In Part 1 of this series, we explored the genes involved in dietary fat sensitivity. Understanding this concept is important, practically applying it however, can be more of a challenge Today, we’re going to take a look at what dietary fat intake means for you, and how it can assist in your development as an athlete.
If you are putting countless hours into your training, don’t you owe it to yourself to ensure you are maximizing your recovery?
A well functioning endocrine system is necessary to garner favourable responses to exercise. Testosterone is an important and notorious player in the adaptative process that follows a training session. It stimulates muscle growth and protein synthesis, ultimately catalyzing the recovery from training stress.
So how does fat fit into this picture?
Cholesterol, one of the more well-known components of fat, is an important precursor for your body’s production of all sex hormones, including testosterone. As you can probably deduce, higher intake of cholesterol results in elevated levels of testosterone!1, 2, 3, 4
Healthy testosterone levels can change that! The maintenance and optimization of your biological testosterone levels is imperative for adaptation to training and the resulting athletic performance when it really counts.
There are two main types of cholesterol: high density lipoproteins (the good kind) and low density lipoproteins (the bad kind), also often referred to as HDL and LDL respectively. HDL is known for its main function of transporting excess cholesterol from the body through the liver. LDL is often vilified, as one of its main responsibilities is transporting the excess cholesterol to your arteries. There is a genetic component to finding a balance between these good and bad cholesterol levels that both athletes and non-athletes should be conscious of.
Most of us have been taught that increased carbohydrate intake is needed for greater endurance capacity. As new science emerges, we are now seeing that this might not be the case.
Studies on trained male and female endurance athletes who were fed high-fat diets have shown an increase in endurance performance when compared to athletes on low fat diets.7 There are no guarantees that eating more fat will result in increased endurance, however, as more research emerges, we are getting close to aligning optimal fuel sources with our specific activity.
Diets in favour of higher fat intake such as the Ketogenic Diet have been growing in popularity over the recent years with many exciting research developments emerging. For those unfamiliar, these diets emphasize fat intake and minimizing carbohydrate and protein consumption in order for the body to produce a fuel source known as ketones. Ketones are produced in your liver from fat that your body (and brain) use as fuel in the absence of glucose (the fuel produced from carbs and proteins).
In part one, discussed the PPARG gene and its role in breaking down unsaturated fatty acids and producing energy. Because fatty acids have a greater energy density than carbohydrates, we require less of them to produce equivalent amounts of energy output. Depending on your variant of PPARG, you may yield more energy from your fat intake and experience better endurance in your training and competition.
As an athlete, optimizing your weight is going to lead to numerous effects in your performance. Whether you’re a power athlete that is looking to move with more agility, jump higher or sprint faster, or you’re an endurance athlete that is looking to maximize efficiency, a favourable power-to-weight balance can have substantial effects. With that in mind, weight-loss can be an area of your performance worthy of greater priority. Optimizing fat intake based on your genetics can have significant effects on weight-loss and performance improvements.
How you use optimize your fat intake can vary whether you’re trying to burn body fat through thermogenesis, reduce overall food intake, or anything in between.
Weight-loss can be approached from many different angles in both exercise and diet. We took a look at how the APOA2 gene works when considering how satiated you feel after a meal which can be useful if you are trying to limit your intake of foods contributing to weight gain.8,9 Depending on your variant of this gene, you can use this information to your advantage when considering making changes to your diet. While we can’t prescribe a certain diet to every individual, what we can do with this genetic information is determine if you have an increased or decreased likelihood of weight-gain from increased saturated fat consumption, and then either incorporate less or more fat based on your variant.
Whether your fall under the Warrior or the Strategist genotype, optimal mental acuity is a goal we can all strive for. As athletes, we are constantly under pressure to make the best decisions at any given moment during competition or training. These decisions often require as much mental effort as they do physical. By fueling your brain with cognitive-supporting nutrients, you can address an aspect of performance that your opponents often neglect, resulting in a real advantage over your competition.
As we learned in Part 1, not all fats are created equal, and this echoes particularly true with regard to the ones we ingest for brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in seafood, grass-fed meats, or avocados can help to significantly improve your cognitive abilities.10,11 By optimizing your intake of these foods or supplementing with high-quality omega-3 oils, you are supplying your brain with the necessary nutrients and building blocks to perform cognitively demanding tasks in sport and improve your everyday functions.
Working Fat into Your Diet:
The amount of fat you consume should vary based on your goals and of course on your genes. If your diet currently includes very little fat (10-15% of macro-caloric intake) and you’re unsure of how your body will respond to increased fat intake, it would be wise to slowly introduce more fats over the course of a couple weeks. Allow your body to adjust, see how you respond and make changes based on your findings. Getting genotyped with Athletigen and seeing what variants you have of the PPARG and APOA2 genes can give you better insight and help you make more informed decisions when altering your diet.
What does your DNA say about you? Find out at athletigen.com