fat in situations where fat oxidation (or fat burning) is normally turned off. Normally, when you eat carbohydrates, fat burning is slowed or turned off. Also, during high intensity exercise, the body prefers burning carbohydrate to fat. Therefore in both scenarios, fat burning is dramatically reduced. However, cells that receive a high daily dose of omega 3s actually burn more fat in both situations. The net result — more fat burned each and every day whether you're exercising or not.
2. Increasing your sensitivity to the hormone Insulin. Insulin is both a storage hormone and an anti-breakdown hormone. When insulin goes up, a consequence of eating, ingested nutrients are stored in muscle cells and in fat cells. Likewise, nutrients already in these cells (especially the fat in our love handles) are retained as a result of this insulin boost. Since omega 3 fatty acids can make your body more sensitive to insulin, meaning that less insulin will be released each time you eat, a diet high in omega 3s helps prevent large insulin increases with eating. If insulin is properly managed, more stored fat is released each day. And guess what happens to that fat. You got it... it's incinerated.
3. Increasing the heat of your cellular furnaces. In your cells, there are two metabolic organelles responsible for burning fuel to make energy. The most well known is the mitochondrion while the lesser known one is the peroxisome. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to increase the size of both metabolic fires, leading to an increase in the amount of energy burned in each organelle. What this means is that a diet high in omega 3s can make you a fat burning machine.
In a series of investigations conducted by Eric and his colleagues at the University of Western Ontario, Eric showed that a diet supplemented with omega 3-rich fish oil promotes losses of body fat with simultaneous gains in lean mass. That's right, more muscle and less fat, baby.
In addition to omega 3 fatty acids, several other fats have been shown to reduce body fat. The polyunsaturated fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid — a conjugated omega 6 fat) has shown promise, as have foods high in monounsaturated fats — like olive oil. MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) are also noteworthy. These unique fats have a shorter chain length than many of the other fats discussed in this article. As a result of their unique structure, they are more readily burned than the other types of fat, meaning more energy with less fat storage.
Of course, if you overeat on any macronutrient, you're going to store body fat not lose it. So pay careful attention to your total energy intake and, as Walter Willett suggests, try to get somewhere between 25% and 35% of your daily energy from fat.