Bodybuilders know protein is a critical nutrient required for building muscle, but some may not realize that fat is also an important part of a bodybuilder’s diet. Fat plays a role in the human body’s ability to absorb vitamins, release hormones associated with building muscle and energy synthesis. The key is consuming the right amount and type of dietary fat.
There both “healthy” and “unhealthy” fats, and obviously healthier fats are the better choice for bodybuilders and the average person alike. The Mayo Clinic lists harmful fats as saturated and trans fats -- both of which can increase LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” cholesterol that can lead to heart disease. Two of the more beneficial types of fats for bodybuilders are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Consumption of fat in a bodybuilder’s diet leads to several beneficial outcomes. Bodybuilding.com says that fat provides an improved anabolic effect and nitrogen retention in the muscles for increased muscle gains. Consuming the right amount of healthy fats can also provide an efficient energy source for the body during intense workout sessions. Omega-3 fatty acids – a type of polyunsaturated fat – can help improve blood flow and circulation, according to Clayton South, an ISSA-certified personal trainer.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that most Americans consume 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from healthy fats. This estimate is consistent with the recommendation for bodybuilders at Bodybuilding.com of 30 percent of total daily caloric intake. For instance, a bodybuilder who consumes 3,000 calories per day would aim for 900 calories from fat. Since there’s 9 calories per gram of fat, that equates to 100 g of healthy fats per day.
Dietary sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and chicken. You can find polyunsaturated fat in most vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and cold-water fish. As a reference, 1 oz. of almonds contains 9 g of monounsaturated fat and 3 g of polyunsaturated fat. Foods containing unhealthy saturated fats that bodybuilders would want to limit – but not completely eliminate -- include pizza, sausage, hot dogs, butter and cheese.