Essential Fatty Acids: the key to shedding fat?
Published at 10 Apr 2019

Essential Fatty Acids: conserving carbohydrate whilst shedding fat. Really?


Essential Fatty Acids NewsThere is now a common consensus that we inherit a set of genes that determine our potential - however, it’s our training and nutrition that allow us to reach that potential. Research is emerging in the world of nutrition to suggest that essential fats in our diet can exert significant control over key metabolic genes in our cells, particularly those involved with fat storage, fat burning and glycogen synthesis. Basically, you might not be born with the ideal genes for your chosen sport, but the correct fatty acid nutrition could help to reprogram your body’s own abilities and limits.

What Are EFA's?

There are two principal essential fats - Omega-3 and Omega-6 - essential because their chemical structure means that they can be used to make hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which go on to regulate a host of other functions in the body. They can not be synthesised by the body, which is whey we need to rely on taking them in via our daily diet. The complex structure of them also makes them very reactive - they undergo chemical changes and fall apart when exposed to heat, light or air. This means that storing and cooking foods rich in Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s leads to loss in nutritional value. The best dietary sources are nuts, seeds, fatty fish and unrefined wholegrain. However, many of these foods re rich in Omega-6 but it is more difficult to obtain Omega-3. Fish such as fresh mackerel, herring, sardines and trout are rich in Omega-3 fats.

The Benefits of EFA's

One of the recent findings of the benefits of essential fatty acids is that increased intakes of these fats appear to reduce tissue levels of triglycerides (stored fats), which improves the sensitivity of insulin (the hormone that drives amino acids and glucose into the cells), so reducing the risk of obesity. Fatty acids play essential roles in the maintenance of energy balance and glucose metabolism. They are able to direct glucose (from digested carbohydrates) towards glycogen storage whilst t the same time directing other fatty acids in the body away from triglyceride storage and towards fatty acid oxidation. In simple terms, essential fatty acids conserve carbohydrate while simultaneously shedding fat - exactly what all athletes are looking to do! Further study of this effect led to the discovery that somehow these fatty acids were boosting the production of enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation, while at the same time down-regulating the production of enzymes involved in fat synthesis. 

How To Boost EFA intake

It’s all too easy to fall short of the minimum intakes of essential fatty acids to maintain optimum health, let alone to produce any of the potential benefits we have exposed here. This is not just down to the lean towards convenient processed foods - low-fat diets regarded as healthy basically completely disregard the health benefits and necessity of essential fatty acids in your daily nutrition. Some great sources to boost your essential fatty acid intake are:

  • Fresh seeds sprinkled on salads
  • Use nuts in salads or mixed with raisins as a snack
  • Switch to wholemeal bread (the wheatgerm in whole wheat is a good source)
  • Eat wholegrain breakfast cereals such as Shredded Wheat or Weetabix rather than refined cereals such as Corn Flakes
  • Use brown rice and wholemeal pasta rather than white varieties
  • Eat fatty fish at least once a week
  • Choose free range chicken and wild meats where possible as these generally contain higher amounts of essential fatty acids than their intensively-reared counterparts

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